A Minimum of Meaning

In the previous post I reviewed, once again, Malinowski's text (the ~four pages pertaining to phatic communion), and came away with 30 questions that I should ideally be able to answer in my BA thesis in spring 2021. The first question reads, "What makes social intercourse free and aimless?" - This with an implicit understanding that the adjective "social" is, ideally, what makes intercourse free and aimless. In any case, the projected method was to look up terms like "social intercourse" in the many thousands of books from that era I have downloaded over the years from The Internet Archive - an invaluable online resource for this purpose, seeing as The Meaning and Meaning, which contains Malinowski's supplement, as well as innumerable other books from that era have lost their copyright and are thus fully legal to download.

I didn't get far in my search. Namely because the very first result Recoll threw up was the exact one I was so sorely missing these past years. So I had to take two weeks to read through Edward Alsworth Ross's Principles of Sociology (1920). I found answers to so many questions that I'm basically all set to write the next article. But focusing on Ross alone would not be sufficient. I've already read McDougall and Shand, who are known influences for Malinowski (Ross being, in this sense, an unknown). So in this one I'm going to revisit McDougall and see if there is still anything I could use. Unlike the previous post, this will be unstructured, stream-of-consciousness type of ordeal.

The nature of instinct. "Professor William James, Lloyd Morgan, and G. F. Stout as the writers from whose works I have acquired my notions as to the nature of instinct and conation and their role in mental life" (McDougall 1916: x). I'll have to read each of them in due time if I wish to get at the core of this "instinct psychology" that was so popular in the early 20th century. I know it went out of fashion very soon after Malinowski's supplement and he himself took to behaviourism like a moth to a flame.

Vagueness. Sociologists recognize the value of psychology but theirs is mostly "the vague and extremely misleading psychology embodied in common speech" (McDougall 1916: 2). This is pretty much the case with Malinowski, who is no psychologist but whose text is chalk full of contemporary psychologisms - instinct, sentiment, and sympathy - which have gone out of fashion with such force that a 21st century person reading texts with these terms will have a very dim understanding of what is going on. It doesn't help that they are used interchangeably and interconnectedly, e.g. sympathy is sometimes an instinct, sometimes a sentiment.

Psychological hedonism. This is "the doctrine that the motives of all human activity are the desire of pleasure and the aversion to pain" (McDougall 1916: 8). This is presumably operative in Malinowski's "social pleasure and self-enhancement" (PC 5.5). In the same instance McDougall noted that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous terms, to which I commented that Shand likewise distinguished joy and pleasure. It may be possible, at some date, to distinguish pleasure, joy, and happiness according to their distinctions. Not all that important for the moment but an interesting thing in itself.

Postulating strange instincts. One of the main faults of instinct psychology is also that of faculty psychology - there is seemingly no agreement as to how many of them there are. Here McDougall writes that there is a trigger-happy tendency to postulate strange instincts of all kinds, to explain any and all tendencies noticed in human conduct, "as lightly and easily as a conjurer produces eggs from a hat or a phrenologist discovers bumps on a head" (McDougall 1916: 8). That this is truly the case is easy enough to show by compiling the numerous instincts postulated by McDougall himself, Shand, Ross, but also basically any writer from the period. One curious case that frequently comes to mind is E. R. Clay's lingual instinct. How do you know if a sentence is ungrammatical? Oh, due to the lingual instinct.

Moralisation of the individual. Quoting Hastings Rashdall on "the raw material [...] of Virtue and Vice" being the same, meaning "desires which in themselves [...] are simply non-moral", McDougall makes moralisation and socialisation synonymous and sets this question up as "the fundamental problem of social psychology". The human being in itself is "a creature in which the non-moral and purely egoistic tendencies are so much stronger than any altruistic tendencies" (McDougall 1916: 18), and the society surrounding that poor creature socializes him or her towards more altruistic tendencies. For my purposes, this is a tangential question that concerns manners in Ross's treatment, particularly how there is supposedly a tricle-down (not his term, but that is what it amounts to) of manners from the higher classes of society to the lower ones. The "uneducated classes", in short, are less moralized than the "educated" classes.

Innate tendencies. Malinowski substitutes this with "innate trends" (PC 3.3). Somewhere I've gone over the etymologies of "trends" and "tendencies", which is interesting in itself. Here, specifically, is a discussion of how the innate trend of gregariousness or sociability in the human species "no doubt varies greatly with the national character but remains true as a general rule" (PC 4.4). Thus, McDougall writes that there are "certain innate or inherited tendencies" in the human mind, which are "the essential springs or motive powers of all thought and action" (but not feeling?). These tendencies can be individual or collective, and "under the guidance of the intellectual faculties" they form and gradually develop "the character and will of individuals and of nations". Thus, "These primary innate tendencies have different relative strengths in the native constitutions of the individuals of different races" (McDougall 1916: 19). How does the universality of gregariousness or sociability remain true as a general rule? Writes McDougall: "but they are probably common to the men of every race and every age" (ibid, 19).

Instinct - a mysterious faculty. Complaining once more about the vagueness of the word "instinct", McDougall writes that it and the adjective form "instinctive" are used by contemporary writers "so loosely that they have almost spoilt them for scientific purposes" (McDougall 1916: 20-21). Interestingly, "the adjective "instinctive" is commonly applied to every human action that is performed without deliberate reflexion" (ibid, 21), which would make the exchange of words in phatic communion a form of instinctive languaging, as they "are neither the result of intellectual reflection, nor do they necessarily arouse reflection in the listener" (PC 6.4), meaning that both speaking and hearing are instinctive in this particular sense. Further, McDougall writes that "the actions of animals are popularly attributed to instinct, and in this connexion instinct is vaguely conceived as a mysterious faculty, utterly different in nature from any human faculty" (ibid, 21). This is pretty much what Gregory Bateson (1969) had to say about them. To top it off, McDougall adds that these two words - "instinct" and "instinctive" - "are used with a minimum of meaning, generally with the effect of disguising from the writer the obscurity and incoherence of his thought" (ibid, 21). Well put.

The triad. I thought I can ignore it but it looks like I cannot. McDougall subscribes fully to the triad, as did numerous contemporaries. As elsewhere on this blog, I'll use (1), (2), and (3) to signify the three aspects. McDougall's particular take on it is that "The cognitive or intellectual processes" (3) "lends itself well to introspective discrimination, analysis, and description", while "the emotional" (1) and "conative" (2) "consciousness has but little variety of content, and that little is extremely obscure and elusive of introspection" (McDougall 1916: 7). Never mind that Peirce would not agree to this - thought, too, is pretty difficult to catch on the fly. What's important is that McDougall subscribes to triadism and uses it throughout. Thus, he writes that "There is every reason to believe that even the most purely instinctive action is the outcome of a distinctly mental process" (McDougall 1916: 26), and breaks down "the three aspects of all mental process" as follows (ordered in the sequence I'm accustomed to):

  1. affective/emotional aspects of consciousness - "a feeling in regard to" some thing or object;
  2. the conative aspects of consciousness - "a striving towards or away from that object";
  3. the cognitive/intellectual aspects of consciousness - "a knowing of some thing or object";

The first and third are terminologically varied (it happens) and pretty standard - how we feel about something and what we know about that thing. The second is curious because he uses the term conative, which also made it to Roman Jakobson's scheme of linguistic functions. It doesn't surprise so much anymore, as I've met earlier uses of it, e.g. amongst authors in the Aristotelian Society, but it's still neat that it's so concrete. Conation is "an inclination (such as an instinct, a drive, a wish, or a craving) to act purposefully" (Merriam-Webster), from Latin conatio, "act of attempting" and/or conari, "to attempt". Effectively it stands for "desire" in the Ancient Greek triads, perhaps even "cupidity" ("a strong feeling of wanting to have something, especially money or possessions"). Whereas in Jakobson's scheme it stands for the imperative use of language - giving the other person a command to do something - here it stands for wanting to do or attempt to do something oneself, respective of the object (to strive towards or away from it). The overall point being that how we feel about something and whether we are drawn towards it or away from it is by and large unconscious, does not lend itself easily to introspection. I hope I don't get too bogged down in triadism here because I've already written a serviceable paper (in press) about its origins and it'll be some time before I want to go into it again. To avoid it here, I'll just skip over what McDougall writes about animal behaviour (his proto-Umwelt theory).

Sustaining pleasure. McDougall holds that the principle of hedonistic psychology errs by putting the cart before the horse, in a sense. Namely, that "pleasure and pain are not in themselves springs of action, but [...] serve rather to modify instinctive processes" (McDougall 1916: 43). This would be more poignant with regard to Jakobson's phatic function but perhaps it can still be worked into Malinowski's social pleasure and self-enhancement. Thus, McDougall writes that "pleasure tend[s] to sustain and prolong any mode of action, pain to cut it short" (ibid 43). In Jakobson's case it is more apparent because he emphasizes "prolonging" explicitly: the parrot talks only to prolong the presence of its trainers or audience. Analogously, the selfish monologueist (the blabbermouth who goes on and on about something irrelevant) tends to sustain and prolong the exchange of words (as a mode of action) because it is pleasurable. In this scenario, the hearer, the listener who is impatiently waiting for his or her turn to talk, is, in a sense, under pain to cut the speaker short.

Fluidity of emotions. This has very little import on phatic communion specifically, aside from perhaps the interplay of sympathies and antipathies, but since McDougall holds that emotions and conations are not readily available to introspection, "the emotions are fluid and indefinable, that they are in perpetual flux and are experienced in an infinite number of subtle varieties" (McDougall 1916: 45). As I commented when first reading the book, I agree with this view of emotions rather than the modern approaches which assume that emotions are as if logical symbols that can be operated on. I'm thinking of a specific paper I tried to read. A few years ago there was a conference, "Emotions: Rationality, Morality and Social Understanding" (Tartu, 7th-9th September 2017), and I tried to read one of the keynote speaker's, Mary Carman's "How Emotions do not Provide Reasons to Act" (2017; 10.1007/s11406-017-9896-y), and I just couldn't make heads or tails of it: "emotions have an intentional content that is assessable for correctness". Uhm, okay...

Rigid definition. Concerning the word "emotion", McDougall sets a terminological dictum, that words such as this, which are used in popular speech "loosely and somewhat vaguely", "have to undergo a certain specialisation and more rigid definition before they are fit for scientific use" (McDougall 1916: 47). This is worth going over because I think phatic communion exhibits the opposite tendency: a term wrought for scientific use entered popular speech (it is telling that the first notable use was in the New Yorker magazine in 1925) and became more loose and vague because of it. This is of course somewhat Malinowski's own fault because his definition is not very rigid - it is full of ambiguous language and seeming self-contradictions that don't exactly aid in getting the exact sense of it.

Fear of the unfamiliar. Discussing the instinct of fear, McDougall writes that simultaneously the most interesting and most difficult to understand aspect of its mode of operation is "the unfamiliar or strange as such": "Whatever is totally strange, whatever is violently opposed to the accustomed and familiar, is apt to excite fear both in men and animals, if only it is capable of attracting their attention" (McDougall 1916: 54). The discourse surrounding this is illuminating but not very useful for my purposes. A child will become fearful from "the facial contortions or playful roarings of a familiar friend" or "thrown into a paroxysm of terror by the approach of some hideous figure that he knew to be but one of his playfellows in disguise" (ibid, 54). Ross's discussion of the fear of the stranger is more easily connected with phatic communion.

Fear and social discipline. Further removed from fear of the stranger but still very interesting is the role of fear in social discipline. McDougall writes that "fear, once roused, haunts the mind; it comes back alike in dreams and in waking life, bringing with it vivid memories of the terrifying impression" (McDougall 1916: 55). It is well known that fear can easily form impressions which stick to memory better than anything. These terrifying impressions are "the great inhibitor of action, both present action and future action, and becomes in primitive human societies the great agent of social discipline through which men are led to the habit of control of the egoistic impulses" (ibid, 55). I drew a connection with Spencer (1876: 12-13), who wrote that the social state, i.e. living in society, forsters feelings that check impulsiveness. These being, first and foremost, "the fear of surrounding individuals", followed by "the instinct of sociality, the desire to accumulate property, the sympathetic feelings, the sentiment of justice". The idea seems to be that the presence of other people implies "checks upon the prompting of the simpler passions" (whatever they may be) because we fear the people around us, we desire their company, need them to get things, have warm feelings toward them, and lastly check our behaviour so as to not act unjustly.

Sliminess. "The manners or speech of an otherwise presentable person may excite the impulse of shrinking in virtue of some subtle suggestion of sliminess" (McDougall 1916: 56). Somewhat related to phatic communion: "If you describe a person or their manner as slimy, you mean that they appear to be friendly but in a way that you find unpleasant" and "If you describe a person as slimy, you mean that the person appears to be friendly but cannot be trusted and is not sincere" (Cambridge English Dictionary). That is, sliminess is "otherwise presentable", but there is "some subtle suggestion" that the person is not really all that friendly, that the friendliness is not sincere and cannot be trusted. The illustrative sentence from the same source is symptomatic: "He was the very worst kind of slimy salesman". Salespeople naturally must act friendly but their friendliness is not an end in itself but is a means to sell you some crap. As in pseudophatic communion (Haverkate 1988).

The impulse of self-assertion. Going under the heading of "The Instinct of Pugnacity and the Emotion of Anger", McDougall left a footnote which is really interesting, relating to several aspects of phatic communion. Anger is not as universal as fear, he writes, and adds that pugnacity is less manifest in the females of some species, probably including humans. Curiously, pugnacity "occupies a peculiar position in relation to the other instincts, and cannot strictly be brought under the definition of instinct proposed in the first chapter" (McDougall 1916: 59). So it might not even be an instinct, pulling the rug from under what little Malinowski says on the subject. Rather than being a "spring" or motive force, "The condition of its excitement is rather any opposition to the free exercise of any impulse, any obstruction to the activity to which the creature is impelled by any one of the other instincts" (ibid, 59). In other words, getting angry is not an instinct as much as a reaction to the twarting of instincts. In the footnote, he deals with a possible counter-argument to this interpretation: "if a man strikes me a sudden and unprovoked blow, my anger is effectually and instantaneously aroused, even when I am at the moment not actively engaged in any way" (ibid, 59; footnote). In reply he writes: "To raise this objection would be to ignore my consciousness of the personal relation and my personal attitude towards the striker" (McDougall 1916: 60). What he says next is particularly important, and touches upon that social pleasure and self-enhancement very generally: "The impulse, the thwarting of which in this case provokes my anger, is the impulse of self-assertion, which is habitually in play during personal intercourse" (ibid, 60). The context almost doesn't matter. The gist here is that personal intercourse involves self-assertion. If another person intentionally strikes me, he is striking my person. This emphasis might seem odd but is explained by what follows, that "if the blow came from a purely impersonal source" (e.g. a falling branch) or if it were "quite accidental", then no offense against one's self-assertion, one's self, was intended. Getting angry at inanimate objects or pure accidents is not sensible, it would be getting irrationally angry. But when someone intends to diminish us by striking a blow, it is a valid cause for anger. Yet, the main takeaway should be that personal intercourse is a play of egos, a field for self-assertion.

Self-feeling. The next section right after the one on pugnacity is a mouthful: "The Instincts of Self-abasement (or Subjection) and of Self-assertion (or Self-display), and the Emotions of Subjection and Elation (or Negative and Positive Self-feeling)". Whew. First of all, McDougall writes that "These two instincts have attracted little attention" (McDougall 1916: 62). I don't imagine many would agree that self-abasement and self-assertion even are instincts. He is relying on Théodule Ribot's The Psychology of the Emotions (1897), which I'd place as high as Sumner's Folkways in my future readings. In any case, McDougall noted the awkward translation of "self-feeling" from the French, yet this corresponds exactly with the Estonian word (enesetunne). In any case, McDougall puts forth his own equivalents, so that subjection = negative self-feeling and elation = positive self-feeling. The latter appears to be the more important, according to McDougall, "of the first importance for the psychology of character and volition" (ibid, 62). Thus: "The instinct of self-display is manifested by many of the higher social or gregarious animals, especially, perhaps, though not only, at the time of mating" (McDougall 1916: 62). It is commonsensical enough, and everyone has probably had the experience of someone bragging and boasting in order to impress the opposite sex.

Superfluous vigour. "Superfluous" might be redundant (superfluous) in this formulation, as vigour is "exuberant and resilient strength of body or mind; vitality. substantial effective energy or force" (Dictionary.com), as in already a superabundance of strength. McDougall namely begins this discussion with an example from the animal realm, with the self-display of a horse: "The muscles of all parts are strongly innervated, the creature holds himself erect, his neck is arched, his tail lifted, his motions become superfluously vigorous and extensive, he lifts his hoofs high in air, as he parades before the eyes of his fellows" (McDougall 1916: 62). There is a certain analogy to be found in phatic communion, yet again in that curious social pleasure and self-enhancement. Namely, the excessively talkative person is, in a sense, engaged in this kind of self-display. Talking more loudly and for longer than others - the competitors - a conversation devolves into a kind of pissing contest in which the stream is not urine, but "a flow of language" (PC 5.1), the semiotic equivalent of urine.

Boasting and swaggering. The instinct of self-display is "essentially a social one, and is only brought into play by the presence of spectators" (ibid, 62-63). McDougall goes on to discuss that "Such self-display is popularly recognised as implying pride" (ibid, 63), but immediately gets bogged down with the semantics of Shand's theory of sentiments. Animals don't have pride because pride implies self-consciousness. Is it an emotion or sentiment? Pride is obviously "the name of one form of the self-regarding sentiment, and such sentiment does imply a developed self-consciousness such as no animal can be credited with" (ibid, 63). Nevertheless, we recognize in animal self-displays the germ of that positive self-feeling he calls "elation" - which is another way of putting that we recognize that self-display appears to raise the creatures sense of self, that it gives it a positive emotion. "Self-enhancement" might be just this - feeling good about oneself, more exactly raising one's sense of sense. McDougall finds this instinct also in children: "before they can walk or talk the impulse finds its satisfaction in the admiring gaze and plaudits of the family circle as each new acquirement is practiced" (McDougall 1916: 63). Later on the child starts to request the admiring gaze - Watch me to this! to adults, and Can you do this? to peers. Significantly: "A little later, with the growth of self-consciousness the instinct may find expression in the boasting and swaggering of boys, the vanity of girls" (ibid, 64). This is reminiscent of a similar remark on Ross, who explicitly relied on McDougall: "the bragging lies of boys usually relate to what they can do, while girls are more apt to lie about their possessions" (Ross 1920: 109). This is exceedingly interesting from a triadic point of view if you know that the Ancient Greek firstness concerns possessions (wealth, body), and secondness concerns actions (honor, virtue).

Insanity. I cannot let it slip that McDougall connects exaggerated self-display with insanity, marking it as "the leading symptom" of the "general paralysis of the insane". Not sure what the word "paralysis" is doing there, but whatever. The topic is much the same as phatic subjects in general: irrational creatures who talk (children, parrots, "ideots", etc.). Thus: "The unfortunate patient is perpetually in a state of elated self-feeling, and his behaviour corresponds to his emotional state; he struts before the world, boasts of his strength, his immense wealth, his good looks, his luck, his family, when, perhaps, there is not the least foundation for his boastings" (McDougall 1916: 64). We have recently seen an illustration of this in the political realm: "I'm so young. I can't believe it, I'm the youngest person" and "I am perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young" says the diaper-wearing obese 72-year-old president, the oldest person to assume the presidency in the history of the country.

The pleasure of contact. Although I've long considered "contact" a Jakobsonian phatic trope, it would be absurd if this word did not show up here and there, though it does not in Malinowski's text (at least not in that of phatic communion, I've found him saying profound stuff about contact elsewhere). Thus, treating of parental tenderness, McDougall writes: "[Alexander] Bain taught that it is generated in the individual by the frequent repetition of the intense pleasure of contact with the young; though why this contact should be so highly pleasurable he did not explain" (McDougall 1916: 70). In my original comment I noted that this is analogous to Zuckerman's critique of Malinowski. It is understandable enough. If silence induces "unpleasant tension" (PC 4.6), talkativeness should be pleasurable; there is reportedly "social pleasure" (PC 5.5) at stake in who can talk more in a conversation; that the listener really listens is "quite essential for [the talker's] pleasure" (PC 5.6); and overall phatic communion should be "a pleasant atmosphere of polite, social intercourse" (PC 9.4). But why exactly should casual conversation be pleasant and pleasurable (question #25) is as if without a straight answer. With the subject of self-display (and self-feeling) we're as if approaching an answer (if not the answer).

Self-seeking feelings. Looking at the context, it becomes clear that the question is about "parental feeling" on the parents side. McDougall goes on by noting that some have explained the tender feelings of the parents with self-interest: parents take care of children because they expect the children to take care of them when they're in their old age: "the expectation by the parent of filial care in his or her old age" (McDougall 1916: 70). This he thinks absurd, something along the lines of the logic of Adam Smith's economic theory, an "attempt to reveal all altruism as arising essentially out of a more or less subtle regard for one's own welfare or pleasure" (ibid, 70). This view is encapsulated once again in Bain: "Tender feeling is as purely self-seeking as any other pleasure, and makes no inquiry as to the feelings of the beloved personality" (Bain; inMcDougall 1916: 71). The quotation continues: "It is by nature pleasurable, but does not necessarily cause us to seek the good of the object farther than is needful to gratify ourselves in the indulgence of the feeling" (ibid, 71). By this token, phatic communion is also self-seeking: casual social interaction is by nature pleasurable but (contra Mahaffy) does not aim to please but to gratify oneself in the indulgence of social pleasure.

Sympathetic pain. We cannot get around sympathy. McDougall takes it in its literal sense, which is something along the lines of co-suffering or together-suffering. Quoting Bain once again, we get the following definition: "the principle of sympathy [is] the prompting to take on the pleasures and pains of other beings, and act on them as if they were our own" (Bain; in McDougall 1916: 76). Bain immediately points out that sympathy is not a source of pleasure: "the primary operation of sympathy is to make us surrender pleasure and to incur pains" (ibid, 76). This makes it clear that he is using the word not in the sense some use sympathetic (likeable, pleasant) but in the sense of pity. Let's say someone says that their mother or father has just died. You surrender your pleasure - now you're thinking of your own dead parent(s) or their inevitable future death(s). You sympathize, you have incurred pains, are beset by a like mental anguish your conversation partner is troubled by. After a page and a half of discussing sympathy in relation with criminality, for some reason, McDougall reformulates the above-given as follows: "the sympathetic pain or pleasure we experience is immediately evoked in us by the spectacle of pain or of pleasure, and that we then act on it because it is our own pain or pleasure; and the action we take (so long as no other principle is at work) is directed to cut short our own pain and to prolong our own pleasure, quite regardless of the feelings of the other person" (McDougall 1916: 78). The example I gave above must now be specified a little: you know the acquaintance but you don't know the parent(s), haven't met them, don't know anything about them, etc. Their deaths, let's put it as cruelly as we can, you don't care about. The spectacle of pain now presented to you - I've already as if read into it that you can't feel anything for the actual deceased persons; the sympathetic pain in this case is purely reflective: another's loss makes you think about your own. Now, with Malinowski, you pour forth with "expressions of sympathy" (PC 2.3): I'm so sorry about your loss, etc. You express your condolences. What is actually going on now, and how is this "avowedly spurious on one side", as Malinowski put it? The Durkheimian reading of this situation would be that the condolence is merely expected, it is a sort of ritual, the situation calls for it. In this case we must assume that indeed the condolences do not "establish a common sentiment", as Malinowski put it - you don't know the deceased person(s) and you're in too good of a mood to start reflecting about your own relations and their eventual death(s). In this case, indeed, it is spurious. Bain and McDougall on the other hand seem to be aiming at the situation of actual sympathetic pain rather than mere expressions of sympathy: the others pain has become your pain. Now, "the action we take" (as McDougall put it), expressing condolences - is it "directed to put short our own pain [...] regardless of the feelings of the other person"? I'd like to think that the condolences are aimed to do both: to console the person who experiences loss, and stave off our own ideation about such things. I don't know what to do with this - McDougall says in several places that all this is perplexing.

Cheerful company. Here we strike upon common theme which I've captured in the saying "Misery may love company but company does not love misery". McDougall concludes the topic of sympathetically induced pain by saing that it "simply inclines us, then, to avoid the neighbourhood of the distressed and to seek the company of the cheerful" (McDougall 1916: 78). His statement follows the discussion of sympathetically induced pain - it is (psychologically) easier to avoid people in distress. Something along this line can be found in Ross, though in a very different context. While discussing "egoistic society", which "apes the manners and amenities of good-will association" but is not actually that (see sliminess, above), he writes that "Cronies who are not good fellows show their yellowness when one of them falls into trouble"; "Then he is given to understand that no one cares to see his long face or listen to his tale of woe"; "For such fair-weather friendship the refrain is, "If you're out of health or money you need n't come around."" (Ross 1920: 112-113). The difference lies in the latter case not being a sympathetic company - the "egoistic society" is only interested in self-display. A fair-weather friend is "A person who is dependable in good times but is not in times of trouble" (Dictionary.com). This is an expression, trope, and/or idea that merits further examination somewhere further down the line.

Gregarious instinct. This "is one of the human instincts of greatest social importance" (McDougall 1916: 84). I've already treated, in the first paper on Malinowski's phatic communion (in Estonian), the gregarious instinct in Wilfred Trotter's book. In Malinowski's text there is this pair of words, "convivial gregariousness" (PC 7.6), which, curiously enough, is more-or-less a synonym of cheerful company. Unlike Trotter, McDougall has given a kind of source (though it may not be the definitive source, who knows): Francis Galton reportedly gave "the classical description of the operation of the crude instinct" (ibid, 84). The South African ox "displays no affection for his fellows, and hardly seems to notice their existence, so long as he is among them" - much like the modern city-dweller according to Ross - but "if he becomes separated from the herd, he displays an extreme distress that will not let him rest until he succeeds in rejoining it", and when he does so, he is "seeking the closest possible contact with the bodies of his fellows" (ibid, 84). Long story short, the gregarious animal cares none for its fellows until he loses them, in which case its erratic behaviour evidences, when generalized, "a mere uneasiness in isolation and satisfaction in being one of a herd" (ibid, 84). In human affairs, Malinowski translates this into the realm of linguistic activity: greetings and polite phrases "are needed to get over the strange and unpleasant tension which men feel when facing each other in silence" (PC 4.6). Notice the similitude between "uneasiness" and "unpleasantness". In conjuction, the human being feels uneasiness not only when completely alone but also when surrounded by people who are unresponsive or do not speak a language s/he can understand. And the first clause may not even be true, as evidenced by the many people who enjoy solitude, the lonesome life, the great outdoors, and generally being away from other people: "Such was the American backwoods type who, when he could hear the sound of a neighbor's ax, reckoned "Folks are gittin' too crowded," and moved on" (Ross 1920: 100).

Imitation. McDougall connects imitation with gregariousness. I've yet to read Gabriel Tarde but the association is obvious: "the individual is born into a society of some sort and grows up in it, and the being with others and doing as they do becomes a habit deeply rooted in the instinct" (McDougall 1916: 84). I reckon this aspect will avail itself when I finally do read Tarde (or Giddins for that matter). Imitation is not explicitly present in phatic communion but this passage in McDougall has plainly influenced some other parts of Malinowski's writings: "The real rule guiding human behaviour is this: "what everyone else does, what appears as norm of general conduct, this is right, moral and proper"" (Malinowski 1922: 326-327). How being with others and doing as they do becomes rooted in the instinct, I do not know - how malleable are instincts? What are they, anyway?

Recreation. Addressing the gregarious instinct (or instinct of gregariousness), McDougall affirms that "almost all anthropologists agree that primitive man was to some extent gregarious in his habits" (McDougall 1916: 85). Likewise, "In civilised communities we may see evidence of the operation of this instinct at every hand" (McDougall 1916: 86). Except very few "highly cultivated" persons, "the one essential condition of recreation is the being one of a crowd" (ibid, 86). Not sure what the solitary recreations of the highly cultivated people are (opium?) but the point here seems to hold true: "The normal daily recreation of the population of our towns is to go out in the evening and to walk up and down the streets in which the throng is densest" (ibid, 86). Indeed, that is the normal daily recreation to this day. Likewise, people gather "to those resorts in which they are assured of the presence of a large mass of their fellows", such as all kinds of sport events (cricket, football): "Crowds of this sort exert a greater fascination and afford a more complete satisfaction to the gregarious instinct than the mere aimless aggregations of the streets, because all their members are simultaneously concerned with the same objects, all are moved by the same emotions, all shout and applaud together" (ibid, 86). This last description differs very little from the collective effervescence and union of sentiments described by Durkheim: "It is by uttering the same cry, pronouncing the same word, or performing the same gesture in regard to some object that they become and feel themselves to be in unison" (Durkheim 1915: 230).

Sociability. The gregarious instinct on the other hand "does not necessarily imply sociability of temperament" (McDougall 1916: 87). People can "live a most solitary, unsociable life" in "the thronged city" (ibid, 87). Like Galton's oxen, they are "unsociable but gregarious", that is, enjoy being in a crowd (or, on the contrary, get anxious when away from other people), but seem to hardly notice other people. On the basis of this observation McDougall postulates that the gregarious instinct is at the foundation of sociability but sociability itself "is a more complex, more highly developed, tendency" (ibid, 87). The gregarious instinct is responsible for social recreations and "the pleasure we find in attendance at the theatre, at concerns, lectures, and all such entertainments" "especially if the house is unanimous and loud in the expression of its feelings" (ibid, 87), but this does not necessarily imply that you become fast friends with all the theatre-goers present.

Another triad. In his treatment of "Some General or Non-specific Innate Tendencies" McDougall effectively expands the above triad (emotional, conative, and cognitive consciousness) into one of communication: each "involves an interaction between at least two individuals, one of whom is the agent, while the other is the person acted upon or patient" (McDougall 1916: 90-91). These three types of interaction, he writes, "are sometimes ascribed to special instincts" but "are more properly classed apart from the instinctive tendencies" (McDougall 1916: 90). Thus, he calls them "pseudo-instincts" (ibid, 90). Thus, expanding the overview of the first triad:

  1. sympathy - [the communication of] affective/emotional aspects of consciousness - "a feeling in regard to" some thing or object; "an affective or emotional excitement of the agent induces a similar affective excitement in the patient";
  2. imitation - [the communication of] the conative aspects of consciousness - "a striving towards or away from that object"; "the assimilation of the bodily movements of the patient to those of the agent";
  3. suggestion - [the communication of] the cognitive/intellectual aspects of consciousness - "a knowing of some thing or object"; "some presentation, idea, or belief of the agent directly induces a similar presentation, idea, or belief in the patient";

Sympathy was a popular topic for decades before this, as evidenced by Susan Lanzoni's study "Sympathy in "Mind" (1876-1900)" (2009). Gabriel Tarde, as McDougall notes, brought imitation to the forefront. And suggestion was used extensively by Sigmund Freud.

Sympathy. It "generally implies a tender regard for the person with whom we are said to sympathise" (McDougall 1916: 92). This, is a "special and complex form of sympathetic emotion", "The fundamental and primitive form of sympathy is exactly what the word implies, a suffering with, the experiencing of any feeling or emotion when and because we observe in other persons or creatures the expression of that feeling or emotion" (ibid, 92). The "commonest example" in gregarious animals is "the spread of fear and its flight-impulse among the members of a flock or herd" (ibid, 92). Likewise, when "one of a pack of gregarious hunting animals, dogs or wolves, comes upon a fresh trail, sights the prey, and pursues it, uttering a characteristic yelp that excites the instinct of pursuit in all his fellows and brings them yelping behind him" (ibid, 92-93). These examples are curiously all vocal. QCQCQC

Cement. This is a common expression in my so-called "data-set", and there are some modern instances in which phatic communion is said to be such a "cement". Here it is sympathy: "Sympathy of this crude kind is the cement that binds animal societies together, renders the actions of all members of a group harmonious, and allows them to repeat some of the prime advantages of social life in spite of lack of intelligence" (McDougall 1916: 93). What's interesting about this quote is that he goes through all the pseudo-instincts in one sentence: (1) sympathy binds them together; (2) enables imitation; and (3) gives them some advantage despite the "lack of intelligence" - though few would agree today that animals lack intelligence. In any case, "cement" pops out to me because I found it in Ross, too: "The Mohammedan world still relies on religion as the cement of society and its schools teach little else than sacred lore" (Ross 1920: 596).

Careless company. McDougall repeats his discussion of how sympathetically induced pain "simply inclines us, then, to avoid the neighbourhood of the distressed and to seek the company of the cheerful" (McDougall 1916: 78; above). I'll briefly go over all the examples of "Human sympathy" he gives:

  • "the wailing of other children" makes the child wail;
  • "the sight of a smiling face, the expression of pleasure, provokes a smile";
  • curiosity and anger "are communicated readily in this direct fashion from one child to another";
  • "Laughter is notoriously infectious all through life";

Adults respond similarly: "A merry face makes us feel brighter; a melancholy face may cast a gloom over a cheerful company" (ibid, 94). All of these are illustrations of what we today would call emotional contagion. But now he goes over the argument he had with Bain above: "when we witness the painful emotion of others, when we experience sympathetic pain; when we see others terror-stricken or hear their scream of terror, we suffer a pang of fear though we know nothing of the cause of their emotion or are indifferent to it" (ibid, 94-95). The perplexity of his treatment of sympathy is reduced by this: my example was verbal, his is nonverbal, in which case we do not know that the other person's parent had died, we see only the gloomy face. Thus, "There are persons who are equisitively sympathetic in this sense of feeling with another, experiencing distress at the sight of of pain and grief, pleasure at the sight of joy, who yet are utterly selfish and are not moved in the least degree to relieve the distress they observe in others or to promote the pleasure that is reflected in themselves" (ibid, 95-96). Finally, "Their sympathetic sensibility merely leads them to avoid all contact with distressful persons, books, or scenes, and to seek the company of the careless and the gay" (McDougall 1916: 96). To Ross's "If you're out of health or money you need n't come around" I can now add that "joyous natures feel joy in all company that is not disobliging" (Shand 1914: 151). In all probability we have at hand the following sequence: Shand → McDougall → Ross. At this rate it's going to take me a whole week to get through my notes. Hence, going forward I'll skip the bits that aren't directly relevant for the purpose at hand.

Sentiment. "We owe to Mr. A. F. Shand the recognition of features of our mental constitution of a most important kind that have been strangely overlooked by other psychologists, and the application of the word "sentiments" to denote features of this kind" (McDougall 1916: 122). From my reading, Shand elaborated upon Darwin's book on emotional expressions. If it was strangely overlooked before Shand it remained overlooked after him. Shand's system was in fashion for like two minutes. Nevertheless, McDougall was one of the very few who took it seriously, and although it was said to be Malinowski's night-cubboard book, the one identifiable instance in which he did use it he missed the mark so completely it cannot be said to be anything else than utter failure. It is symptomatic that even McDougall's summary of Shand's theory of sentiments is obtuse and flowery. The definition he strikes upon goes as follows: a sentiment is "an organised system of emotional tendencies centred about some object" (ibid, 122). How very informative!

Pity and sorrow. As with pride and vanity, here's a very fine distinction. McDougall acknowledges that both are essentially painful tender emotions: "Pity in its simplest form is tender emotion tinged with sympathetically induced pain (McDougall 1916: 153). What distinguishes pity from sorrow is that the former "does not imply the existence of any sentiment of affection or love, as sorrow does, and is therefore a more transient experience, and one with less tendency to look before and after" (ibid, 153). When watching "the painful and mortal illness" of a stranger, there is sympathetically induced pain, but it is temporary because you do not love that stranger; when you're watching the same effects in a friend, on the other hand, "there is also pain arising from the prospect of the loss of the object of our sentiment of love, which makes the emotion a sorrowful one" (ibid 153). Sorrow, in a word, is "a self-regarding pain" - the suffering of a friend is personal, whereas you can pity the stranger but after he's out of sight he's out of mind.

Self-love. McDougall complains that "older moralists" have confounded self-love and self-respect. Here he gives a workable definition of self-love: it is "the self-regarding sentiment of the thoroughly selfish man, the meaner sort of egoist" so that "Such a man feels a tender emotion for himself, he indulges in self-pity; he may have little positive self-feeling and may be incapable of shame" (McDougall 1916: 161-162). In the "vampires" described by Ross we can recognize this type of self-love. To put it bluntly, the selfish man will talk and talk and talk without actually listening to others because he loves his own voice.

Active sympathy. It turns out that E. R. Clay's homogeneous sympathy is indeed comparable to McDougall's active sympathy. To reiterate, Clay distinguishes conviviality as homogeneous sympathy and pity as heterogeneous sympathy. In conviviality there is a "concurrence of emotions of the same kind" and it "enhance[s] a feeling of fellowship" (Clay 1882: 142). McDougall's active sympathy likewise "is of prime importance for the development of the sentiment of affection between equals" (McDougall 1916: 168). Heterogeneous sympathy, i.e. pity, "may be wholly one-sided" but active sympathy implies "some degree of reciprocation" (ibid, 168). Now, what makes "homogeneous" sympathy "active" consists in the following: "either party to the relation not only is apt to experience the emotions displayed by the other, but he desires also that the other shall share his own emotions; he actively seeks the sympathy of the other, and, when he has communicated his emotion to the other, he attains a peculiar satisfaction which greatly enhances his pleasure and his joy" (McDougall 1916: 168). The stuff of it is somewhat similar to the treatment of friendship (Ch. 9) in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, namely that we desire good for our friends for their own sake. Here, it is only slightly different: active sympathy involves a reciprocity of feelings. Moreover, "This relation of active sympathy is apt to grow up between any two persons who are thrown much together, if they are commonly stirred to similar emotions by similar objects; and that can only be the case if they have similar sentiments" (McDougall 1916: 168). This has broad implications for phatic communion. For one, what makes phatic communion phatic communion and not, say, sympathetic communion, is that people brought together by the mere need for company are not "thrown much together" but thrown together on that particular occasion. They are not already fast friends but may become so in due time. And secondly, "similar sentiments" may pair with Malinowski's "common sentiment" (PC 2.3), though it really feels like he is misusing the word "sentiment" on that occasion.

Conclusion. I was worrying without cause. In the rest of the book there is very little that can be connected with phatic communion. There are only two exceptions: "the fact that meaningless formalities and rites continue to surround almost all ancient institutions" (McDougall 1916: 350). Yet Malinowski does not deal with "ancient institutions". And secondly there is a very good long paragraph about the role of the sex instinct in "normal social intercourse" (McDougall 1916: 400-401), but Malinowski avoids anything to do with sex, at least in his early writings, like the plague. The latter instance has value in itself, and could eventually develop into an independent study of the role of sexual attraction in social intercourse but that is "future music" as they say.

Presently it looks like McDougall, at least, is a red herring. I was lead to him and Shand by this: "Malinowski made use of the contributions of both Gestaltists and behaviorists, but his main theoretical orientation was provided by an early socio-psychological approach of McDougall and Shand" (Symmons-Symonolewicz 1959: 40-41). It may be that I am simply reading the wrong book, as Symmons-Symonolewicz refers to Malinowski's review of McDougall's Group Mind. I've noticed that Ross, too, constantly notes (in margins) the "group mind" in this or that phenomenon but never explains it. It looks like McDougall is not fully off the hook until I've also read that one, but I don't expect it to be too relevant for phatic communion due to Malinowski's persistent resentment of "collective consciousness". I looked up specific words (communion, intercourse, sentiment, vanity), but nothing of interest came up - in that book McDougall uses "intercourse" only in "between nations". So I'm approximately 80% sure that I'm in the clear with McDougall and it would be very surprising indeed if Group Mind turned out to be more important than I thought.

I'm guessing that the situation with Shand is somewhat similar, as I don't recall his book being as on phatic as I found Ross's to be. So it looks like the thesis of my upcoming paper is going to be about how the influence of the known authors, who were popular at the time (there was even a notable dispute between McDougall and Shand on the nature of instincts or sentiments, or sympathy, or who-knows-what), is much lesser and less obvious that the influence of an unknown, a wildcard, this Ross fellow, in whose book the most cryptic parts of Malinowski's phatic communion find a perfect explanation. This is, well, both surprising and deflating. I had thought for a long time that the answers were hidden somewhere in or between McDougall and Shand, and now it turns out that the answers were much more simpler, and hidden elsewhere, in a book no-one notices but which clearly was open on Malinowski's table when he wrote about phatic communion. That's the surprising part. The deflating part is that, well, what if there are more such wildcards? What if I haven't yet reached the bottom and somewhere there is a further forgotten book containing passages that resolve issues I've been wrestling with for years? Have I finally reached the bottom of the barrel or has Boris more to hide?

Selleks, et oma psühhoanalüütiliste teooriate kriitikas kindel olla, kasutas Malinowski panuseid nii gestaltistidelt kui biheivioristidelt, aga tema põhiline teoreetiline orientatsioon põlvnes McDougalli ja Shandi varajasest sotsio-psühholoogilisest lähenemisest. Oma arvustuses McDougalli teosele The Group Mind rõhutas ta, sealjuures eitades raamatu keskset kontseptsiooni kui "jäänukit Hegelikust teooriast":
[...] McDougall oli üks esimesi, kes mõistis selgelt, et ühiskondlike uskumuste, kommete, ja käitumise küsimustes mängivad tundmus ja instinkt keskset rolli. Kaasaegsed uurimused on seda õpetust õigustanud, mõnel juhul mitte ilma liialdusteta. Ma arvan, et võin turvaliselt ennustada, et tuleviku etnoloogiat mõjutavad McDougalli seisukohad rohkem kui praegu.
Kuus aastat hiljem, raamatus Seks ja Repressioon Metsikus Ühiskonnas, ütleb Malinowski otseselt, et oluline osa tema teoreetilisest argumendist selles raamatus põhines "Shandilikel põhimõtetel", samas kui ühes oma hilisemas töös kirjeldab ta "McDougalli ja Shandi poolt edendatud tundmusteooriat" kui "kõige olulisemat panust kaasaegses psühholoogias". Pärast seda kaob see teooria vakiselt Malinowski kirjutistest, kuivõrd teda huvitab üha enam vajaduste kui tundmuste mõiste. (Symmons-Symonolewicz 1959: 40-41)


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