Monday, May 4, 2015

The Real Basis of Intentional Relation

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.
In Brentano’s psychology, the “intentional relation” is treated simply as a fact of ordinary consciousness. It is a psychic fact; but no attempt is made to clarify further by showing how that fact is articulated into the whole psychic experience. Perhaps I may be permitted, in bare outline, to advance a corollary to it on the basis of my own systematic and extensive observations. These latter really call for presentation in much greater detail and with all the supporting evidence. But up to now circumstances have made it impossible for me to go beyond introducing them cursorily into oral lectures; and what I can add here is still only a brief outline statement of the results. I invite the reader to entertain them provisionally on that footing. At the same time they are not put forward merely as hazarded “insights”, but rather as something I have striven year in and year out to establish with the means that modern science makes available.
In the particular psychic experience which Brentano denotes by the term "judgment" there is added to the mere representation (which consists in the formation of an inner image) an acknowledgment or repudiation of the image. The question that arises for the psychologist is: What exactly is it, within the psyche’s experience, where thought is brought about not merely through the presented image “green tree”, but also the judgment “there is a green tree”? This somewhat cannot be located within the rather circumscribed area of representational activity that is assigned to ordinary consciousness. (In the second volume of my Riddles of Philosophy, in the section entitled “The World as Illusion”, I gave some account of the various epistemological ideas to which this difficulty has given rise.) We have to do with an experience that lies outside that area. The problem is to find its “where”. Where, when the human being confronts a sense-object in the act of perception, is this “somewhat” to be looked for? Not in anything he so receives in the process of perception, that the receiving can be understood through any physiological or psychological ideas that posit outer object on one side and immediate sensation on the other. When someone has the visual perception “green tree”, the fact of the judgment “there is a green tree” is not to be found in that relation between “tree” and “eye” which is viable to either physiological or psychological explication. The experience had by the psyche, which amounts to this inner fact of judgment, is an additional relation between “man” and “tree” strictly other than the bare relation between “tree” and “eye”. Yet it is only this latter relation that is fully and sharply experienced in ordinary-level consciousness. The former relation remains a dull, subconscious one, which only comes to light in its product — namely the acknowledgment of the “green tree” as an existent. In every perception that reaches the point of a “judgment” we have a double relation to objectivity.
It is only possible to gain insight into this double relation if the prevailing fragmentary doctrine of the senses is replaced by an exhaustive one. If we take into account the whole of what is relevant in assigning the characteristics of a human sense, we shall find we must allow the name “senses” to more than is usually so labeled. That which constitutes the “eye”, for example, a “sense” is also present when we experience the fact: another “I” is being observed, or: the thought of another human being is being recognized as such. The mistake usually made, in the face of such facts as these, is failure to maintain a certain very valid and necessary distinction. As an instance of this, people imagine that, when they hear somebody else’s words, “sense” only comes in to the extent that “hearing” as such is involved, and that all the rest is assignable to an inner, non-sensory activity. But that is not the case. In the hearing of human words and in the understanding of them as thoughts a threefold activity is involved, and each component of this threefold activity requires separate consideration, if we mean to conceptualize in a scientifically valid way. One of these activities is “hearing”. But “hearing” per se is no more a “becoming aware of words” than “touching” is a “seeing”. And just as it is proper to distinguish the sense of “touch” from that of “sight”, so is it to distinguish the sense of “hearing” from that of “being aware of words”, and again from that of “comprehending thoughts”. A starveling psychology and a starveling epistemology both follow as consequences from the failure to sharply distinguish the “comprehending of thoughts” from the activity of thinking, and to recognize the “sense” character of the former process. The only reason for our common failure to distinguish is, that the organ of “being aware of words” and that of “comprehending thoughts” are neither of them outwardly perceptible like the ear, which is the organ of “hearing”. Actually there are “organs” for both these perceptual activities, just as, for “hearing”, there is the ear.
If, scrutinizing them without omissions, one carries the findings of physiology and psychology through to their logical conclusion, one will arrive at the following view of human sensory organization. We have to distinguish: The sense for perceiving the “I” of the other human being; the sense for comprehending thoughts; the sense for being aware of words; the sense of hearing; the sense of warmth; the sense of sight; the sense of taste; the sense of balance (the perceptual experience, that is, of oneself as being in a certain equilibrium with the outer world); the sense of movement (the perceptual experiencing of the stillness or the motion of one’s own limbs or, alternatively, of one’s own stillness or motion by contrast with the outer world); the sense of life (experience of being situated within an organism — feeling of subjective self-awareness); and the sense of touch. All these senses bear the distinguishing marks by virtue whereof we properly call “eye” and “ear” by the name of “senses”.
To ignore the validity of such distinctions is to import disorder into the whole relation between our knowledge and reality. It is to suffer the ignominious burden of ideas that cut us off from experiencing the actual. For instance, if a man calls the “eye” a “sense” and refuses to accept any “sense” for “being aware of words”, then the idea which that man forms of the “eye” remains an unreal fancy.
I am persuaded that Fritz Mauthner in his brilliant way speaks, in his linguistic works, of a “happening-sense” (Zufallssinnen) only because he has in view a too fragmentary doctrine of the senses. If it were not for that, he would detect how a “sense” inserts itself into “reality”. In practice, when a human being confronts a sensory object, it is never through one sense that he acquires an impression, but always, in addition, through at least one other of those just enumerated. The relation to one particular sense enters ordinary-level consciousness with especial sharpness, while the other remains more obtuse. But the senses also differ from one another in a further respect: some of them afford a relation to the outer world that is experienced more as external nexus; the others, more one that is bound up very intimately with our own being. Senses that are most intimately bound up with our own being are (for example) the sense of equilibrium, the sense of motion, the sense of life, and also of course the sense of touch. When there is perception by these senses of the outer world, it is always obscurely accompanied by experience of the percipient’s own being. You can even say that in their case a certain obtuseness of conscious percipience obtains, precisely because the element in it of external relationship is shouted down by the experience of our own being. For instance: a physical object is seen, and at the same time the sense of equilibrium furnishes an impression. What is seen is sharply perceived. This “seen” leads to representation of a physical object. The experience through the sense of equilibrium remains, qua perception, dull and obtuse; but it comes to life in the judgment: “That which is seen exists” or “There is a thing seen”. Natures are not, in reality, juxtaposed to one another in abstract mutual exclusion; they, together with their distinguishing marks, overlap and interpenetrate. Hence, in the whole gamut of the “senses” there are some that mediate relation to the outer world rather less, and the experience of one’s own being rather more. These latter are sunken further into the inner life of the psyche than, for example, eye and ear; and, for that reason, their perceptual function manifests as inner psychic experience. But one must still distinguish, even in their case, the properly psychic from the perceptual element, just as in the case of, say, seeing one distinguishes the outer event or object from the inner psychic experience evoked with it.
For those who adopt the anthroposophical standpoint there can be no shirking of refined notional distinctions of this kind. They must be capable of distinguishing “awareness of words” from hearing, in one direction; and of distinguishing, in the other, this “awareness of words” from the “understanding of words” brought about by one’s own intellection; just as ordinary consciousness distinguishes between a tree and a lump of rock. If this were less frequently ignored, it would be recognized that anthroposophy has two aspects: not only the one that people usually dub “mystical”, but also the other one, the one that conduces to investigations not less scientific than those of natural science, but in fact more scientific, since they necessitate a more refined and methodical habit of conceptualization than even ordinary philosophy does. I suspect that Wilhelm Dilthey was tending, in his philosophical enquiries, toward the doctrine I have outlined here concerning the senses; but that he was unable to achieve his purpose because he never reached the point of sufficiently elaborating the requisite ideas.


From GA21, Riddles of the Soul. Available from Mercury Press:

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