The individual, for Edith Stein, is a psycho-physical individual. It is composed of the psychic, which is the unifying principle, making the individual a separate being. And it is also composed of the physical. In the individual, both are intrinsically tied to each other. Stein says, “[T]he soul is always necessarily a soul in a body (p. 41).”
The first part of the series tackled the givenness of the living body. This post will tackle the living body and feelings, the second part of the series.
The Living Body and Feelings
Stein here delineates three types of feelings due to the causal relationship between the soul and the living body. The three types are (1) sensual feelings, (2) general feelings, and (3) moods.
Sensual feelings are feelings that come from sense experience. Stein would have this to say, “[S]ensual feelings are inseparable from their founding sensations. The pleasantness of a savory dish, the agony of a sensual pain, the comfort of a soft garment are noticed where the food is tasted, where the pain pierces, where the garment clings to the body’s surface (p.48).” In other words, sensual feelings are those what the individual feels when experiencing certain sensations. The individual, for example, may stare at a painting, astonished with its beauty. These feelings, thus, are specific to the senses.
General feelings are feelings “coming from the living body with an accelerating or hindering influence on the course of experience (p. 49).” These feelings come from and permeate the whole body. They are the vitality or sluggishness the individual feels in certain moments. One may be joyful over a story, but may at the same time feel sluggish due to sickness. One may also still feel lively (maybe after a sumptuous meal) even when one has a painful wound on the leg. General feelings, thus, are somatic (bodily) in nature.
Lastly, moods are feelings that are similar to general feelings but are non-somatic (psychical) in nature (p.49). They are feelings that the individual feels regardless of what one feels in the body. Cheerfulness and melancholy are what Stein states here. One example of this kind of feeling is when a person just feels cheerful even after a long day. Another would be when a person feels melancholy after receiving a depressing message from the wife. Moods, thus, color the life of the individual.
Stein gives an illustration as to the reciprocal relationship between general feelings and moods. She says, “[S]uppose I take a trip to recuperate and arrive at a sunny, pleasant spot. While looking at the view, I feel that a cheerful mood wants to take possession of me, but cannot prevail because I feel sluggish and tired. ‘I shall be cheerful here as soon as I have rested up,’ I say to myself (p.49).” The individual’s feelings may, thus, be “influenced” depending on the situation.
One important detail that I would like to take note is Stein’s observation about the psycho-physical relation at play in feelings (p.48-49). The soul and body have an influence on each other, which results in the different feelings of the individual. Stein observes that even though they come from the senses, sensual feelings also come from the “I.” Meaning to say, the “I” is the one expressing the feeling, given that sensation is a constituent of consciousness. A similar “fusion” also happens in general feelings and moods. With general feelings, when the “I” feels sluggish or lively, the whole body feels sluggish or lively too, or vice versa. And with moods, which is non-somatic (psychical), improvement or deterioration of a mood influences, or is influenced by, a general feeling (a somatic feeling). The living body, thus, is dynamic, catering to the reciprocating relationship of the soul and the body.
*All of the above is based on Edith Stein’s On the Problem of Empathy.