I publish this book on the subject of intelligence many years after having published a work on the topic of essence. This sequence is not merely chronological; rather, it has an intrinsic meaning the clarification of which is by no means superfluous. What does ‘after’ signify here?

For many readers, my book On Essence lacked a foundation because they felt that the task of knowing what reality is cannot be brought to its conclusion without a previous study of what it is possible for us to know. This is true with respect to certain concrete problems. But to affirm it in the most general way with respect to all knowing of reality as such is something quite different. This latter affirmation is an idea which, in various forms, constitutes the thesis animating almost all of philosophy from Descartes to Kant: it is the notion of "critical philosophy". The foundation of all philosophy would be "critique", the discerning of what can be known. Nonetheless, I think that this is incorrect. Certainly the investigation of reality requires us to lay hold of some conception of what knowing is. But is this necessarily prior? I do not believe so, because it is no less certain that an investigation about the possibilities of knowing cannot be brought to a conclusion, and in fact {10} never has been brought to a conclusion, without appeal to some conception of reality. The study On Essence contains many affirmations about the possibility of knowing. But at the same time it is certain that the study of knowing and its possibilities includes many concepts about reality. The fact is that an intrinsic priority of knowing over reality or reality over knowing is impossible. Knowing and reality, in a strictly and rigorous sense, stem from the same root; neither has priority over the other. And this is true not simply because of the de facto conditions of our investigations, but because of an intrinsic and formal condition of the very idea of reality and of knowing. Reality is the formal character—the formality—according to which what is apprehended is something "in its own right," something de suyo. And to know is to apprehend something according to this formality. I will return shortly to these ideas. For this reason, the presumed critical priority of knowing with respect to reality, i.e., with respect to the known, is in the final analysis nothing but a type of timid stammering in the enterprise of philosophizing. It is akin to the case of someone who wishes to open a door and spends hours studying the movement of the muscles of the hand; most likely he would never manage to open the door. Ultimately, this critical idea of the priority of knowing has never led to a knowledge of the real by itself, and when it did lead there, it was only at the expense of being unfaithful to its own critical principles. Nor could matters be otherwise, because knowing and reality stem from the same root. For this reason, the fact that I publish a study on the subject of intelligence after having published a study on the subject of essence does not mean that I am filling some unsatisfied necessity. Rather, it manifests that the study of knowing is not prior to the study of reality. The ‘after’ to which {11} I alluded earlier is thus not simply chronological but is the active rejection of any critique of knowledge as the preliminary ground for the study of reality.

But this is not all. I intentionally employ the expression ‘to know’ in a somewhat indeterminate fashion, because modern philosophy does not begin with knowing as such, but with the mode of knowing which is called ‘knowledge.’ Critical philosophy is thus the Critique of Knowledge, of episteme, or as it is usually called, ‘epistemology’, the science of knowledge. Now, I think that this is an exceedingly serious problem, because knowledge is not something which rests upon itself. And by that I am not referring to the determining psychological, sociological, and historical factors of knowing. To be sure, a psychology of knowledge, a sociology of knowing, and a historicity of knowing are quite essential. Nonetheless, they are not primary, because what is primary in knowledge is being a mode of intellection. Hence every epistemology presupposes an investigation of what, structurally and formally, the intelligence, the Nous, is; i.e., it presupposes a study of ‘noology’. The vague idea of ‘knowing’ is not made concrete first in the sense of knowledge, but in intellection as such. This does not refer to a logic or psychology of intelligence, but to the formal structure of understanding.

What then is understanding, knowing? Throughout the course of its history, philosophy has attended most carefully to the acts of intellection (conceiving, judging, etc.) as opposed to the distinct real data which the senses submit to us. Sensing is one thing, we are told, and understanding another. This manner of focusing on the problem of intelligence contains at bottom an affirmation: understanding is posterior to sensing, and this posteriority is an opposition. Such has been the initial thesis of philosophy {12} since Parmenides, and it has hovered imperturbably, with a thousand variants, over all of European philosophy.

But there is something quite vague about all of this, because we have not been told in what the understanding as such consists formally. We have only been told that the senses give to the intelligence real sensed things so that the understanding may conceptualize and judge them. But despite this we are told neither what sensing is formally nor, most importantly, what intellection or understanding is formally. I believe that understanding consists formally in apprehending the real as real, and that sensing is apprehending the real in impression. Here ‘real’ signifies that the characters which the apprehended thing has in the apprehension also pertain to it as its own, de suyo, and not just as a function of some vital response. This does not refer to a real thing in the acceptation of something beyond apprehension, but rather inasmuch as it is apprehended as something which is its own. It is what I call "formality of reality." It is because of this that the study of intellection and the study of reality have the same root. And this is decisive, because the senses give us, in human sensing, real things—albeit with all their limitations—but real things nonetheless. Consequently the apprehension of real things as sensed is a sentient apprehension; but insofar as it is an apprehension of realities, it is an intellective apprehension. Whence human sensing and intellection are not two numerically distinct acts, each complete in its order; but rather they constitute two moments of a single act of sentient apprehension of the real: this is sentient intelligence. And this does not refer to the fact that our intellection is primarily directed to the sensible, but rather to intellection and {13} sensing in their proper formal structure. Nor does it refer to understanding the sensible and sensing the intelligible, but rather to the fact that understanding and sensing structurally constitute—if one desires to employ an expression and concept improper in this context—a single faculty, the sentient intelligence. Human sensing and intellection are not only not opposed, but indeed constitute in their intrinsic and formal unity a single and unitary act of apprehension. This act qua sentient is impression; qua intellective it is apprehension of reality. Therefore the unitary and unique act of sentient intellection is the impression of reality. Intellection is a mode of sensing, and sensing in man is a mode of intellection.

What is the formal nature of this act? It is what I call the mere actuality of the real. Actuality is not, as the Latins thought, something’s character of being in act. To be a dog in act is to be the formal plenitude of that in which being a dog consists. For that reason I refer to this character rather as actuity. Actuality on the other hand is not the character of something in act but rather of something which is actual—two very distinct things. Viruses have had actuity for many millions of years, but only today have acquired an actuality which previously they did not possess. But actuality is not always something extrinsic to the actuity of the real, as it was in the case of the viruses; it can be something intrinsic to real things. When a man is present because it is he who makes himself present, we say that this man is actual in that in which he makes himself present. Actuality is a temporary being, but a being present through oneself, through one’s own proper reality. Therefore actuality pertains to the very reality of the actual, but neither adds to it, subtracts from it, nor modifies any of its real notae or notes. So, human intellection is formally the mere actualization of the real in the sentient intelligence. {14}

Here we have the idea, the only idea which there is in this book throughout its hundreds of pages. These pages are nothing but an explication of that one idea. This explication is not a question of conceptual reasoning, but of a analysis of the facts of intellection. To be sure, it is a complicated analysis and one which is not easy; for this reason there have been inevitable repetitions which at times may become monotonous. But it is mere analysis.

Intellection has distinct modes, that is, there are distinct modes of the mere actualization of the real. There is a primary and radical mode, the apprehension of the real actualized in and through itself: this is what I call the primordial apprehension of the real. Its study is therefore a rigorous analysis of the ideas of reality and of intellection. But there are other modes of actualization. They are the modes according to which the real is actualized not only in and through itself, but also among other things and in the world. This does not refer to some other actualization but to a development of the primordial actualization: it is therefore a reactualization. As the primordial intellection is sentient, it follows that these reactualizations are also sentient. They are two: logos and reason, sentient logos and sentient reason. Knowledge is nothing but a culmination of logos and reason. It would not be profitable to say here what logos and reason are; I will do so in the course of this study.

The study thus comprises three parts:

First Part: Intelligence and Reality.

Second Part: Logos.

Third Part: Reason.


Through intellection, we are unmistakably installed in reality. Logos and reason do not need to come to reality but rather are born of reality and in it. {15}


Today the world is undeniably engulfed by a pervasive atmosphere of sophistry. As in the time of Plato and Aristotle, we are inundated by discourse and propaganda. But the truth is that we are installed modestly, but irrefutably, in reality. Therefore it is more necessary now than ever to bring to conclusion the effort to submerge ourselves in the real in which we already are, in order to extract its reality with rigor, even though that may be only a few poor snatches of its intrinsic intelligibility.



Fuenterrabia. August, 1980. {16}