Lamarck on Feelings: From Worms to Humans

  • Snait B. Gissis
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 25)

Abstract

Lamarck’s theory of ‘sentimens’ (feelings) is presented. Within this framework, what he called ‘sentiment intérieur-sentiment d’existence’ (‘inner feeling’) and his conception of ‘attention’ are analyzed. It is argued that Lamarck’s innovative stance stemmed from his evolutionary perspective on “mental events” and his conception of ‘self’ that derived from it. The ‘mental events’ of empiricism – subsumed under the experiencing of ‘feelings’ – were assumed by Lamarck to be direct consequences of physiological processes. The transition from experience to feeling which Lamarck posited could not, in a strict sense, be justified within the sensationalist framework. He argued that the capacity of experiencing was dependent on bodily structures that were emergent. The resulting experiencing and the resulting ‘feelings’ were also an emergent category, embodied, yet endowed with a qualitative surplus. Organisms, as well as their components, were assumed to be in constant interaction with their specific environment. Consequently, the feelings-events in the body, through the processes of the body as integral parts of the body, bore the specificities of this or that particular body, and were embodied in this double sense. Lamarck’s assumption of a gradually emergent sentiment intérieur was intended to resolve the empiricist dead-end on identity-and-continuity of the self. The evolutionary perspective which assumed both growing complexification, openness to environment and interaction with it, compelled Lamarck to look for a unifying cohering foundation for the individualized entities which populated his theory. This foundation had to cater to the demands of ‘science’ as well as those of ‘experience’. Thus he produced the first version of an evolutionary ‘self’, and a new conception of ‘internality’.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Snait B. Gissis
    • 1
  1. 1.Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and IdeasTel Aviv UniversityRamat AvivIsrael

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