In this first part of the book I propose to study what we call ‘intellective knowing.’[1] From the very origins of philosophy the opposition of intellection to what we term ‘sensing’ has been taken as the point of departure. Intellection and sensation would thus be two forms, for the most part opposed. . . , of what? Greek and Medieval philosophy understood intellection and sensing as acts of two essentially distinct faculties. The opposition of intellection and sensing would thus be the opposition of two faculties. In order to simplify the discussion I shall call ‘thing’ that which is sensed and understood. This has nothing to do with ‘thing’ in the sense of what that word means today when one speaks of "thing-ism," wherein the thing is opposed to something which has a mode of being "not-thinglike," so to speak, for example human life. Rather, I here employ the term ‘thing’ in its most trivial sense as merely synonymous with ‘something’. Now, Greek and Medieval philosophy considered intellection and sensing as acts of two faculties, each determined by the action of things. But whether or not this is true, it is a conception which cannot serve us as {20} a positive base precisely because it treats of faculties. A faculty is discovered in its acts. Hence it is to the very mode of intellective knowing and sensing, and not to the faculties, which we must basically attend. In other words, my study is going to fall back upon the acts of intellective knowing and sensing inasmuch as they are acts (kath’ energeian), and not inasmuch as they are faculties (kata dynamin). So these acts will not be considered as acts of a faculty, but as acts in and for themselves. Throughout this book, then, I shall refer to "intellection" itself, and not to the faculty of intellection, that is, to the intelligence. If at times I speak of ‘intelligence’, the expression does not mean a faculty but the abstract character of intellection itself. Therefore I do not refer to a metaphysics of the intelligence, but rather of the internal structure of the act of intellective knowing. Every metaphysics of the intelligence presupposes an analysis of intellection. To be sure, at various points I have seen myself moved to metaphysical conceptualizations, which I have deemed important. But when doing so, I have taken great care to indicate that in these points I am dealing with metaphysics and not mere intellection as act. That is, I am dealing with an analysis of acts themselves. They are salient facts, and we ought to take them in and for themselves and not in terms of any theory, of whatever order it may be.

But here a second aberration appears. In Greek and medieval philosophy, philosophy drifted from act to faculty. But in modern philosophy, since the time of Descartes, the drift has been in the other direction. This false step is within the very act of intellection. Intellection and sensing are considered as distinct ways of becoming aware of things. So in modern philosophy, intellection and sensing are two modes of {21} such becoming aware, i.e. two modes of consciousness. Leaving aside sensing for the moment, we are told that intellection is consciousness, so that intellection as act is an act of consciousness. This is the idea which has run through all of modern philosophy and which culminates in the phenomenology of Husserl. Husserl’s philosophy seeks to be an analysis of consciousness and of its acts.

Nonetheless, this conception falls back upon the essence of intellection as act. When it rejects the idea of the act of a faculty, what philosophy has done is substantify the ‘becoming aware of’, thus making of intellection an act of consciousness. But this implies two ideas: (1) that consciousness is something which carries out acts; and (2) that what is formally constitutive of the act of intellection is the ‘becoming aware of.’ But, neither of these two affirmations is true because neither corresponds to the facts.

In the first place, consciousness has no substantiality whatever and, therefore, it is not something which can execute acts. Consciousness is just making awareness itself into a substance. But the only thing we have as fact is not "the" becoming aware of or "the" consciousness, but conscious acts of quite diverse nature. Under the pretext of not appealing to a "faculty", the character of some of our acts is substantified and then these acts are converted into acts of a type of "super-faculty," which would be consciousness. And this is not fact, but only a grand theory.

In the second place, it is untrue that what constitutes intellection is awareness, because that is always a becoming aware "of" something which is here-and-now present[2] to conciousness. And this being here-and-now present is not determined by the being aware. A thing is not present because I am aware of it, but rather I am aware of it because it is already {22} present. To be sure, this concerns a being here-and-now present in the intellection, where I am aware of what is present; but the being here-and-now present of the thing is not a moment formally identical to the being aware itself, nor is it grounded there. Hence, within the act of intellection, modern philosophy has gone astray over the question of being here-and-now present, and has attended only to the realizing. But this awareness is not in and through itself an act; it is only a moment of the act of intellection. This is the great aberration of modern philosophy with respect to the analysis of intellection.

We ask ourselves then, what is the proper nature of intellective knowng as act? Intellection is certainly a becoming aware of, but it is an awareness of something which is already present. It is in the indivisible unity of these two moments that intellection consists. Greek and medieval philosophy sought to explain the presentation of something as an actuation of the thing on the faculty of intellective knowing. Modern philosophy ascribes intellection to awareness. Now, it is necessary to take the act of intellection in the intrinsic unity of its two moments, but only as moments of it and not as determinations of things or of consciousness. In intellection, I "am" aware of something at that moment which "is" present to me. The indivisible unity of these two moments consists, then, in "being here-and-now present". This being here-and-now present is of "physical" character and not merely an intentional aspect of intellection. ‘Physical’ is the original and ancient expression for designating something which is not merely conceptual, but real. It is therefore opposed to what is merely intentional, that is, to what consists only in being the terminus of awareness. Awareness is "awareness-of", and this moment of the ‘of’ is precisely what constitutes intentionality. The "being here-and-now present" in which the intellective act consists physically is a "being here-and-now present" in which {23} I am "with" the thing and "in" the thing (not "of" the thing), and in which the thing is "remaining" in my intellection. Intellection as act is not formally intentional. It is a physical "being here-and-now present". The unity of this act of "being" as act is what constitutes apprehension. Intellection is not the act of a faculty or of consciousness, but rather is in itself an act of apprehension. Apprehension is not a theory but a fact: the fact that I am now aware of something which is present to me. Apprehension is, insofar as it refers to the moment of the "being here-and-now present", an act of grasping the present, a grasping in which I am aware of what is grasped. It is an act in which what is present to me has been apprehended precisely and formally because it is present to me. Apprehension is the conscious and "presenting" act. And this ‘and’ is precisely the unitary and physical essence itself of apprehension. To understand something is to apprehend this something intellectively.

We must, then, analyze intellection as apprehension. This analysis sets out to determine the essential nature of intellection as such, in the sense of its constitutive nature, and it must fall back upon intellection as apprehension, as I have just said. But since man has many forms of intellection, the analysis which I now set myself can be carried out along quite different paths. One path consists of making a survey of the various types of intellection, trying to obtain by comparison what these types of intellection are in and through themselves. This is the path of induction, but it is not relevant to our problem because what it would give us is a general concept of intellection. But this not what we seek. We seek rather the constitutive nature, i.e. the essential nature of {24} intellection in and through itself. Induction would give us only a concept, but what we seek is the "physical" nature of intellection, that is the nature of the apprehensive act which constitutes intellection as such. A general concept does not give us the physical reality of intellection. And this is especially true because it would be necessary for any survey of acts of intellection to be exhaustive, and that we could never guarantee. So it is necessary to embark upon another road. The diverse types of intellection are not merely distinct "types". As we shall see at the proper time, in them we treat of "modes" of intellective apprehension. Hence the analysis must bring us to the primary mode of intellective apprehension and enable us to determine the so-called ‘types of intellection’ as modalizations of this primary apprehension. What we will thus achieve is not a general concept of intellection, but a determination of the constitutive nature of the diverse modes of intellective apprehension. Now, "constitutive nature" is just the essential physical nature of intellection; i.e., the problem of what intellective knowing is, is but the problem of the determination of the primary mode of intellection. That is what I intend to deal with in the first part of this book.

To begin, let us take up an idea that was suggested at the beginning of this chapter, but which I deliberately left aside at the time. Ever since its origins, philosophy has begun by setting what we call ‘intellective knowing’ against what we call ‘sensing’. But however strange it may seem, philosophy has never addressed the question of what intellective knowing is, in the formal sense. It has limited itself to studying diverse intellective acts, but has not told us what intellective knowing is. And what is particularly strange is that the same has occurred {25} with sensing. The diverse sensings have been studied according to the diverse "senses" which man possesses. But if one asks in what the formal nature of sensing consists, i.e., what sensing as such is, we find that ultimately the question has not been posed. And there follows a consequence which, to my way of thinking, is an extremely important matter. Since what intellective knowing and sensing as such are has not been determined, it follows that their presumed opposition is left hanging. To what and in what sense can intellective knowing and sensing be opposed if we are not told beforehand in what each formally consists?

I am not going to enter into any type of dialectical discussion of concepts, but rather limit myself to the basic facts. They are what will lead us in our treatment of the question.

Intellection, I said, is an act of apprehension. Now this act of apprehensive character pertains as well to sensing. Hence it is in apprehension as such where we must anchor both the difference between and essential nature of intellective knowing and sensing. This does not mean achieving a general concept of apprehension, but of ana-

lyzing the nature of sensible and intellective apprehension in and through themselves. And this is possible because sensible apprehension and intellective apprehension—as has been observed on many occasions—frequently have the same object. I sense color and understand what this color is, too. In this case, the two aspects are distinguished not as types, but as distinct modes of apprehension. In order, then, to determine the constitutive nature of intellective knowing it is necessary to analyze above all the difference between intellective knowing and sensing as a modal difference within the apprehension of the same object; for example, of color. {26}

To determine the constitutive structure of the act of intellective apprehension, it is unnecessary but very useful to begin by saying what sensible apprehension is as such. This, of course, can be done in many ways. One, by analyzing the modal difference of these apprehensions in the apprehension of the same object. But in order to facilitate the work it is more useful to put sensible apprehension in and of itself before our eyes; that is, to say what sensing is. As sensible apprehension is common to man and animals, it seems that to determine intellective apprehension starting from sensible apprehension would be to start from the animal as the foundation of human intellection. But rather than starting from the animal in this sense, we seek only to clarify human intellection by contrasting it with "pure" animal sensing.

Finally, intellection as act is an act of apprehension and this apprehension is a mode of sensible apprehension itself. Therefore we must ask ourselves:

Chapter II: What is sensible apprehension?

Chapter III: What are the modes of sensible apprehension?

Chapter IV: In what does intellective apprehension consist formally?

Only after answering these questions can we penetrate further into the analysis of intellection itself.


[1] ['Intellective knowing' is used to translate Zubiri's expression inteligir, a verb derived from the Latin intelligere; it cannot be rendered literally, but means the act of knowing in which one's intelligence, in the most general sense, is involved. Inteligir is broader than the English understanding, though at times it has that meaning.-Trans.]^

[2] [Zubiri is here using one of the two Spanish forms of the verb "to be", estar, which refers to temporary or actual being at the moment, as opposed to ser, which means being in a more permanent, long-term sense. The sense of estar in this context is "to be present here-and-now", and that expression is used here and throughout the text as necessary to clarify the meaning.-Trans.]^