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Riddles of the Soul
GA 21

5. The Real Basis of an Intentional Relation

With the "intentional relation" characterized in chapter 3, a soul element enters into Brentano's psychology but only as a fact of ordinary consciousness, without this fact being further explained and incorporated into our experience of the soul. I would like to be allowed here to sketch out some things about this fact that are based for me upon views that I have worked out in many different directions. To be sure, these views still need to be brought into more detailed form and to be fully substantiated. My situation until now, however, has only made it possible for me to present certain salient points in lectures. What I can bring here are only some findings sketched out in brief. And I beg the reader to take them as such for now. These are not “sudden fancies”; We are dealing here with something that I have worked for years to substantiate, employing the scientific means of our day.

In that soul experience which Franz Brentano calls “judging,” an acceptance or rejection of our mental pictures comes to meet this mere mental picturing (that consists in an inner shaping of pictures). The question arises for the soul researcher: What is it in our soul experience by which there does not merely arise the mental picture "green tree," but also the judgment "this is a green tree"? The something that accomplishes this cannot lie within the narrower circle of our life in mental pictures circumscribed by our ordinary consciousness. The fact that we cannot find it here has led to the epistemological thought that I describe in the second volume of my Riddles of Philosophy in the chapter “The World as Illusion.” At issue here is an experience lying outside this circle. The point is to discover the “where" in the realm of our soul experiences.

When a person is confronting a sense-perceptible object and unfolding his activity of perception, this something cannot be found anywhere in all that he receives in the process of perception in such a way that this receiving is grasped through the physiological and psychological pictures that relate to the outer object on the one hand, and to the pertinent sense organ on the other. When someone has the visual perception “green tree,” the fact of the judgment “this is a green tree” cannot be found in any directly evident physiological or psychological relation between “tree” and “eye.” What is experienced in the soul as the inner fact of judging is actually an additional relation between the “person” and the “tree” different from the relation between “tree” and “eye.” Nevertheless, only the latter relation is experienced in all its sharpness in ordinary consciousness. The other relation remains in a dim state of subconsciousness and only comes to light in its result as the recognition of the “green tree” as something that exists. With every perception that comes to a head as a judgment one is dealing with a twofold relation of man to objectivity.

One gains insight into this twofold relation only if one can replace today's fragmentary science of the senses with a complete one. Anyone who takes into consideration everything that pertains to a characterization of a human sense organ will find that one must call other things “senses” besides what is usually designated as such. What makes the “eye” a “sense organ,” for example, is also present when one experiences the fact that someone else's ‘I’ is observed or that someone else's thought is recognized as such. With respect to such facts one usually errs in not making a thoroughly justified and necessary distinction. One believes, for example, that when hearing the words of another person, it suffices to speak of a “sense” only insofar as “hearing” comes into question and that everything else is to be ascribed to a non-sensory, inner activity. But that is not the actual state of affairs. In hearing human words and understanding them as thoughts, a threefold activity comes into consideration. And each component of this threefold activity must be studied in its own right, if a valid scientific view is to arise. Hearing is one of these activities. But hearing as such is just as little a perception of words as touching is a seeing. And if, in accordance with the facts, one distinguishes between the sense of touch and the sense of sight, one must also make distinctions between hearing, perceiving words, and then apprehending the thought. It leads to a faulty psychology and to a faulty epistemology if one does not make a sharp distinction between our apprehension of a thought and our thought activity, and if one does not recognize the sensory nature of the former. One makes this mistake only because the organ by which we perceive a word and that by which we apprehend a thought are not as outwardly perceptible as the ear is for hearing. In reality sense organs are present for these two activities of perception just as the ear is present for hearing. If one follows through on what physiology and psychology can find in this regard if they investigate fully, one arrives at the following view of the human sense organization. One must distinguish: the sense for the T of another person; the sense for apprehending thoughts; the sense for perceiving words; the sense of hearing; the sense of warmth; the sense of sight; the sense of taste; the sense of smell; the sense of balance (the perceptive experience of finding oneself in a certain state of equilibrium with respect to the outer world); the sense of movement (the perceptive experience of the resting state or movement of one's own limbs on the one hand, and the state of rest or movement with respect to the outer world; the sense of life (the experience of the state of one's own organism; the feeling of how one is); the sense of touch. All these senses bear the traits which lead us, in truth, to call eyes and ears “senses.”

Anyone who does not acknowledge the validity of these distinctions falls into disorder in his knowledge of reality. With his mental pictures, he succumbs to the fate of their not allowing him to experience anything truly real. For someone, for example, who calls the eye a sense but assumes no sense organ for the perception of words, even the picture he forms of the eye will remain an unreal configuration.

I believe that Fritz Mauthner, in his critique of language, speaks in his clever way of a “sense for chance” only because he is looking at a fragmentary science of the human senses. If this were not the case, he would notice how a sense organ places itself into reality.

Now, when a person confronts a sense-perceptible object, the situation is such that he never receives an impression through only one sense, but always through at least one other sense as well from the series listed above. The relation to one sense enters ordinary consciousness with particular distinctness; the relation to the other sense remains dimmer. A distinction exists between the senses, however: a number of the senses allow our relation to the outer world to be experienced more as an outer one; the other senses allow us to experience the outer world more as something closely connected to our own existence. The senses that find themselves in close connection to our own existence are, for example, our sense of balance, our sense of movement, our sense of life, and even our sense of touch. In the perceptions of these senses with respect to the outer world, our own existence is dimly felt along with them. Yes, one could say that a dullness of our conscious perceiving occurs just because the relation out into the world is drowned out by the experiencing of our own being. If there occurs the seeing of an object, for example, and at the same time our sense of balance is communicating an impression, what is seen will be sharply perceived. What is seen leads to a mental picture of the object. As a perception, our experience through the sense of balance remains dull; nevertheless it manifests in the judgment that “what I see exists” or “that is what I see.”

In reality, things do not stand beside each other in abstract differentiation; they pass over into one another with their characteristics. Thus it comes about that, in the full complement of our senses, there are some that transmit less a relation to the outer world and more an experience of one's own being. These latter senses dip down more into our inner soul life than do, say, the eye or ear; therefore the results of what they transmit as perceptions appear as inner soul experiences. However, even with them, one should distinguish the actual soul element from the perceptual element just as, when seeing something, for example, one distinguishes the outer fact from the inner soul experiences one has in connection with it.

Anyone who takes the anthroposophical point of view must not shrink from such subtle distinctions in mental pictures like those made here. He must be able to distinguish between perceiving the word and hearing, on the one hand, and between perceiving the word and understanding it through his own thoughts, on the other, just as ordinary consciousness distinguishes between a tree and a rock. If one would take this more into account, one would recognize that anthroposophy does not just have the one aspect— usually called the mystical side—but also the other, by which anthroposophy leads to a research no less scientific than that of natural science; it leads in fact to a more scientific approach which requires a more subtle and more methodological elaboration of our life in mental pictures than even ordinary philosophy does. I believe that in his philosophical research Wilhelm Dilthey was on his way to the science of the senses that I have sketched out here, but that he could not attain his goal because he did not push through to a complete elaboration of the pertinent mental pictures. (Please see what I said about this in my Riddles of Philosophy).