The Oceanic Feeling: A Case Study in Existential Feeling
Saarinen, J. (2014). The Oceanic Feeling: A Case Study in Existential Feeling. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 21 (5-6), 196-217.
Published inJournal of Consciousness Studies
In this paper I draw on contemporary philosophy of emotion to illuminate the phenomenological structure of so-called oceanic feelings. I suggest that oceanic feelings come in two distinct forms: (1) as transient episodes that consist in a feeling of dissolution of the psychological and sensory boundaries of the self, and (2) as a relatively permanent feeling of unity, embracement, immanence, and openness that does not involve occurrent experiences of boundary dissolution. I argue that both forms of feeling are existential feelings, i.e. pre-intentional bodily feelings that structure overall self-world experience. I re-conceptualize episodic oceanic feelings as shifts in existential feeling, and permanent oceanic feelings as stable existential orientations. On the whole, my analysis elucidates a class of feeling that is allegedly quite common, yet frequently misunderstood. It will also serve to enrich our understanding of the general phenomenological structure of our affective lives.