As I said at the end of the last chapter, the modes of sensible apprehension are distinguished by the modes of formalization. This refers to distinct "modes" of apprehension and not simple "types." And in order to see that it is necessary and sufficient to analyze how the same notes can be apprehended as independent in a different way. Sensible apprehensions are distinguished among themselves above all modally. These modes are essentially two. Reserving the right to explain myself immediately below, I will say that there is a mode of sentient apprehension which—for reasons I will explain later—I call sensing mere or pure stimulation. But there is another mode of apprehending sentiently which I call sensing reality. It is necessary to embark rigorously upon this modal analysis. {48}


§ 1



Sensible apprehension, that is, impression, determines the nature of the sentient process. When an impression is of such character that it consists in nothing more than determining the process, then we have a first mode of sensible apprehension. As every impression has three moments (affection, otherness, force of imposition), we must ask ourselves in what the structural nature of impression consists, according to these three moments. That is, we must say: 1. What is this impression qua affectant? 2. What is its proper formality? and 3. What is its force of imposition?

1) Impression always has a moment of affection. Now, the impression which consists in determining, by affection, the responsive process is what we call a stimulus. There are two essential moments in the concept of the stimulus: first, the most obvious, is that of arousing the response. But this is not sufficient because if it were, one would be able to apprehend this character of arousal by itself; one would be able to apprehend the stimulus by itself, in which case what is apprehended will not be a stimulus of the apprehendor. Let us consider an example. One can apprehend a toothache without feeling the pain; that is, one can apprehend a stimulus without it affecting him (i.e., the apprehendor). Being actively stimulated, being actually affected by the stimulus, is the second essential moment of stimulus. Only then is there stimulus formally and properly. Now, when this {49} stimulative affection is "merely" stimulative, that is, when it consists only in arousing, it then constitutes what I shall call ‘affection of the mere stimulus as such’. This is what I call ‘apprehending the stimulus stimulatedly’. Heat apprehended in a thermal affection, and apprehended only as an affection determining a response (flight, welcome, etc.), is what we humanly express by saying heat warms. When heat is apprehended only as something warming, we say that the heat has been apprehended as a mere stimulus, that is, as something which is only a thermic determinant of a response. The diverse qualities of the different stimuli are nothing but so many qualitative modalities of the mere arousing of responses in affection. This "mere" is not a simple circumscription which fixes the concept of stimulation, but rather constitutes its positive physical outline: being "only" stimulation.

2) However impression is not just affection, but also otherness. In what does the otherness of impression consist as mere stimulus? In affection which is merely stimulative the apprehended note is made present but as "other" than the affection itself; its proper formality is made present. Now, what is essential is to correctly conceptualize this formality of otherness of the stimulus as mere stimulus. That is what I shall call the formality of pure stimulus. In what does it consist? The note apprehended as "other" (but only insofar as its otherness consists just in arousing a determined response) constitutes what I call sign. The formality of pure stimulus consists precisely in the formality of sign-ness.

What is a sign? A sign is not a "signal". A signal is something whose content is apprehended by itself and {50} besides this—and therefore extrinsically to it—"signals". Thus, for example, we have the so-called "traffic signals". On the other hand, a sign is the note itself apprehended. Sign-ness pertains to it intrinsically and formally, not by extrinsic attribution. It is not a note in the form of a signal, but intrinsically and formally a "note-sign". One does not apprehend heat by itself and later also as a response signal; rather, the very form of heat as apprehended is to be formally "signative heat", or if one wishes, "thermic sign".

This intrinsic pertaining is not "signification." Signification in the strict sense is proper only to language. In it, the signification is added (in whatever form—this is not the time to discuss the problem) to certain sounds (not to all). But the sign is not added to anything; rather it is the note in the mode of presenting itself as that note.

What is proper to a sign is not, then, signaling or signifying. Rather, it is purely and simply "to sign". Ever since its origin, classical philosophy has failed to distinguish these three concepts, and generally speaking has limited itself almost always to the signal, therefore making of the sign a semeion. As I see it, this is insufficient. I believe that sign and signing comprise a proper concept which ought to be delimited formally with respect to both signal and signification. These three concepts are not only distinct, but quite separable. Only animals have signs, and only man has significations or meanings. On the other hand, animals and men both have signals, but of distinct character. The animal has signitive signals, i.e., it can use "note-signs" as signals. This is the foundation of all possible learning, for example. When the signals are in the form of sounds they may constitute at times what (very falsely) has been called ‘animal language’. {51} The so-called "animal language" is not language, because the animal lacks meanings; it only possesses, or can possess, sonorous signitive signals. In man, the notes utilized as signals have, as I shall explain later, quite a different character: they are signalizing realities. But in both cases the notes are signals due to a function extrinsically added to them: they are notes in function of being signals. Therefore we may once again ask, What is a sign?

Medieval philosophy did not distinguish among signal, meaning, and sign. It called everything "sign", and so defined it: that the knowledge of which leads to the knowledge of something different. Whence the classical distinction between natural signs (smoke as a sign of fire) and artificial signs. But this is inadequate, and moreover quite vague, because the question is not whether a sign leads to knowledge of something different; what is essential is in how it so leads. It could do so through mere signalization (such is the case with the smoke) or through meaning; and in neither of these cases would it be a sign. It will be a sign only if it leads by "signing".

What is a sign and what is signing? In order to answer this question it is necessary first to stress the distinction between sign and signal. Something is formally a sign and not a simple signal when that to which the sign points or leads is an animal response. A sign consists in being a mode of formality of the content: the formality of determining a response. And "signing" consists in the mere signitive determination of that response. But secondly, and in addition, we are not dealing with "knowledge," but with "sensing," with apprehending in an impressive way; that is, sensing something as "signing".

A sign is, then, the formality of otherness of the mere stimulus of a response. It is the mode in which what is sentiently {52} apprehended is situated as something merely arousing; this is signitivity. Formalization is, as we have seen, independence, autonomization. And that which is apprehended in a merely stimulative manner is independent of the animal but only as a sign. This independence and, therefore, formalization, is merely stimulative. The distinct sensed qualities as mere stimuli are distinct response signs. Every sign is a "sign-of". The "of" is a response, and this "of" itself pertains formally to the manner of being situated and sensed signitively. Thus heat is a thermic response sign, light a luminous response sign, etc.

Now, to sign is to determine a response sentiently in an intrinsic and formal way. And to apprehend something in a mere signing or signitive otherness is that in which apprehension of pure stimulation consists.

3) But every impression has a third moment, the force of imposition of what is apprehended on the apprehendor. As the sign has a form of independence, a form of signitive autonomy, it follows that its merely signitive independence is what should be called, in the strict sense, an objective sign. ‘Objective’ here means the mere signitive otherness with respect to the apprehendor qua imposed upon him. Hence I say that the determination of the response always has the character of an objective imposition. The sign reposes signitively upon itself (it is formalization of a stimulus), and therefore it is imposed on the animal as an objective sign. It is from this objectivity that the sign receives its force of imposition.

The impressions of an animal are mere objective signs of response. Apprehending them as such is what I call pure sensing. Pure sensing consists in apprehending something as a mere objective arousal of the sentient process. In pure sensing, {53} the sensible impression is, then, impression of pure stimulus. In it, though the note may be an alter, it is an alter whose otherness consists in pertaining in a signing way to the sentient process and, therefore, in exhausting itself there. It is unnecessary to stress that tonic changes are also signitively determined. And it is in this that the structural character of the entire life of an animal consists: life in objective signs. Naturally, this signitivity admits of grades; but that is not our immediate problem. {54}





Besides the sensible apprehension of mere or pure stimulus, proper to animals, man possesses another mode of apprehension in his so-called "senses." Man apprehends the sensed in a particular way, one that is exclusively his. That is to say, the same notes apprehended in a stimulative way by an animal present a formality to man quite distinct from stimulation. To be sure, we are dealing with a sensible apprehension; hence we are always dealing with an apprehension in an impression. But it is a distinct mode of impression, and the distinction is strictly modal and one which modally affects the three moments of impression. Hence, in order to rigorously conceptualize this new mode of impression, we must successively examine three points:


1. The new formality of that which is apprehended.

2. The modification of the three moments of an impression.

3. The unitary nature of this mode of apprehension.


1. The new formality of that which is apprehended. The contentthis color, this sound, this taste, etc.is apprehended by an animal only as a determinant of the tonic modification and of the response. Thus, the animal apprehends heat as warming, and only as warming. This is what we express by saying, "Heat warms". Here "warms" is not an action verb, but a verb of objective personal experience: there is a warming. The formality of heat consists in {55} heat being only what I sense in the personal experience of heat. Therefore it does not refer to something merely "subjective", but to something "objective" whose objectivity consists in determining the living experience of the animal. We shall see this later. Hence, heat thus apprehended is clearly distinct from the apprehendor; but in the distinction itself this warming heat pertains formally to the apprehendor: the distinction is in and for the sentient process. The heat "is situated" then as a moment which is "other", but with an otherness which formally pertains to the sentient process itself. On the other hand, in the new mode of apprehension the heat is apprehended as a note whose thermic characteristics pertain to it in its own right.

This does not mean that the characteristics are "properties" of the heat, but that those characteristics pertain to it in its own right, and not that they are characteristics of a subject called "heat" (which is in any case not something primitively given). Rather, they are the "heat’s own". Every property is something’s own, pertaining to it as its own; but not everything which pertains to something as its own is a property of it. To be sure, the word ‘property’ is not always taken in this strict sense of a property which emerges from the thing, as for example weight, which by emerging from something is a property of it. The word ‘property’ can also be taken in a wide sense, and then it signifies rather the pertaining as its own to something, for example the pertaining as its own of the thermic characteristics to the heat. Here when speaking about the "in its own right" I do not refer to property except in its widest sense: the pertaining to something. But with this clarification, there is no difficulty in speaking about "in its own right" as a property just as I can call every note a quality, as a I said a few pages ago. ‘Note’, ‘quality’, and ‘property’ {56} can be used as synonymous terms in the wide sense, and thus I shall use them. But rigorously speaking, they designate three distinct aspects of the real, of the "in its own right": the "note" is what is noted as its own; the quality is always and only a quality "of" the real; and ‘property’ is the note insofar as it emerges (in whatever form) from the nature of the thing.

Now, in the apprehension of reality the note is "in its own right" what it is. In pure stimulation, on the other hand, heat and all of its thermic characteristics are nothing but signs of response. This is what I expressed by saying that "heat warms". In the apprehension of reality, on the other hand, they are characteristics which pertain to the heat itself which, without ceasing to warm (just as it warmed in the previous mode of apprehension), nonetheless now is situated in a distinct mode. It does not "remain" only as pertaining to the sentient process, but "is situated" by itself as heat "in its own right". This is what we express by saying, "The heat is warming." Here "is" does not mean "being" in an entitative sense, especially since reality does not always consist in being. The fact is that one cannot prescind from language already created, and thus it is inevitable at times to recur to the "is" in order to signify what pertains to something as its own. The same thing happened when, in Parmenides’ philosophy, "is" was spoken of meaning that "being" is one, immobile, uncreated, etc. The verb "to be" appears twice in these phrases, first as an expression of what is understood and then as the thing understood itself. The second acceptation is the essential one: when we say that heat "is warming" the verb "is" does nothing but indicate that what is understood, the heat, has the characteristics which pertain to it "in its own right". (That this "in its own right" consists in being is a false and obsolete conception). Nor do we refer to heat as mere otherness pertaining signitively {57} to the sensing process, but rather to an otherness which as such only pertains to the heat by itself. The heat apprehended now does not consist formally in being a sign of response, but in being warm de suyo. Now, this is what constitutes reality; and thus we have a the new formality: formality of reity or reality. I shall shortly explain this neologism ‘reity’, which I have been obliged to introduce into the description of the formality of human apprehension. Given the totally different character which the term ‘reality’ can have in ordinary language and even in philosophy, viz., reality which goes beyond any apprehension, the term ‘reity’ can help us to avoid confusion. But having made this clarification, I shall employ the two terms indiscriminately: ‘reity’ means simple reality, simple being de suyo. The characteristics of heat are apprehended impresively as being "its own", i.e. of the heat itself and insofar as they are "its own". As opposed to the pure animal sensing which apprehends the notes stimulatively, and only stimulatively, these same characteristics are apprehended in human sensing, but as characteristics of the heat de suyo: the heat is apprehended really. Signitive independence has become the independence of reality. Reality is formally the de suyo of what is sensed: it is the formality of reality, or if one wishes, reality as formality.

It is necessary to delimit this general concept of reality, although only initially. Above all, it is necessary to delimit it with respect to an idea of reality which consists in thinking that reality is reality "in itself" in the sense of a real thing in the world independent of my perception. Then reality would be what was understood by "reality" in the old realism, which was later called {58} "ingenuous realism". But here we do not refer to that. We do not refer to going beyond what is apprehended in apprehension, but rather to the mode in which what is apprehended "is situated" in the apprehension itself. It is for this reason that at times I think that this formality should be referred to as "reity" rather than "reality". It is the de suyo of what is present in the apprehension, the mode of the thing presenting itself in a real and physical presentation. Reality is not here something inferred. Just as mere stimulus is the mode of what is immediately present in apprehension, i.e., of what is present only in stimulative fashion, so reality is here a formality of what is immediately present, the very mode of the note "being situated" as present. In accordance with this mode, heat, without need to go outside of it, presents itself to me as warming de suyo, i.e., as being warming. This is the formality of reality.

In order to stave off confusion, let us stipulate the following:

a) Primordially, reality is formality.

b) This formality belongs to the thing apprehended of itself. I repeat: the formality of reality is something in virtue of which the content is what it is prior to its apprehension. The thing is that which, by being real, is present as real. Reality is de suyo.

c) This formality is not formally "beyond" or "outside of" apprehension. But just as forcefully it must be said that it is not something purely immanent, to use an old and literally inadequate terminology. Formality is on one hand the mode of being situated in the apprehension, but on the other it is that of being situated "in its own right", of being de suyo. This structure is precisely what forces us to speak not only of my apprehension of the real, but {59} of the reality of what is apprehended in my apprehension. It does not refer to some jump from the perceived to the real, but of reality in its dual role of being apprehended and of "being in its own right". In due time we shall see in what the unity of these two moments consists formally.

d) This formality of reality is, then, as we shall see, what leads from apprehended reality to reality "beyond" apprehension. This "leading" is not, as I have just said, a leading from what is not real and purely immanent to what is real beyond perception, but rather is a leading from apprehended reality to a reality which is not apprehended. It is a movement within the very reality of the real.

In the second place, it is necessary to fix the de suyo in another direction. What is it, in fact, that we men apprehend formally in sensing? We are told (by Husserl, Heidegger, and others) that what we formally apprehend in perception are, for example, walls, tables, doors, etc. Now, this is radically false. In an impressive apprehension I never intellectually apprehend a table, nor do I ever sentiently apprehend it either. What I apprehend is a constellation of notes which in my life functions as a table. What I apprehend is not a table but a constellation of such-and-such dimension, form, weight, color, etc., which has in my life the function or meaning of a table. Upon apprehending what we call a "table", what is apprehended as de suyo or "in its own right" is not, then, the table as table. The table is not de suyo a table. The table is a table only insofar as the real thing thus named forms part of daily life. Things as moments or parts of my life are what I have termed "meaning-things". But nothing is a meaning-thing de suyo. The real thing apprehended as something de suyo is not a "meaning-thing", but what I have called {60} a "real-thing". It is what in another order of problems I have usually expressed by saying that the real thing is that which acts on other things or on itself in virtue, formally, of the notes which it possesses de suyo.[1] And a table does not act on other things as a table, but as having weight, etc. The table is not a reality-thing, but a meaning-thing.

Therefore, formality of reity or reality is formality of the de suyo as a mode of being situated in the apprehension.

2. Modification of the moments of this apprehension. This de suyo is a formality, a formality of the sentient impression. And this formality shapes the three moments of the impression.

a) Above all, it shapes the moment of affection. In an animal, affection is mere stimulus: it senses the stimulus merely as a stimulus to itself. We say, for example, that when cold is a mere stimulus apprehended by a dog, the dog "feels cold." The affection is a mere stimulus; it is a stimulus relative to a response of warming or something of that nature. In man, on the other hand, an affection triggers a sentient process of a different sort: a man "is cold." His affection is not mere stimulus; but rather the man feels that he is affected in reality, that he is affected really. And this is because what affects him is not apprehended as a mere stimulus but rather as reality: it is stimulating reality. And not only is this apprehended reality not apprehended as a mere stimulus, but its reality may fail to have the character of a stimulus at all. Every stimulus is apprehended by man as reality, but not every apprehended reality is necessarily a stimulus. For example, a bit of scenery is not necessarily a {61} stimulus, nor is an elemental sound. Affected thus by something which is "in its own right", affection itself is real affection. A man not only senses cold, but moreover really feels himself cold. This "feeling himself"apart from other dimensions of the problem which it involvesexpresses here precisely the character of reality of the affection. This affection is impressively sensed as a real affection and not just as an affection of mere stimulus. We do not sense only affectant notes (heat, light, sound, odor, etc.) but rather we feel ourselves affected by them in reality. This is real affection.

b) In this real affection something "other" is present to us; this is the otherness. This otherness has a proper content, ultimately common to animal apprehension. But what is essentially distinct is the mode in which its formality "is situated" in the impression. We have just explained that. The content "is situated" as something "in its own right" and not as "signing". This "in its own right" has an essential and absolutely decisive character. Heat is warming; this is not a verbal tautology. "Is warming" means that the heat and all of its thermic characteristics are sensed as "its own." Heat is thus heat in and for itself. And precisely for this reason the heat is a note so very much "in its own right" that not even its inclusion in the sentient process pertains to it. The heat is in a way included in the sentient process, but only because it already is heat. Heat as something de suyo is, then, prior to its being present in sensing. And this does not refer to a temporal priority; it is not the priority of what is apprehended with respect to the response which it is going to elicit, for example. That priority is given in every apprehension, including that of animals. In an animal, the sign is apprehended as objective before the response which the animal is to make. The difference is on another point and is essential. {62} In animal apprehension, the sign is certainly objective, but it is so only as a sign; i.e., with respect to the animal itself. The animal never apprehends the sign as something which "is" signitive; rather, the sign is present "signing" and nothing more. It is a pure signitive fact, so to speak. And precisely by being so it can automatize itself in the apprehension: its objectivity is to sign. In the example cited, the objectivity of the heat—sign is to warm. On the other hand, the note is present to a man as real; what is present is something which is apprehended as being prior to its being present. It is not a priority with respect to a response, but a priority with respect to the apprehension itself. In the objective sign, its objectivity is not objective except with respect to the response which it determines. In contrast, the note is real in itself, and herein consists being formally prior to its being present. This is not a temporal priority, but one of mere formality.

We are dealing, then, with a priority which is very elemental but at the same time decisive: heat warms because it is "already" warm. This moment of the "already" is precisely the priority of which I speak, and this moment of priority is that which I am accustomed to call the moment of prius. It is a prius not in the order of process but in the order of apprehension: it warms "being" warm. "To be warming" is not the same thing as "to warm". The "is", in the apprehended heat itself, is a prius with respect to its "warming": it is "its" heat, the heat is "its own". And this "its own" is just what I call prius. The note "is situated" as being a note in such a form that its content "is situated" reposing like reality upon itself and formally grounding its apprehension. Thus, in accordance with this character, what is sensed in impression has installed me in the very reality of what is apprehended. With this, {63} the road to reality in and of itself lies open before man. We are in what is apprehended in the formality of reality. Formalization is autonomization. And in man we are present at what I call hyperformalization: the autonomized note is so autonomous that it is more than a sign; it is autonomous reality. This is not autonomy of signitivity, but autonomy of reality; it is alterity of reality, it is altera realitas.

c) This alterity has a force of imposition of its own. Alterity is not just mere objectivity, nor mere objective independence as in the case of the animal. The more perfect it is, the more perfectly objective is the animal. But this is not reality. Reality is not objective independence but being de suyo. Thus what is apprehended is imposed upon me with a new force: not the force of mere stimulus but the force of reality. The richness of animal life is a richness of objective signs. The richness of human life is a richness of realities.

The three moments of affection, otherness, and force of imposition are three moments of an impression. And therefore this impression is always a sensible impression because in it something is apprehended impressively. Now, when what is apprehended is reality, then sensible impression is precisely and formally what I have termed impression of reality. The impression of the animal is impression of mere stimulus. But man, in impression, apprehends the very formality of reality.

Since philosophy to date has not distinguished between content and formality, I have termed the sensible qualities (or rather their content) impressions. But then to speak of an impression of reality might lead one to think that another impression is added to that of red or heat, viz., the impression of {64} reality. But this is absurd. Sensible impression is exclusively contained in formality. The sensible impression of reality is a single impression with content and formality of reality. There are not two impressions, one of content and another of reality, but a single impression, that of sensed reality, i.e., reality in impression. But as the essential part of our problem is in formality, I shall more generally refer to the moment of formality as sensed as the impression of reality. I do so in order to simplify the expressions, but above all to emphasize the contrast between this conceptualization and the common notions of impression in philosophy. Strictly understood it is, then, a denomination which is technically incorrect.

3. The Unitary Nature of this Apprehension of Reality. The intrinsic unity of real affection, otherness of reality, and force of reality is what constitutes the unity of the apprehension of reality. This is a unity of the act of apprehending. It is not, as I shall explain later, a mere noetic—noematic unity of consciousness, but a primary and radical unity of apprehension. In this apprehension, precisely in virtue of being an apprehension, we are in what is apprehended. It is, therefore, an "actual being" [estar]. The apprehension is therefore an ergon which could perhaps be called noergia. Later I shall explain how the "being present" as "actual being" is the essence of "actuality". In an apprehension what is apprehended actualizes itself to us. Actuality is opposed here, as we shall see, to "actuity". Noema and noesis are not primitive intellective moments. The radical moment is rather a becoming of "actuality", a becoming which is not noetic or noematic, but noergic. This theme will reappear in Chapter V.

In this apprehension, then, we apprehend the reality of the real impressively. For this reason I call it the {65} primordial apprehension of reality. In it the formality of reality is apprehended directly, and not by way of representations or the like. It is apprehended immediately, not in virtue of other apprehensive acts or reasoning processes of whatever sort. It is apprehended unitarily; that is, the real, which can and does have a great richness and variability of content (in general), is in its content apprehended unitarily as formality of reality pro indiviso, so to speak. Later I shall speak of this content; for now I refer only to the formality itself of reality. It is in the unity of these three aspects (directly, immediately, and unitarily) that the fact that the formality of the real is apprehended in and through itself consists.

In the primordial apprehension of reality, the real is apprehended in and through itself. By virtue of being an apprehension, in it we "are actually" in reality itself. And this apprehension is primordial because every other apprehension of reality is constitutively grounded on this primordial apprehension and involves it formally. It is the impression which primarily and constitutively installs us in the real. And this is essential. One does not have a primordial impression and besides it another apprehension; rather, what we have is a primordial modalized apprehension which is, at the same time, in distinct forms. The real, apprehended in and through itself, is always the primordial thing and the essential nucleus of every apprehension of reality. This is what the expression "primordial apprehension of reality" signifies.

The three moments of impression (affection, otherness, and force of imposition) have become dislocated in modern philosophy. And this dislocation falsifies {66} the nature of the impression of reality and the nature of the primordial apprehension of reality.

Considering impression only as mere affection, primordial apprehension would be merely my representation of the real. Now, this is not the case because impression does not consist only in being affection of the sentient being, but rather has an intrinsic moment of otherness (of content as well as of formality.) Hence, that which is usually called "representation" is nothing but the moment of affection of the impression from which the moment of otherness has been subtracted, so to speak. It is in this way that the impression of reality has been deformed into a mere impression of mine. It is necessary to return to the impression its moment of otherness.

If one eliminates from the impression of reality the moment of force of imposition of the content according to its formality, one ends up conceiving the primordial apprehension of reality to be a judgement, however elemental it may be, but still only a judgement. Now, this is not the case. A judgement but affirms what, in the primary force of imposition of reality, is impressively imposed upon me, and which compels me to make a judgement. It is necessary to restore to the impression its impressive moment of force of imposition.


If in the impression of reality one takes only the moment of otherness by itself, then one will think that the primordial apprehension of reality is nothing but a simple apprehension. And this is because in the simple apprehension, "simple" classically means that one does not yet affirm the reality of what is apprehended, but that what is apprehended is reduced to mere otherness. In the simple apprehension we would have otherness as something which reposes upon itself without being inscribed in the affection and with the force of imposition of reality. On the contrary, it is necessary {67} to inscribe the moment of otherness within the impression of reality as affection and as force of imposition. And then it is no longer simple apprehension but is rather what I have so many times called simple apprehension of reality, and which I now call primordial apprehension of reality. I have replaced the former expression in order to avoid confusion with simple apprehension.

The idea that the primordial apprehension of reality is my representation, affirmation, or simple apprehension, is the result of the dislocation of the primary unity of impression. Impression, on the contrary, intrinsically and formally involves the unity of the three moments of affection, otherness, and force of imposition.

Finally, we repeat that if one takes primordial apprehension as a mere conscious act, then the primordial apprehension of reality is the immediate and direct consciousness of something, i.e., intuition. But this is impossible. As we saw in the first chapter, we are dealing with apprehension and not mere consciousness. Impression, as I have said, is not primarily noetic—noematic unity of consciousness, but is an act of apprehension, a noergia, an ergon.

This primordial apprehension is so, then, in the impression of reality. Hence, if we wish to analyze the nature of this apprehension what we must do is analyze the structure of the impression of reality. {68}






I have already said that it is formalization which unlocks the richness in the life of an animal. The more formalized is its impression of a mere stimulus, the richer its internal unity of stimulus. For a crab, "color" is a sign of its prey; but this same color apprehended in richer constellations constitutes a great variety of objective signs. The chimpanzee apprehends "things" which are much more varied and rich than those apprehended by a starfish. Whence the chain of responses to a more formalized arousal can be much more varied than in the case of a less formalized animal. For this reason, the animal must "select" its responses. Nonetheless, the unity of arousal, tonicity, and response, despite its richness and variety, is in principle fixed by the structures of the animal in question within, of course, the animal’s limits of viability. Moreover, all of this has rigorous phylogenetic limits, and it is just these limits which are the frontier between the human animal and all other animals.

As one progresses through the animal kingdom, from lower to higher forms, the various species sense their stimuli as "note-signs" which are increasingly {70} more independently of themselves. That is, the animal senses the stimulus as something which is more and more detached from the apprehendor. But this formalization reaches an extreme point, so to speak. At that point, the stimulus presents itself as so independent of the animal, so set off from it, that it ends up "being situated" completely detached from the animal; formalization has thus been changed into hyper-formalization. Man is this hyperformalized animal. "Hyper" here has a very precise meaning: it signifies, as I have just said, that independence has reached the point where it presents the stimulus as something totally detached from the human animal. Thus the animal situation of man has completely changed.

a) In the first place, it is apparent that the detachment has gone so far that the stimulus has lost its merely signitive character. The content of the stimulus is no longer formally a sign of response. It was so while it was signing: to be a sign consists in being something signitively joined to the animal. Therefore when it is detached, the stimulus is no longer formally a sign. The content no longer has mere stimulus for its proper formality; it is no longer a "note-sign". This is the fundamental characteristic of the "hyper" of hyperformalization: the independence which extends to complete detachment, to complete distancing. Man is the animal of "distancing" or "stepping back".[2] His hyperformalization determines him to be actually sensing, and therefore to be in a certain way in what is sensed, but to be so as "distanced". This distancing is the essential moment of hyperformalization. Distancing is not a physical removal; that would be impossible. It is not a going away "from" things, but a distancing "among" or "in" them. "Distancing" is a mode of being among things. In virtue of it something can happen to man which could never happen to an animal: he can feel himself lost among things. In signitivity, an animal can remain lost among many {71} responses. Indeed, this "being lost" can be cultivated in order to experimentally induce a neurosis in an animal. But this "being lost" is not a being lost among things but rather a disorientation in responses; that is, it is not strictly speaking a being lost but a responsive disorder. Only man can remain without a disorder, but lost among things, lost therefore not with respect to a disorder of his responses, but in the distancing of what is sensed.

b) In the second place, the stimulus itself thus detached no longer has its unitary outline. It has ceased to have it with respect to what concerns content: it no longer has the proper unity of being "a" sign. But in addition it has ceased to have its formal unity of independence. Upon making itself so independent, so hyperformalized, the stimulus no longer has the proper unity of mere stimulus which before it had, because it no longer has the signate independence of a response. From the point of view of mere stimulus, then, the unity of the stimulus has been broken. It has become something open: the "hyper". Hyperformalization has opened the closed world of the stimuli to a formality which is not mere stimulus.

c) In the third place, this means that the stimulus, when it ceases to be apprehended as a mere stimulus, when it becomes totally independent and thus completely distanced from the apprehendor, when it ceases to be a sign, is present in a new and different formality: the rupture of sign-ness is the presence of something "in its own right". This is what I have called "reity". The new formality is no longer objective independence but reity. The stimulus itself is no longer "sign-note", but "real-note". This is not a gradual but an essential difference. Hyperformalization is the step from objective independence to reity. It is the "hyper" {72} of sensible impression, this impression being constituted with it in the impression of reality. The "unity of sign", then, has been lost and the "unity of reality" substituted for it.

d) In virtue of the foregoing, the human animal no longer has its suitable responses fixed precisely because it does not have "signs". It is a "hyper-signitive" animal. Therefore, if it is to be viable, it must apprehend stimuli not as objective signs but as realities. A hyperformalized animal is not viable without apprehension of reality. To be sure, this does not mean that the animal "necessarily" requires that apprehension. What I want to say is that the animal requires it "if" it is going to be viable. It could have not had that apprehension, but in that case the hyperformalized animal would have only been one of many biological "essays" of individuals not capable of speciation and in which the biological phylum terminated. What I mean is that a species whose sensory apparatus had the hyperformalization of human sensory apparatus, but which did not have apprehension of reality, would not be viable.

e) Thus, in order to give suitable responses, the human animal cannot limit itself (as do the rest of the animals) to biologically "selecting" these responses, but must "elect" them, or even invent them, in function of reality. In an animal, the signs point to one or many responses, and in this chain of signed responses the animal biologically selects the response which it is going to give. But man lacks these selection signs. Thus he must determine his response as a function of the reality of the stimulus, of what he has apprehended, and of his own real apprehension. Man intellectually elects his response. To elect is to determine a response in reality and according to reality; it

is, if one wishes, a selection which is not "signitive" but "real". {73}

Hyperformalization is not a phenomenon of adaptive conduct, but rather a structural principle. It has to do with structures which pertain formally to the animals in question. In other words, what we are doing here is a structural analysis of reality as formalized in some cases and hyperformalized in others, not an analysis of evolutionary mechanisms. Animal structures are found "adapted" by their capacity of formalization. The question remains, and we shall not discuss it, of whether this adaptation is what determines the course of evolution (Lamarkism) or is a consequence of it (Darwinism).

And we do not refer here to mere concepts, but to the "physical" structure of reality apprehension. It is a human structure, and as such has its organic aspect. As we saw, the formalization of the animal is a structure of it which is determined anatomically and physiologically. So, too, hyperformalization is a structure of the human animal as a whole, and therefore one with an organic aspect. For example, the form of structural regression of the brain causes the ambit of hyperformalization to regress to being a mere formalization. Cajal observed that the human brain is much richer in neurons with short axons than the brain of any other animal. Could it perhaps be that a brain thus structured is precisely a hyperformalized brain?

Hyperformalization is, then, a structural character. Certainly it is the result of a process. But this process is not the process of sensing, but something completely different and prior to sensing: it is a morphogenetic process.

This process does not constitute apprehension of reality, but is what intrinsically and formally opens up {74} the ambit of this apprehension. Apprehension thus hyperformalized is precisely the impression of reality.

(Since these ideas go beyond the limits of a mere analysis of the apprehension of reality, I have grouped them in the form of an appendix.)


[1] Sobre la esencia, p. 104.^

[2] ['Stepping back' is the most natural English rendering of Zubiri's technical term tomar distancia, meaning literally "to take distance". It is discussed at length later in the book. - trans.]^