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Emotion, Feeling and Religion


I do not propose to attempt in this article to make any exact or exhaustive definition of religion, but rather to call attention to one of its outstanding psychological characteristics. At the outset, then, I take it for granted that religion is primarily a feeling experience. We make use of the term ‘religion,’ it is true, for many things in addition to immediate feeling experiences, and it is inevitable that we should do so. But it will be well to bear in mind that when we describe Buddhism or Christianity (as a system of beliefs and practices) as ‘a religion’ we are using the term in a secondary fashion. A man may accept the tenets, and to some extent practise the commandments, of a religion in this sense without being religious.

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page 197 note 1 This threefold analysis of consciousness is not, as J. B. Pratt has pointed out in Psychology of Religious Belief, satisfactory, since conation is not a “mode” of consciousness in the same sense that either cognition or feeling is. Conation as an element in consciousness is a particular kind of feeling, though it is extremely difficult to mark it off precisely from types of feeling which are non-conative. Stout, in his Groundwork, subsumes Conation and Feelingattitude under Interest, but his “feeling-attitude” is something much less than affect. The true distinction is one between feeling as the mode in which hitherto unconscious practical tendencies became conscious, and feeling as a response undetermined by specific innate tendencies. It is difficult to avoid using the term ‘conation’ in the conventional way, and I have not altogether been able to do so in what follows.

page 198 note 1 Mcdougall in British Journal of Psychology, Vol. xvii, Pt. 3, “Pleasure, Pain, and Conation.”

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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