XVII. Intellectual Emotions

By "intellectual emotions" Atkinson means the curiosity that is aroused by objects and ideas that stimulate thought - whether memory, imagination, reason, judgment, or another logical faculty. He suggests that "those who are accustomed to employing the mind" experience these emotions more frequently and deeply than others.

The intellectual emotions arise from the exercise of a refined perception: the intellectual takes notice of things that others ignore, and feels a sense of attraction to things that stimulate the mind in the same way that a person whose aesthetic perception is attracted to things that stimulate the senses.

Also like aesthetic emotions, the intellectual reactions are the interplay of perception and cognition: perception provides us with conceptual detail (we see something, identify it, know its purpose) and the rational mind instructs perception on how to interpret the data it receives.

Also like aesthetic emotions, the intellectual emotions are based on functionality, but are often non-functional. Sometimes, an intellectual reads to gain information that is supportive of a task with a defined goal, but on other occasions he reads "for the pleasure of reading" or to fill his mind with material that has no immediate functional purpose except as grist for his mental mill.

Intellectual pleasure derives from pure discovery. The things that are discovered may eventually prove to be useful, but it is not utility that causes pleasure. The sudden joy of Archimedes, who gleefully exclaimed "eureka" at the realization that water displacement could be used to measure the volume of irregular objects, was not because this was immediately useful to him - in that moment, he experienced the joy of discovery.

Discovery does not need to be unique to create pleasant emotions: the pleasure we feel when reading a good book is not inventive, but arises from the personal discovery of the material it contains. A person who solves a problem is elated, even if the solution is known to others, because it is in that moment that it is discovered to himself.

As such study and scientific pursuits is a source of great pleasure to the intellectual. The discovery of new information, or the realization of unrecognized connections between information that is already known, gives the intellectual an intense satisfaction.

The pleasure of humor and wit are likewise linked to discovery. One theory of humor is that its distinctive element is the resolution of incongruity: that a phrase that is spoken may be interpreted in multiple ways, each of which makes sense, but each of which renders a different meaning. The laughter when we "get" a joke arises because we understand the different connotations and have resolved it, making it akin to the feeling of triumph at solving a puzzle. Bright people have very well developed senses of humor, and dull people have nearly none at all.

(EN: Separate studies in humor indicate this is not strictly so. Children and simple-minded people find pleasure in incongruities they cannot resolve. They recognize it as nonsensical and find it "silly" though they cannot fully grasp the implications or resolve the incongruity.)

The experience of intellectual emotions necessarily depends on intellectualism - the education, training, perspective, and knowledge that enables us to take interest in a subject and desire to gain additional understanding of it. The intellectual pleasure is a satisfaction of curiosity, and as such it requires a person to be curious and to have the prerequisite knowledge to resolve their curiosity by means of discovery. A person who lacks either of those qualities, in any instance, will be incapable of experiencing intellectual emotions.

Blended Emotions

The majority of emotions are the result of several simultaneous feelings - but it is not always true that the combination of feelings result in a single emotion. Man is plagued by his ability to experience multiple emotions at once, particularly when they are conflicting.

Take for example the emotion of sexual desire that is felt upon encountering an attractive person. We hope of to gain their affection but simultaneously fear of being rejected, spurned, and ridiculed for our assumptions. The inner conflict that arises is the combined effect of the emotions of hope and fear we experience.

We can see the same thing in our intellectual fascination with things that are dangerous or disturbing. We are inclined to fear and loath them, but are curious about the source of our own fear and loathing and thus feel a conflicting emotion of attracting and the desire to explore them, to understand the reason and conquer our fear.

As such, we cannot approach emotions as a simple cause-and-effect relationship between the stimulus and an emotional response - but instead must embrace the complexity of emotion. If we are to understand them, our investigation must not cease at the first plausible answer, but to fully explore the various emotional responses that might be occurring and to understand the way in which they support and conflict with one another to completely understand human motivations and behaviors.