We ask ourselves what sensible apprehension is. As I have just said, sensible apprehension is common to man and animal. Hence, when I refer to sensible apprehension in this chapter, I will be speaking indifferently of man and animal, according to which is most convenient in the particular case.

Sensible apprehension is what constitutes sensing. Therefore our first task must be to clarify what sensing is. Only then will we be able to ask ourselves what constitutes sensible apprehension as a moment of sensing. {28}





Sensing is, first of all, a process; it is a sentient process. As a process, sensing has three essential moments.

1. In an animal (whether human or non-human), the sentient process is aroused by something which at times is exogenic and at times endogenic. This is the moment of arousal. I call it thus so as not to limit myself to what is usually termed ‘excitation’. Excitation is a standard concept in animal psychophysiology. It therefore has a character which is almost exclusively biochemical. Roughly speaking, it comprises that which initiates a physiological process. But here I am not referring exactly to physiological activity. Sensing as a process is not just a physiological activity, but is the process which constitutes the life—in a certain sense the entire life—of an animal. With the same excitations, the animal carries out actions which are extremely diverse. And these actions are determined not only by physiological activity, but by everything the animal apprehends sentiently; for example, its prey. And this moment of apprehension is what constitutes arousal. Arousal is everything that initiates animal action. In my courses I am accustomed to distinguish function and action in an animal. Muscular contraction, for example, is a function. The subject, let us call it that, of the function is an anatomic-physiological structure; for example, a striated muscle fiber. But action is something whose {29} subject is not a structure, but the animal as a whole. For example, fleeing, attacking, etc., are actions. With the same functions the animal carries out the most diverse actions of its life. So, excitation is a moment of a function; arousal is a moment of an action. This does not preclude an action from initiating a functional act in some cases. But then it is clear that the excitation is only a special mode of arousal. Arousal is the prelude to an animal action process, whatever may be the mode in which it takes place.

2. This arousal rests upon the state in which the animal finds itself. The animal has at every instant a state of vital tone. Arousal modifies that vital tone, and this constitutes the second moment of the sentient process: tonic modification. Modification is determined by arousal. But this does not mean that modification is a second moment in the sense of a temporal succession. This would be to again confuse arousal and excitation. Arousal can depend on an endogenic factor which can be in a certain mode connatural to the animal. In such a case, it is the tonic state of the animal which, in one or another form, has chronologically preceeded the arousal. This is what occurs, for example, with some instinctive acts. But even in this case, the moment of arousal is one thing, and the moment of tonic modification another.

3. The animal responds to the tonic modification thus aroused. This is the moment of response. Let us not confuse response with a reaction of the so-called motor impulses. The action of the impulses is always just a functional moment; but response is an actional moment. With the same motor impulses, the responses can be quite diverse. The apprehension {30} of a prey, for example, determines the attack response. This does not refer simply to a play of the motor impulses. The response can be quite varied. It can even include doing nothing. But quiescence is not quietude, that is, an act of the motor impulses, but a mode of response.

Consequently, sensing is a process. This sentient process is strictly unitary: it consists in the intrinsic and radical unity, in the indissoluble unity, of the three moments: arousal, tonic modification, and response. It would be an error to think that sensing consists only in arousal, and that the other two moments are only consequent upon sensing. On the contrary: the three moments, in their essential in indissoluble unity, are what strictly constitute sensing. As we shall see in a later chapter, this unity is of decisive importance for our problem. It constitutes what is specific about animality.

Here I do not intend to study the course of this process, but its structure as a process. This processive structure depends upon the formally constitutive moment of sensing as such. And sensing, in virtue of its very formal structure, is what in a certain fashion determines the structure of the sentient process. Let us, then, consider these two points. {31}





The processive unity of sensing is determined by the formal structure of arousal. That which arouses the sentient process is the apprehension of the "arousing agent". And since what this apprehension determines is a sentient process, it follows that the apprehension itself which arouses it should be called, strictly speaking, ‘sensible apprehension.’ Sensible apprehension, then, has two aspects. First, there is that of determining the sentient process in its moment of modification and response; this is sensible apprehension as arousing. In its second aspect, sensible apprehension has a formal structure of its own, and in virtue of that sets the sensing process in motion. Our problem at the moment is centered on the formal structure of sensible apprehension. In the following paragraph we shall see how this formal structure determines the processive structure of sensing.

Since what determines the sentient process is the formal structure of apprehension, it is proper to call this apprehension "sensing as such." Hence, when I speak of sensing without further qualification I shall be referring to sensing as the formal structure of the sentient apprehension.

We may ask ourselves, then, in what the structure of sensible apprehension consists, considered precisely and formally as sentient apprehension. It consists formally in being impressive apprehension. Here we have what is formally constitutive of sensing: impression. Ancient as well as modern philosophy has either paid little attention {32} to the nature of this impression, or more commonly has paid attention to it but without making an analysis of its formal structure. Philosophers have typically limited themselves to describing distinct impressions. But, it is absolutely necessary to rigorously conceptualize what an impression is, that is, in what its nature as an impression consists. Only thus will we be able to speak of sensing in a creative way.

Structurally, an impression has three constitutive moments:

1. Impression is above all affection of the sentient by what is sensed. Colors, sounds, an animal’s internal temperature, etc., affect the sentient being. Here ‘affection’ does not refer to the usual moment of sentiment; that would be an affect. Impression is an affection, but it is not an affect. In virtue of this affective moment, we say that the sentient being "suffers" the impression. Since its origins in Greece, philosophy has for this reason characterized impressions as pathemata. They would thus be opposed to thoughts, which are proper to a thinking intellection without pathos; so thinking intellection would thus be apathes, impassive. Here these unmodified characterizations comprise a description (inaccurate to be sure) but not a formal determination of what impression is. It can be said that the totality of modern as well as ancient philosophy has scarcely conceptualized impression other than as affection. But this is insufficient.

2. Impression is not mere affection, it is not mere pathos of the sentient being; rather, this affection has, essentially and constitutively, the character of making that which "impresses" present to us. This is the moment of otherness. Impression is the presentation of something other in affection. It is otherness in affection. This "other" I have called and will continue {33} to call the note. Here ‘note’ does not designate any type of indicative sign as does, etymologically, the Latin noun nota; rather, it is a participle, that which is "noted" (gnoto) as opposed to that which is unnoticed—provided that we eliminate any allusion to cognition (that would be rather the cognitum) as well as to knowing (which is what gave rise to notion and notice). It is necessary to attend only to what is simply "noted". This could also be called "quality"; but a note is not always of qualitative nature. If I see three points, "three" is not a quality, but it is a note. Moreover, one must shun the thought that a note is necessarily a note "of" something; for example, that a color is a color of a thing. If I see a simple color, this color is not "of" a thing but "is" in itself the thing; the color is noted in itself. It is true that quite often I call notes ‘qualities’, but only in a wide sense. In the strict sense, a note is not a quality, but something merely noted; it is purely and simply what is present in my impression. Using different words, the Greeks and Medievals suggested this, but did not go beyond the suggestion. It is necessary to anchor reflection on otherness itself. But before doing so let us point out a third characteristic of impression, one which to my way of thinking is essential.

3. I refer to the force of imposition with which the note present in the affection imposes itself upon the sentient being. It is this which arouses the process of sensing. In general, it is a conjunction of notes rather than an isolated one; thus, for example, we have the saying "a cat scalded with hot water flees". The water sensed in impression "imposes" itself upon the animal. This force of imposition can be quite varied; i.e. the same impressive otherness can impose itself in very different manners. {34} But this force of imposition has nothing to do with force in the sense of intensity of affection. A very powerful affection can have a quite small force of imposition. And, conversely, a weak affection can have a great force of imposition.

The intrinsic unity of these three moments is what constitutes impression. But ancient as well as modern philosophy has largely restricted its attention to affection. It has pointed out (though rather vaguely) what I have termed "otherness", but without centering its attention on otherness as such. Furthermore, it has scarcely examined the force of imposition at all. These three moments are essential and, as we shall see in the following chapter, their unity is decisive. It is necessary, then, to keep our attention focussed longer on otherness and on the force of imposition. This is especially true in virtue of the fact that what renders the distinct modes of apprehension specific is precisely the distinct modes of otherness.

Analysis of otherness. This analysis will reveal to us first the proper structure of otherness, and second the unity of this structure.

A) Otherness is not just the abstract character of being other. This is because otherness does not consist in an affection making something present to us merely as "other"; for example, this sound or this green color. Rather, it makes this "other" present to us in a precise form: the other, but "other as such".

This "other", i.e., this note, above all has a proper content: such-and-such color, such-and-such hardness, such-and-such temperature, etc. That is what Greek and medieval philosophy always emphasized. But to my way of thinking, it is essentially {35} inadequate, because this content, this note, is not just effectively other, but rather is present as other. That is what I express by saying that the content is something which "is situated"[1] before the sentient being as something other. And this is not a mere conceptual subtlety, but is, as we shall see, an essential physical moment of otherness. According to this aspect of "other", a note not only has a content, but also has a mode of "being situated" in the impression.

What is this mode? It is just the mode of being other: it is the aspect of independence which the content has with respect to the sentient being. The content of a note "is situated", and insofar as it "is situated" it is independent of the sentient being in whose impression it "is situated". Here, independence does not signify a thing "apart" from my impression (that is what the Greeks and medievals believed), but rather is the content itself present in the apprehension as something "autonomous" with respect to the sentient being. A color, a sound, have an autonomy proper to the visual and auditory affections, respectively. "Being situated" is being present as autonomous. This character of autonomy is not identical to the content, because as we shall see in the following chapter the same content can have different ways of being situated, different forms of independence, and different autonomies. To be autonomous is, then, a form of being situated. In virtue of it I shall say that the "other", the note present in impression, has a proper form of autonomy in addition to a content. For that reason I call this moment formality. Formality does not refer to a metaphysical concept as in the Middle Ages, but to something completely different, to a sentient moment of descriptive character.

Both content and formality depend in large measure upon the nature of the animal. The note sensed {36} is always "other" than the animal; but what its content may be depends in each case on the animal itself, because the content depends on the system of receptors which the animal possesses. A mole does not have color impressions, for example. But, even with the same receptors, and therefore with the same content, this content can "be situated" in different forms. The "being situated" does not depend on the receptors themselves, but rather on the mode in which the sentient being has them in its sensing. To this mode of "having them [to or in] itself"[2] the word ‘habitude’ should be applied. I will explain myself a bit later. Habitude is neither custom nor habit, but the mode of having-them-itself. Customs and habits are habitude precisely because they are modes of having-them-itself. But the converse is not true: not every mode of having-them-itself is a custom or habit. Now, the terminus of a receptor is the content; the terminus of a habitude is formality. Therefore, insofar as formality is determined by habitude I shall say that the form of independence, the form of autonomy as determined by the mode of having-them-itself of the sentient being, should be termed formalization. Formalization is the modulation of formality, i.e. the modulation of independence, the modulation of autonomy. Otherness does not just make present to us something we call a note, but a note which in one or another way "is situated".

Philosophy has never attended to more than the content of an impression; it has always erred with respect to formality. And this is very serious, because as we shall see in the following chapter, that which renders specific the distinct modes of apprehension, i.e., the distinct modes of impression, is formality. Sensible apprehensions are distinguished essentially by the mode according to which {37} their content is present and is autonomized, i.e., is independent of the sentient being.

B) Structural Unity of Otherness. Content and formality are not two moments which are foreign to each other; indeed, they have an essential unity: formalization concerns content, and in turn content concerns the mode of being formalized. The two moments of content and formality have, then, an intrinsic and radical unity: the modalization of otherness.

a) Formality modulates content. An animal, in effect, apprehends notes which we could call elemental; for example, a color, a sound, an odor, a taste, etc. Certainly they are not rigorously elemental, because every note has at least a quality and an intensity. But for now we shall not discuss that; for the purposes of our question these notes are elemental. The term ‘sensation’ should be applied to the apprehension of these notes. But, precisely because these notes are autonomous, i.e., formalized, they are independent. And they are so not just with respect to the sentient being, but also with respect to other notes. Formalization precisely constitutes the "unity" of the sensed content. Thus, these distinct notes can have an outline, a type of closure. These unities thus closed can have the character of autonomous unities; they are then autonomous constellations. Their apprehension thus is not simple sensation; it is "perception". The elemental notes are sensed, the constellations of notes are perceived, etc. An animal not only apprehends sounds, colors, etc., but also apprehends, for example, its "prey". The same elemental notes can comprise different perceptive constellations, i.e., diverse types of unitary content, according to the nature of the animal. Thus, {38} for example, a crab in general perceives the constellation "rock-prey". But many times it does not perceive the prey by itself (Katz’ experience), because if the prey is suspended from a string, the crab does not perceive it until it has habituated itself to the new constellation "string-prey". The prey, the rock, and the string do not have a formal independence in the crab by themselves. For a dog, on the other hand, there are always three separate and independent constellations: prey, rock, string. The fact is that the dog and the crab have different modes of formalization. The formalization, the autonomization of content, now consists in that the unity of independence concerns the constellation itself, and not just one or a few notes arbitrarily selected. Formalization has thus modulated the content: from the elemental it passes to be a totality which may be closed in diverse ways. As we shall see in another chapter, this is decisive.

b) But at the same time, content modulates formality itself. Formalization is, as I said, independence of autonomization. This does not mean an abstract independence, but something very concrete. Independence, stated in a crude way, means that the content is more or less "detached" from the apprehending animal. And content modulates the mode of being detached. Now, the detachment of a color is not the same that of heat. Considering luminosity, for example, its mode of being "detached" in an insect is not the same as it is in a higher order metazoan. Nor is the mode of being "detached" of a constellation of notes the same as the mode of being detached of an elemental note. Speaking somewhat coarsely, a tree or a ravine is much richer in independence for a chimpanzee than for a dog.

All of this comprises the structural unity of otherness {39} and this unity, as we see from the examples alluded to, depends on the nature of the animal. There is no doubt that a color is apprehended in a different way as independent by the retina of a chimpanzee than by that of an insect. Otherness, then, in its intrinsic unity, admits degrees which are manifested above all in the degree of formalization. To the greater degree of formalization corresponds the greater independence of content.

In summary, sensible impression is an impression which affects the sentient being by making present to it that which "impresses", i.e., a note, in formality of independence with a content which is either elemental (a single note) or complex (a constellation of notes). In their otherness, these independent notes impose themselves with a variable force upon the sentient being. And thus imposed, the impression determines the sensing process: arousal, tonic modification, and response. That is what we must now consider. {40}





Sensible apprehension does not only apprehend something impressively; rather, the nature of the sentient process, which apprehension determines, will vary according to the nature of what is apprehended considered as independent of the apprehendor.

A) To see this, let us begin with an essential observation: formalization does not concern just the moment of apprehension, but the entire sentient process as such, in the sense that each one of its three moments is modalized by formalization.

Above all it is clear that there is formalization in the moment of response. This is manifested in some alterations of the sentient process. Inability to coordinate movements is not the same as inability to move oneself. The capacity of coordination of movement is a formalization. A lesion of whatever nature which, in a higher animal such as man, produces changes in coordination, does not produce paralysis. Not all animals have the same

structure of motor formalization. A spectacular case is the capacity of a cat hurled into the air to recover its equilibrium while falling.

Vital tone itself acquires nuances through formalization. A general feeling of well-being or malaise acquires nuances through mere formalization: a mode of feeling spiritless or full of life, spiritless in one direction but {41} not in others, a tonality of happiness, etc.—and all of this according to qualities and in degrees or diverse forms.

Formalization, then, concerns sensing as a whole as arousal, as modification of vital tone, and as response.

B) This demonstrates that some impressions which are the same by reason of their content, through formalization open up all of the richness of the sentient process comprising the richness of the life of the animal. The amplitude of the apprehensive formalization opens up to the animal the amplitude of possible responses. This means that the radical effect of formalization considered as a process consists in autonomizing relatively among themselves each of the three moments of the sentient process: the moment of apprehension, the moment of tone, and the moment of response. This is what allows us to speak of each of these three moments by itself. But this autonomization is only relative: it never breaks the structural unity of the sensing process. In the next chapter we shall see the very important consequences of this observation. Within each of these moments thus autonomized, formalization continues to determine nuances and individually different aspects. If I have limited myself to the formalizing aspect of apprehension, it has been on account of the theme of this book.

We have thus analyzed, first, the moments of the sentient process; and second, the formal structure of sensing. Finally we have indicated the structural determination of the sentient process through formalization.

This formalization is that which renders specific the different modes of sensible apprehension. {42}






So as not to interrupt the thread of my exposition of the analysis of sensible apprehension, I have relegated to this appendix some considerations which I deem important, but which in many respects perhaps go beyond the mere analysis of sensible apprehension.

To begin, it is fitting to explicate the use of the expression ‘formalization’. Formalization can mean the cerebral structure through which we apprehend some content in accordance with its proper formality. In this sense, formalization is a psycho-biological action. But formalization can also mean the fact that a content remains in its proper formality. Then formalization is not an action but a mere "being situated": it is the unity of content and formality. And it is to this sense I refer when speaking here of formalization. I do not refer to structures of the brain except when dealing expressly with formalization as action.

1. Given the foregoing, it is necessary to delimit this concept of formalization with respect to two current ideas, one in philosophy and the other in psychology.

In the first place, formalization should not be confused with the Kantian idea of "form of sensibility". For Kant, sensible content is something unformed in the sense that it lacks spatio-temporal structure. The proper {44} part of the form of sensibility would consist in "informing" (in the Aristotelian sense of the word, i.e., giving form to) sensible matter, i.e. the content. This giving of form is produced by the subjective form (space and time) which sensibility imposes on the content. Now, formalization is not giving of form. Whether Kant’s idea about space and time was correct or not (that is not our present question), the essential point is that formalization is prior to all spatio-temporal giving of form. Formalization is independence, that is, however the animal deals with its impressions, they still remain in a certain formality. Only insofar as there is formality, in which there is independence, can one speak of spatio-temporal arrangement. Formalization concerns this independence, this otherness. Independence is the formality in which content "is situated" before the apprehensor. Formalization is the mode of "being situated" and not the mode of "informing" in the Aristotelian-Kantian sense. Only because it is independent can one speak about whether content has, or does not have, or should have, this informing. The Kantian form produces "informing"; formalization, however, is not production, but just the reverse, a mere "being situated".

On the other hand, formalization is not what one understands in psychology when speaking of form (Gestalt). In this psychology, form is the total configuration of what is perceived as opposed to what the elemental sensations of 19th century psychology might have been. But formalization is not Gestalt. In the first place, the elemental sensations themselves are something formalized: their content, the note, is apprehended as independent and, therefore, is formalized. And, in the second place, even in the case of a constellation of notes, {45} formalization does not primarily concern configuration but rather autonomization. Configuration is only the result of autonomization. Only because there is independence can there be and is there configuration. Formalization is the independence of, and what is constitutive of, the unity of content as independent, be it elemental content or a constellation.

Formalization is not, then, either information or configuration, but autonomization: it is how the content "is situated". Formality is not produced by the sentient being (Kant), nor is it primary configuration (Gestalt). It is purely and simply the mode of "being situated".

2. In another direction, formalization can have pathological alterations in apprehension. There are cases of human perception in which there is a regressive disintegration, a decaying (Abbau) of the perception. This disintegration consists in a dislocation or disconnection of the perception; for example, some volumes may seem to be situated behind a curtain of colors and at a certain distance from it, etc. But I believe that the sense of the independence of the reality of what is perceived is being lost all at once. I think that the degradation of perception is at once loss of the outline of perceptive content and loss of independence. The loss itself consists of a greater or lesser regression of both aspects. It is a regression of formalization. Formalization is, I repeat, at once autonomization of content and autonomization of what is perceived with respect to the animal which is apprehending.

3. Finally, I have an interest in stressing that formalization is not primarily a type of speculative concept, but to my way of thinking is a {46} moment of apprehension anchored in a structural moment of the animal organism itself. In the immediately foregoing pages I alluded to alterations in the coordination of movements of the human animal. It is well known that the lesion which produces them is localized in the extrapiramidal paths. Among other functions, these paths have that of formalizing movement.

But this is not all. As an hypothesis I think that the brain is not primarily an organ of integration (Sherrington) nor an organ of meaning (Brickner), but that in our problem is the organ of formalization, a formalization which culminates in corticalization. It suffices for me to allude to the servo-mechanisms or to certain special cortical areas, for example to some of the frontal areas of the brain. Formalization is a structure which is rigorously anatomico-physiological.

The anatomical-physiological organization of the nervous system has a plan or scheme which has been relatively homogeneous and common since very remote philogenetic epochs. Thus, for example, this scheme is already in the brain of the salamander. To me, this scheme has two directions: one of specification, predominantly regional so to speak, and another of a finer structure, that of formalization.

But while none of this concerns our philosophical problem here, I did not wish to refrain from expounding these ideas, which I have already published elsewhere. However, I have relegated them to an appendix because as I stated earlier, what matters to me in this book is the rigorous and precise analysis of sensible apprehension as fact.



[1] [This is a rendering of the Spanish verb quedar, a technical term difficult to translate in this context but which can mean "to remain", "to be situated", or just "to be" in the sense of place.-trans.] ^

[2] [A rendering of the compound Spanish participle haberselas which cannot be exactly translated into English because it has several possible meanings, all conflated here.-trans.] ^