Feelings are affective states of consciousness. They are typically triggered in biological beings by information in the physical world and, in the case of humans and complex animals, thoughts. Note, however, that feelings can arise even in the absence of physical information. Fear, for example, is anticipation of harm. In healthy subjects, it is triggered by information in the world that indicates the presence of risk or direct danger. But thoughts and/or unconscious brain patterns can be conditioned to respond with fear to situations where there is no such threat.
Thus, information does not necessarily result in the same universal reaction among receivers (see emotions), but varies depending on one’s competence to handle the situation, how the situation relates to past experiences, and other factors.
Thoughts and feelings always go together. One cannot have a thought without a feeling, or vice versa. Thus, every thought is attached to a feeling, positive or negative to some degree.
Harvard professor Abraham Maslow suggests that human beings are all born with an innate sense of positive and negative being-values. We are attracted to positive being-values such as justice, honesty, truth, beauty, humor, liveliness, power (but not abusive power), order (but not nit-picking), intelligence (but not snobbery). Likewise, we are repulsed by injustice, deadness, weakness, falseness, deceit, chaos, etc.
Maslow also asserts that positive being-values are only definable in terms of all other positive being-values—in other words, we cannot maximize any virtue and let it contain some negative being-values without repulsion. For example, beauty that is associated with deceit becomes repulsive. Justice associated with cruelty is repulsive.
This innate capacity to feel attraction or repulsion forms part of the foundation for moral consciousness—that is, feelings, properly understood, help shape our sense of good vs. bad and right vs. wrong. This sense can obviously be distorted, to the point where we may actually delight in evil, but the healthy function of feeling is to repel us from what is truly bad and to attract us to what is truly good.
Feeling can refer to:
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