Storm's Journal

Thought as an Eyeball for Concepts

Image Rendered by: Edward Adelson 

Although they look different, any Pixel Analyzer will show that
the stimuli of the squares marked 'A' and 'B' are EXACTLY the same -- Try it! 
So if the colour doesn't lie in the stimulous, then where!?!? 
One possibility -- advocated by noble-prize winning neurophysoligist 
John Eccles -- is that Colours, such as Red, only exist for the MIND! 

As Feigenbaum understood them, Goethe's ideas had true science in them. 
They were hard and empirical. Over and over again, Goethe emphasized the 
repeatability of his experiments. It was the perception of colour, to Goethe, 
that was universal and objective. What scientific evidence was there for a 
definable real-world quality of redness independent of our perception?
(James Gleick, 'Chaos', William Heinemann, London, 1988, pp. 165-7)

The paomnnehil pweor of the hmuan mnid

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig eh? -- The niave realist looks for the causes within the phenomenon. However from the monistic position, we might entertain the following postulate: Humans recognize words because the Meaning / Content doesn't exist merely in what you SEE; rather, their unity is first given in conceptual form to our cognition.

Thought as a Perceptual Instrument for Ideas

Does thinking even have any content if you disregard all visible reality, if you disregard the sense-perceptible world of phenomena? Does there not remain a total void, a pure phantasm, if we think away all sense-perceptible content? That this is indeed the case could very well be a widespread opinion, so we must look at it a little more closely. As we have already noted above, many people think of the entire system of concepts as in fact only a photograph of the outer world. They do indeed hold onto the fact that our knowing develops in theform of thinking, but demand nevertheless that a 'strictly objective science' take its content only from outside. According to them the outer world must provide the substance that flows into our concepts. Without the outer world, they maintain, these concepts are only empty schemata without any content. If this outer world fell away, concepts and ideas would no longer have any meaning, for they are there for the sake of the outer world. One could call this view the negation of the concept. For then the concept no longer has any significance at all for the objective world. It is something added onto the latter. The world would stand there in all its completeness even if there were no concepts. For they in fact bring nothing new to the world. They contain nothing that would not be there without them. They are there only because the knowing subject wants to make use of them in order to have, in a form appropriate to this subject, that which is otherwise already there. For this subject, they are only mediators of a content that is of a non-conceptual nature. This is the view presented. If it were justified, one of the following three presuppositions would have to be correct. 1. The world of concepts stands in a relationship to the outer world such that it only reproduces the entire content of this world in a different form. Here 'outer world' means the sense world. If that were the case, one truly could not see why it would be necessary to lift oneself above the sense world at all. The entire whys and wherefores of knowing would after all already be given along with the sense world. 2. The world of concepts takes up, as its content, only a part of 'what manifests to the senses.' Picture the matter so~nething like this. We make a series of observations. We meet there with the most varied objects. In doing so we notice that certain characteristics we discover in an object have already been observed by us berore. Our eye scans a series of objects A, B, C, D, etc. A has the characteristics p, q, a, r; B: l, m, h, n; C: k, h, c, g; and D: p, u, a, v. In D we again meet the characteristics a and p, which we have already encountered in A. We designate these characteristics as essential. And insofar as A and D have the same essential characteristics, we say that they are of the same kind. Thus we bring A and D together by holding fast to their essential characteristics in thinking. There we have a thinking that does not entirely coincide with the sense world, a thinking that therefore cannot be accused of being superfluous as in the case of the first presupposition above; nevertheless it it still just as far from bringing anything new to the sense world. But one can certainly raise the objection to this that, in order to recognize which characteristics of a thing are essential, there must already be a certain norm making it possible to distinguish the essential from the inessential. This norm cannot lie in the object, for the object in fact contains both what is essential and inessential in undivided unity. Therefore this norm must after all be thinking's very own content. This objection, however, does not yet entirely overturn this view. One can say, namely, that it is an unjustified assumption to declare that this or that is more essential or less essential for a thing. We are also not concerned about this. It is merely a matter of our encountering certain characteristics that are the same in several things and of our then stating that these things are of the same kind. It is not at all a question of whether these characteristics, which are the same, are also essential. But this view presupposes something that absolutely does not fit the facts. Two things of the same kind really have nothing at all in common if a person remains only with sense experience. An example will make this clear. The simplest example is the best, because it is the most surveyable. Let us look at the following two triangles. Two differing Triangles What is really the same about them if we remain with sense experience? Nothing at all. What they have in common—namely, the law by which they are formed and which brings it about that both fall under the concept 'triangle'— we can gain onlywhen we go beyond sense experience. The concept 'triangle' comprises all triangles. We do not arrive at it merely by looking at all the individual triangles. This concept always remains the same for me no matter how often I might picture it, whereas I will hardly ever view the same 'triangle' twice. What makes an individual triangle into 'this' particular one and no other has nothing whatsoever to do with the concept. A particular triangle is this particular one not through the fact that it corresponds to that concept but rather because of elements Iying entirely outside the concept: the length of its sides, size of its angles, position, etc. But it is after all entirely inadmissible to maintain that the content of the concept 'triangle' is drawn from the objective sense world, when one sees that its content is not contained at all in any sense-perceptible phenomenon. 3. Now there is yet a third possibility. The concept could in fact be the mediator for grasping entities that are not sense-perceptible but that still have a self-sustaining character. This latter would then be the non-conceptual content of the conceptualforrn of our thinking. Anyone who assumes such entities, existing beyond experience, and credits us with the possibility of knowing about them must then also necessarily see the concept as the interpreter of this knowing. We will demonstrate the inadequacy of this view more specifically later. Here we want only to note that it does not in any case speak against the fact that the world of concepts has content. For, if the objects about which one thinks lie beyond any experience and beyond thinking, then thinking would all the more have to have within itself the content upon which it finds its support. It could not, after all, think about objects for which no trace is to be found within the world of thoughts. It is in any case clear, therefore, that thinking is not an empty vessel; rather, taken purely for itself, it is full of content; and its content does not coincide with that of any other form of manifestation. (Steiner, Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, Chapter 10, 1883) Back to Storm's Journal
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE posted: September 28, 2003 updated: march 21, 2007