Offended Child

Ulrich is pondering the source, range and meaning of the emotions. He understands the limits of a purely material explanation.

So if the scientific goal may be said to be a broad and wherever possible ironclad anchoring in the realm of nature, there is still blended with it a peculiar exuberance, which can be roughly expressed in the proposition: What stands low stands firm. In the overcoming of a theological philosophy of nature, this was once an exuberance of denial, a ‘bearish speculation in human values.’ Man preferred to see himself as a thread in the weave of the world’s carpet rather than as someone standing on this carpet; and it is easy to understand how a devilish, degrading desire for soullessness also rubbed off on the emptiness of the soul when it straggled noisily into it materialistic adolescence. This was later held against it in religiously straitlaced fashion by all the pious enemies of scientific thinking, but its innermost essence was nothing more than a good-natured gloomy romanticism, an offended child’s love for God, and therefore also for his image, a love that in the abuse of this image still has unconscious aftereffects today. (II,1245-1246)

It is then surprising if what comes to light behind the physiological explanations of our behavior is ultimately, quite often, nothing but the familiar idea that we let our behavior be steered by chain reflexes, secretions, and the mysteries of the body simply because we were seeking pleasure and avoiding its opposite? And not only in psychology, also in biology and even in political economy–in short, wherever a basis is sought for an attitude or a behavior–pleasure and its lack are still playing this role; in other words, two feelings so paltry that it is hard to think of anything more simple-minded. The far more diversified idea of satisfying a drive would indeed be capable of offering a more colorful picture, but the old habit is so strong that one can sometimes even read that the drives strive for satisfaction because this fulfillment is pleasure, which is about the same as considering the exhaust pipe the operative part of a motor! (II,1247)

 

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