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)
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
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.
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)
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posted: September 28, 2003
updated: march 21, 2007