Professor Dr. Gerhard Vollmer, one of the most well-known co-editors of our periodical, "Aufklärung und Kritik" (Enlightenment and Critique), recently wrote in the "ZEIT"(1): "Hauptaufgabe der Philosophie ist gar nicht das Antworten, sondern das Fragen. ... Naturalismus in der Philosophie ist die Auffassung, daß es überall in der Welt mit rechten Dingen zugeht, auch beim Menschen: beim Sprechen, Erkennen und Denken, beim wissenschaftlichen Forschen, moralischen Handeln und ästhetischen Urteilen. Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie (die sich durchsetzt), Evolutionäre Ethik (die entworfen wird), Evolutionäre Ästhetik (die es noch nicht gibt) sind Teile eines solchen naturalistischen Programms. Sie setzen die unvollendete Aufklärung fort." (2) (Vollmer expresses here that it is not the task of philosophy to answer questions, but rather to ask questions and that naturalism in philosophy represents the view that everywhere in the world, things are based on natural, understandable processes, thus also with respect to man: in his speech, in his thoughts and insights, in scientific research, in moral actions, and in aesthetic judgment, that the evolutionary theory of arriving at insights (that is making headway), evolutionary ethics (that are being defined) and evolutionary aesthetics (that do not exist, yet) are part of such a naturalistic program that continues unfinished enlightenment.
In this spirit, this contribution aims at concentrating on that area of aesthetics that Vollmer, from an evolutionary viewpoint, still calls a terra incognita (unknown terrain).
I. What is "Feeling"?
At first glance, it might still not appear quite logical why the question as to the origin of beauty is apparently arbitrarily linked to the question of the essence of feeling. Well, everywhere where one enquires into a theory of aesthetics, the "feeling or sense of beauty" is discussed; Why, and if so, what, might be beautiful in a Picasso painting can only be answered rationally in a superficial manner; ultimately, the decision as to whether a work of art is pleasing to a beholder or not, is completely subjective at the emotional level, as to whether it attracts him, whether it leaves him disinterested or whether it even repels him. Therefore, at first, it appears to be a puzzle that can not be solved: What one finds beautiful, appears ugly to the other: as many individuals, as many reasons for the origins and for the essence of beauty; every thinker who holds himself in esteem is presenting his own "aesthetics"--at first glance, it appears impossible to find a way through this maze.
The decision as to whether something is considered "beautiful" or not is obviously made in a manner which one can not account for, oneself, as is the case with all other emotions, and therefore, we are easily inclined to consider emotions our actual and innermost standard and criterion and to use them in such a manner as, for example, Freud did in applying here his concept of the "dritte Kränkung" (third insult) of humanity that is not "Herr im eigenen Hause" (master in his own home). With Damazio, who, in "Descartes Irrtum" emphasizes the paramount importance of emotions, it is similar, as also in Coleman's "Emotional Intelligence"; both want to remind us that reason does not stand alone but is, in each case, connected to emotions.
Strangely enough, for this phenomenon of emotion(s), the importance of which is emphasized so strongly by many, I was hardly able to find a theory, be it in science, be it in philosophy; since emotions have either, as with Freud, with the "unconscious", been moved close to metaphysic(3), or they have been "materialized" respectively reduced to chemical and electrical processes. In both instances, one disregards that which actually ought to be that which is special about human emotion(s), very much in the manner as has been done earlier with human thinking, its nature (the nature of emotion) is not actually considered the problem, but rather only the question as to why one feels "good" or "bad" and that it would be better to feel "good", a state that consequently is being described as "happiness". In cognitive science this goes so far that here, one quite consciously blocks out the emotional components of human awareness, since otherwise, the determination and clarification of what thinking actually is would be made even more difficult(4). On the other hand, reductionists do not get a grasp of emotion, at all, since they relate it back to physiological processes, such as the increase in endorphins, and thereby lose sight of the actual psychic importance of emotion. However, even psychology overlooks the actual basic structure of emotion as such when it deals with specific emotions such as love, grief, envy or hate--the actual basic structure of emotion as such.
The phenomena of emotions and feelings are--not only in everyday language--quite like understanding and reason, mostly being used synonymously; however, the fact that language provides two different terms for both cases would lend itself to determining each term's particular meaning, and thereby, instead of an unruly "co-existence", it would provide a meaningful co-relation, and this particularly by lining both terms up according to the evolutionary development of the human brain; by now, (almost) every lay person knows that we have to differentiate between different areas of the brain, (brain stem, cerebellum, cerebrum), which, to this day, also in man, are still connected, correlated and interacting. However, instead of putting these areas--with respect to their phenomenal effects-- next to each other in an un-connected manner, it appears to make more sense to explain their functional emergence out of each other and their functional correlations, and that in such a manner that certain performances and certain terms are related to each other, as, for example, in the relationship of understanding and reason, and thus also with respect to feeling emotion..
In order to understand emotion and with it also the (so-called) "sense of (or feeling for) beauty", we need, first of all, a theory of the human mind, as to how we can understand, at least schematically, its activities as they emerge according to the brain's evolutionary, chronological development. At the end of this article, you will find a schematic representation of this sequential development as well as schematic images of the human brain.
At first, such a line of questioning forces us to reject a one-sided reductionist "bottom up" approach that wants to provide all explanations exclusively "from the bottom to the top". The important activities and effects of instinct, emotio and ratio can be as little understood by their being related back to their physiological basis of transfer agents, the correlation of axonal connections and dendritic synapses of the neurons, as the mere listing of the compounds of an atom will be able to explain the new characteristics of molecules emerging out of atoms.
Rather--and cognitive science has already realized that--, in addition to the reductionist "bottom up" approach, we ought to approach specific capabilities by first looking at the activities that are emerging out of them, thus "from the top to the bottom", and that, of course, always with the specific base in mind--and thus we see that reason is based on understanding, as its predecessor, just as understanding is based on the "feeling" of "emotio". This phenomenon of the "emergence"(5) of qualitatively new system characteristics of reason is drawing conclusions on the basis of its consideration of things and facts as to their characteristics(s), that of understanding is the collation of data of the various senses into things/facts and thereby arriving at terms for them.
However, what is emotion? Emotion is sensation that has been processed by understanding, whereby understanding has become aware of sensation. The actual human emotions--next to the opening of the sensations to understanding--arise out of the emotional evaluation and individual storing of the fact recognition and term allocation of understanding.
With this, we still do not know what feeling is--and therefore, we first have to clarify what the human brain is "good" for: all of its macrosystems, from instinct to reason, have the task of gathering information for the benefit of the preservation and procreation of man, by means of observation and interpretation, to process it and to store it. For, under the constantly changing conditions of the environment, as they are prevalent on earth, those creatures are at an advantage that can adapt to these changes by means of representative information; contrary to this, specialists are at an advantage under unchanging conditions. Thus, the fact of the changing environment leads to the selection of those creatures that, as "generalists", are most adaptable, and, due to this, to a development that, in hindsight, appears to be having arrived at reason as the hitherto highest level of information processing.(6)
Information storage takes place by means of genetic or individual neuronal engraving: those engravings, in turn, have been conditioned with different behaviour patterns. At the instinct level, a sensory signal that corresponds to a genetic engraving "automatically" triggers the corresponding behaviour, as, for example, when a frog "recognizes" a fly as food and catches it; contrary to this, the capability of individual sensory perception in certain living creatures allows for their individual conditioning.
Individual processing and evaluation of neuronal information and a reaction that is dependent on this evaluation of a comparison, as to whether a sensory stimulation is the same, different, or similar, is thus only found at the level of feeling. Therefore, we have to go out from the premise that, from this level on, we have to assume the existence of "individual consciousness/awareness", since this comparison took place individually within a certain area of the brain by means of an inhibition of instinctive automation. As an example for this individual engraving may serve here the mother engraving/imprint on birds: the first object that comes into the visual range of newborns will inevitably be engraved/imprinted on them as their “mother", and the corresponding genetic behaviour patterns are connected to their interaction with this object(7). Obviously, here, we are already dealing with an individual information storage that is, however, not controlled individually, but genetically--thus the reception level of that which we call "feeling": the individual processing of information as a qualitatively new capability, that is, nevertheless, indissolubly linked to the genetic programs (instinct) and their behaviour patterns, through which, however, the triggering of behaviour patterns can be individually controlled.
Let us observe the actual emotional control at the example of flight behaviour: when a predator approaches a herd of wild animals at a water hole, at first, the animals become restless and observe the predator's approach "cautiously" without, however, letting themselves be disturbed or interrupted in their activity. The "tension" in the herd "increases", which means that the sensory perception(s) by means of the senses of vision and smell evoke a hormonal outpouring, the increase of which, in each individual animal, is noticed by the centre that is called emotio. Individual animals become increasingly restless, while others still resist (individually conditioned perception). When the distance between predator and herd has reached a certain threshold, general flight will be triggered in that moment in which the sensorily percepted (or felt) increase of the hormonal outpouring in the herd leaders passes each leading animal's individual threshold of tolerance that this particlar herd leader has individually acquired in playful learning and through individual experience. This new capability, called emotio, that enables creatures to learn individually, can be compared to a kind of "scalable potentiometer", which is connected to a storage area that increases with the complexity of the perceptive capabilities of the species(8).
As every human being can observe on himself--but only on himself--"feeling" is the inner self-awareness of the effect of sensory "events" that have been transmitted via the sensory and body organs to the brain; the content of the sensory perception and the emotional evaluation that is connected with it are different matters. A sensory stimulation that crosses the latency threshold and thereby attracts "attention", does so through an increase of positive or negative perception that is supposed to cause the individual to act accordingly. What, precisely, is "positive" or "negative" feeling? It is the reception and perception of the decrease or increase of hormonal transmitters or transmitting agents, triggered by sensory or vegetative events that, already at the level of instinct, control behaviour. The reception and perception of the differentiation of emotio as self-perception is what allows a differentiated behaviour in reaction: the experienced intensity of perception (or feeling) corresponds with the intensity of the action that is caused by it.
The neuronal basis of the "chemistry of psyche" is not the object of this discussion; with respect to the various transmitting agents and the influencing of the neurons at their synapses and receptors, I may, for example, refer to the illustration and demonstration by Crick. I only want to emphasize that perception (or feeling) is not comprised of this neuronal synapses change, but rather of its receptive reflection as sensation, since this control of neurons via transmitting agents can already be found in animals that do not yet have the capability of sensory perception (or feeling), since they do not have the capability of reflection of this kind, thus in all animal species that only have instincts, such as amphibian animals. Thus, sensory perception (or feeling) is the evaluation of the increase in agitation that is triggered by the "transport increase" through transmitting agents: The "emotio" system, thus, at first, is based on the "data" of instinct, and it works with these, as this also applies, in kind, to and in the relationship of understanding and emotio, respectively also that of reason and understanding. Here, the sequential development of the various levels of capabilities becomes apparent, as we find it in the sequential neuronal processing according to these levels. While neuronal signals are processed in parallel sequential processing steps in 10 millisecond intervals, neurons, overall, project (information/impulses) into other layers of the cortex respectively into other participating systems of the brain, in serial sequence, successively, with respect to emotio, particularly into the limbic system, Amygdala and Thalamus. Rational awareness/consciousness should, therefore, consist of the ignition of the last neuron layers and systems that participate in the final evaluation, while the awareness/consciousness of perception (or feeling) and its intensity should consist of the ignition of the layers and systems that participate in emotional evaluation.(9)
Instinct, in its being permanently linked between sensory reception and reaction, allows for the genetic learning of behaviour patterns via the species, contrary to which the control of the individual allows, via the reception of the increasing and decreasing hormonal concentrations, the individual learning capability and with it for a subjective sensory perception (or feeling). Learning, itself, as an individual form of storage, consists of the neuronal depositing of impulse patterns by means of a strengthening of synapses in the appropriate cortical field, that will be more or less in duration. The interpretation of that which each consciousness/awareness "perceives (or feels)", is always comprised of the actual sensory signal and the "recalled memory" that is recalled by means of a pre-conscious comparison, without this "combination" and "connection", no animal would find its food, humans would neither operate in their complex environment, nor could they read a single letter(10). If I am not mistaken, in this back-tracking comparison, particularly the Thalamus, that is connected to all important fields of perception, is participating.
The individual senses as well as the body and its organs and its receptive representation fields (in the brain) are obviously connected to the emotional system; the recognition of a sensory signal by means of comparison with the appropriate engraving/imprint helps to call up the appropriate and conditioned evaluation of this event and, at the point of the actual reaching of the "threshold value", it releases the according overall reaction. However, what are "sensory signals" at the level of emotio? They are the properties or characteristics of things that are received by the appropriate sense and trigger the according (sensory) perception (or feeling). From this viewpoint, even every image of a thing at the sensory level is nothing other than a characteristic or property of things. It is forms, colours and motion of things that, in animals, are stored by the sense of vision and recognized, but not the things, themselves. In this manner, via sensory perception (or feeling), a horizontal-additive conditioning of various sensory signals becomes possible(11). Things in our (human) sense are only cristallizing by means of a vertically-integrating activity of understanding: In the connection of the different chracteristics or properties of different sensory results in one effect carrier. This collation/combination is allotted its own term, represented in its own area of the brain and evaluated, itself, by understanding (at first, under the guidance of emotio). Grammar is the arrangement and alignment of terms, and thus the (mental) acquisition of the world by means of language as understanding(12). Let me explain this in form of an image: Words are the torches in the light of which only things appear to us.
At this juncture, there emerges also that which humans refer to as their "ego": the capability of understanding to identify things as effect carriers leads, per se ipsum, to the capability of also recognizing oneself, one's own person, as an effect carrier and as a centre of action and of uniting oneself under one term: the "ego" as carrier and "owner" of self-awareness, including feeling and data storage of understanding. >From this should stem the considerable increase of the brain mass of homo sapiens, compared both to primates as well as to his own predecessors (homo habilis and homo erectus), language, itself (Broca and Wernicke centre(s) and the individual or independent storage of understanding and reason require their own area(s).
Out of the connection of sensory perception (or feeling) and understanding, there emerges what we call emotion: the transmittal of emotional evaluations, but now no longer as to the characteristics of things, but as to things, themselves. The "ego" that is formed by understanding, as fiction, relates the sensory perceptions that have been pre-evaluated by the senses and organs, to this "centre" and thereby creates our emotions.(13) This is the difference between the sensory awareness of animals that are directly exposed to these feelings, and the feeling of humans who, in the reflection of emotio, also experience these feelings through understanding.(14) As to whether and if so what evaluation centre--and with it, also "value" center!--man follows, depends on his individual networking (in his brain) of these capabilities, namely emotio, understanding and reason, which is, in part- gender-dependent and, in part, a result of pre-disposition, in part of the epigenesis of the individual brain, that depends on environmental influences.
Animals do not have this “ego center” that is created fictitiously by understanding, and it does not make any sense to attribute emotions to them; on the other hand, they are directly exposed to the self-awareness of basic feelings of emotio, and therefore, in addition to the emotional conditioning of feeling, above all, to the parameters of self-awareness that are stored by emotio: the vitally important signals of the entire organism, for the sake of which all perception and information processing occurs, of course, the respective newly-forming capability centres have to make themselves known, and thus, these needs are “dragged through” into the new centre, as basic feelings. Hunger, thirst, sexual drive, pain and lust, out of being transferred over from instinctive needs, but also independent basic feelings based on the life organization of emotio thus form the stock of the awareness of feelings of animals; after all, particularly individual communication and socialization that have become possible on the basis of emotio, including the tradition of behavior modes that have become possible at this level lead to the formation of feeling that is different from instinct. To this belong all forms of feeling that are required for the existence of a functioning organization of a herd: a sense/feeling of belonging (15) and of rank, of “courage” and of “fear” (with respect to the defence of the herd and to male rivalry), but also all preliminary forms of shame, joy and sense of loss. The feelings that arise out of animal socialization are what is often confused with human emotions whose basis they are. These feelings form the basis of co-operation as well as of deceit, connected with the ability for empathy and sympathy, the ability to emphasize and subsequently to sympathize.(16)
From this, it very well makes sense to differentiate between “ego” and “self”, as we humans do this quite spontaneously with respect to ourselves: the respective individual “self” encompasses an essentially larger area than the “thinking/controlling” “ego”—the “ego” knows that it arises out of a rational understanding of itself and that, next to this rationality, there are still quite other sources of self-awareness and perception at work that are reflected in rationality, but do not arise out of it. Thus it is quasi self-evident to connect the “self” to sensory perception (or feeling) and the “ego” to ratio. (17)
At this point, let me still say a word with respect to the often-discussed “feminine intuition”: meanwhile, it has become a recognized fact that the physical design of men and women is not similar, and this also applies to the brain; in its embryo development and in its epigenetic development, genetically controlled different hormonal influences affect the female brain (estrogens) and the male brain (testosterones) and thus also lead to different networking(s). Particularly the Corpus Callosum, the connection between the right and the left halves of the brain, is stronger in women, so that between the two halves, a more intense exchange is taking place. This also means that the emotional components of awareness and consciousness are more strongly pronounced as in men, in whom rational and emotional awareness are separated to a greater extent. Therefore, the pre-rational decision-making phase of emotio flows into the rationally crystallizing actions (of women) as “feminine intuition”.
In the transfer of sensory perception (or feeling) acquired at the animal stage onto the things of this world (including himself), man develops and deepens his rich world of emotions; all antinomies of our understanding as well as of our reason up to our division of the world into good and evil, useful/harmful, beautiful/ugly, stem from the scaling of emotio: the increase of the unpleasant as well as the decrease of the pleasant.
From this it also becomes clear why the “beautiful” of understanding can be so different in different nations; after all, its conditioning is dependent on the respective environmental experiences, thus on the concrete environment and its conditions that predominantly determine life circumstances: climate, fauna and flora and ultimately one’s own human civilization that developed under these conditions.
Our strongest emotion, love, is, at first, based on the genetic dependency of instinct, from where it, with emotio, in the attraction of pleasant and with it attractive qualities, is changed and transformed; understanding wants to have those things that appear pleasant respectively useful to it, while reason strives for the state that appears “good” to it. The maxims of that which emotio and awakening understanding experience as pleasant and useful, attract man to the strongest degree. While these things, at first, all stem from nature, this attraction, with human settlement and division of labour, gradually, with the increase of civilization, shifted to self-made objects of culture. The bearer of such attractive and thus beautiful things, through his possession, gained importance, himself—at that point, power and beauty formed its alliance that is still prevalent, today. And what man has produced out of love for the pleasant, useful and ultimately the ideal and sacred is what ultimately makes his world worth living in.
II. The Origin of the “Beautiful”
As reason derives its ideals from the essence of things, understanding, in turn, derives its concept of the beautiful from that which appears useful to it. As the myths of understanding are the equivalent to the metaphysic of reason, and as the morals of understanding are the equivalent to the ethic(s) of reason, the ideals of reason are related to the beautiful of understanding. With this, it should immediately become clear that I neither share the Kantian and Schopenhauerian concept of the “disinterested pleasure” in the observation of the beautiful, nor the metaphysical definition of the term of the beautiful that is supposed to emerge out of the congruence of “appearance and essence”. The point of departure of the following deliberations is the premise that the essence of beauty has to predominantly emerge out of evolutionary considerations; since any other approach would, from the outset, pre-suppose un-testable metaphysic(s) and, with it, anthropocentrically glorify beauty instead of empirically explaining it.
”Art” develops in the reception of each respective capability and reaches its zenith in the transition to its own reflection: Thus, at first, each capability, brings into the world the maxims of its own values, unconsciously. To understanding, it is that which overwhelms the senses (from the cave paintings to the pyramids), to reason, it is the essential optimum of the ideals (from the art and ethos of the ancient Greeks to the “sublime” of Kant).
A first possible confusion of terms has to be eliminated insofar as most theorists of the beautiful refer to their teachings and systems as “aesthetics”. This application narrows the ancient Greek term of aesthesis down to its partial meaning as “sensitivity”; however, the original spectrum of the word is much broader and stretches from feeling to emotion, sense, insight, understanding and awareness, thus it covers that which is here referred to as the capability of understanding.(18) Thus aesthesis refers to that capability that allows the world of things and objects to “emerge” (5) through the constant storing of terms, out of the sea of various characteristics by means of their being related back to one effect carrier.
In the conventional use of the term of aesthetics, in any event, there is expressed the correct observation that the beautiful is being felt, whereby the individual is guided by his/her emotions, in any event; a reflection on this perception by reason does not take place, and in this process, understanding only takes on the role of assisting comprehension. Usually, in this manner, the perception (or feeling) of the beautiful is a priori presumed as being unquestionable. “Was Schönheit sey, weiß ich nit” (what beauty is, I do not know) is what already Albrecht Dürer said.
If hereafter, the term of the “sense (feeling) of beauty” is being used, this will be done in order to retain a connection to conventional terminology and/or language use that, with “sense (feeling) of beauty” points towards the actual “unconsciousness” of the basic evaluation criteria. What one should always read in its stead is “emotion”, since those human sensations that understanding is originally and causally involved in by means of its own interpretation, are always processed as emotions as compared to the feeling of animals. Therefore, emotions arise and develop out of the active collaboration between understanding and emotio. Of course, this is different with respect to purely physical sensations/feelings in which understanding only takes part as an observer, such as pain or lust: these can be considered independent feelings of emotio.
Against an exclusively aesthetic explanation of the perception of beauty/the beautiful speaks that also in the realm(s) of reason and with respect to transcendence (19), thus in the realm of ratio(20), in the areas of ethics and the numinous, there exists a form of beauty that can not be comprehended, at all, through the use of such an emotionally oriented term as “aesthetics”.
The purely aesthetic (human) type who makes all decisions based on emotio—which is also referred to as “sensitivity”—is very rare, rather, humans are mostly comprised of “mixed types” between emotio, understanding and reason that are concentrating on an individually varying number of emotional and rational guiding values. In the evaluation of beauty and that which is demanded by ratio or ethic as evaluation of beauty, will often contradict each other. While sensitive natures, particularly women, might find the murder of a hero in a drama terrible, understanding will weigh the cost and the benefits of this act in order to determine if, at least, risk and effort are commensurate with the result and benefit; for the ethically oriented individual, this very death of the hero will be the utmost in glory, fame and honour. This ethical evaluation can then actually be considered “beautiful”, however, this evaluation of its “beauty” refers to something quite different than the aesthetical evaluation. To put it differently: who would find the many “bloody” depictions of the crucifixion “beautiful”, in whom will the cut-open bodies of martyrs evoke aesthetic delight?
As was not to be expected otherwise, this mixing-up and confusion with respect to the concept of beauty started immediately with the emergence of the reception of reason in the ancient Greeks. This development started approximately in the 8th century B.C. (with nature philosophy) and crystallized into the life ideal of the “kalogathy” in the 6th and 5th centuries (kalogathy is derived from kalòs k(aì) agathós(21): the aesthetic and ethic aspects are combined, and the realization of both categories is made the ideal of life. From this, one would, first of all, have to arrive at the question: what actually happens to beauty in its elevation towards reason? Does it, as such, or in connection with the numinous and with transcendence, even have room, and if, what is it that is actually passed on of beauty into the higher category, what is left behind? And: what criteria have to be met that, in these categories, something is called “beautiful”> Before we “climb up” here, we should, at the level of understanding, try to clarify what beauty is at the level of understanding—wherefrom has it come to us humans and what for? Thus, first have to “descend”.
First Thesis: In nature, no beauty exists without humans as its beholders. “Beauty” does not lie in things, rather, it is an interpretation of the consciousness of humans who perceive their outside world by means of understanding, and thus, humans, first of all, dis-cover things. For this purpose, at first, things are evaluated through emotio and separated into pleasant/unpleasant, on which separation, in turn, are based the determinations and evaluations by understanding of their being useful/harmful. Therefore, we have to investigate two things: what specifically is it that we, with respect to things, interpret as “beautiful” and how and by what means do we even arrive at forming such an interpretation and perception?
That we call one thing beautiful and another one not lies in the differentiation of these things by nature, itself, that has created those differences already before any observation of them by conscious humans, and thus, has created those differences for quite different purposes: with it, it shapes the relationships between plant and animal life, be it within a species, be it species-transcending. Interaction pre-supposed the noticeability of the relationship signal, by means of which this interaction is supposed to be transmitted. This is the very first criterion of “beauty” as we humans found it in nature in differentiated manner(s). Nature makes use of the sensory capabilities of different creatures in the interplay of relationship signals and sensory organs that, under specific circumstances, favour a particular kind of signal. As an example, we might consider the variations in forms and colours of blossoms that “entice” insects to pollinate. >From this viewpoint, nature is full of signals—it is differentiation. This developed both in an evolutionary as in a utilitarian sense, thus in view of a quite specific purpose in interaction, as man made use of it as the last member of this chain. After all, he related these signals that were actually not “designed” for him, to himself and evaluated them by means of his sensory capabilities that he inherited from the animal world. At the level of the reception of understanding, this evaluation does not relate to the characteristics of things, but rather, the things, themselves are noted in the formation of understanding and are consciously categorized by means of emotio as pleasant/useful or unpleasant/harmful.
At this stage of development, we are still far from being able to speak of an experience of beauty in the sense of the category of understanding as an independent perception. Rather, here, this new capability of experiencing things is, at first, only related to the connection of the noticeable with the pleasant and useful. Thus, at the outset, man started, in a receptive manner, to make use of this capability of differentiation and categorization by means of the observation of the noticeable that he unconsciously observed in nature, for himself. To this range of activities belongs, for example, the naming of objects, or the naming of the group and of members within the group, in order to demonstrate what belongs together respectively in what hierarchy objects belong to each other.
All those idyllic and romanticizing attempts at re-creating an image of “beauty of nature” and man’s being safely taken care of in it, as J.-J. Rousseau propagated them, for example with his concept of the “noble savage” are something that early man could not arrive at, since he did not have the reflective capability required for the creation of such images. He was part of nature, in any event, and his relationship to nature was simple and direct. While he was no longer an animal, since, with his capability of understanding, he had overcome the animal-like dependency on the present state of the essence/characteristics of things through the medium of time in form of the duration of the co-existence of things at the same time and in chronological sequence, he was not yet man in our sense of the term, since he was still exposed to the effects of nature directly, without having the ability to reflect on them.
Man could only arrive at a derivation of the concept of beauty through art, by means of which things that he created with his own hands and that were shaped after nature, could be compared with nature, itself. However, such cultural artefacts were first—in addition to the attributing of objects of daily use, such as, for example, forms of cups and jugs, as already referred to above—created on the basis of numinous motives, that appear to have their origins in the common origin of art and religion. Man’s task at that time was to deal with his being exposed to and overwhelmed by all of this, on the basis of his having recognized this very state, by means of his capability of understanding. This experience of being overwhelmed that he, with his awakening capability of understanding, could and had to relate back to the effect of things, was tied into life according to its own realm. Thus, on the one hand, one extracted this experience out of everyday life, which meant that one was still capable of acting; on the other hand, one accorded to this area of experience its own realm in dedicating sacred places to it, in which this awe found expression in special ways—it expressed itself, first and foremost, to those who were “talented” or receptive for it, which would indicate that these individuals, through their inclination towards being open to their reception in understanding, stood at the top of phylogenesis of their species, at that time. In order to separate those sacred places—mostly hills and groves, but also moors and caves, where man felt uneasy and eerie—from common areas, they had to be de-signated in a particular manner, and this in the double meaning of the word as a term and as an act. This direct and sensual being tied in certainly found, at first, expression in the fact that the experience of such overwhelming “forces” that man was exposed to were immanently symbolized in form of demons and deities of nature. With this, these [overwhelming phenomena] could be determined in form of sensual objects to be beholden, in order to make them accessible or to ban them. Thus, the early cave paintings provide us with an image of this dual or double de-signation, even if we can no longer directly relate to those cultural concepts—and with such de-signations in the truest sense of the word, art and with it the history of the “sense of beauty” appear to have begun.(22)
It is obvious that this de-signating form of depiction of things without reflection could only typecast things, since it also corresponds with the pictographic observation and abstraction through our sensory organs, themselves(23). The direct observation and imitation of the natural, just as nature, chooses, in relationship signals, the conspicuous, the “noticeable”. The recognition pattern is the necessary basis of sensory perception, which means that in its depiction, the object, as in its observation, is reduced to that which is conspicuous and noticeable in it. With this capability in man of characterizing depiction, there is still not present in him the “feeling (emotion!) of the beautiful”, but its origin: the difference between the natural object and its typecast replica that can be observed by everyone.
The process of man’s settlement, of the formation of centres of power with all their consequences of civilization, particularly of the specialization by labour division and the further differentiation of rank and hierarchy within the human species, also profaned this de-signating depiction. At first, this might have happened in a “simple” and direct derivation, as the ruler or the ruling class, in their imitation of divine calling, reassured themselves of their being chosen by means of such “designation”. Even today, the outer symbols of grandeur are still very much in demand...(24) Those cultural capabilities and those human needs that were enhanced through man’s settlement, on the basis of the reception of reason and in constant interaction, brought fourth trades and their specialization, which, in turn, worked to the benefit of human the capability of depiction in the service of deities and rulers. The de-signating imitation of visible objects was still direct, but it came closer and closer to the objects and, in the reflection of understanding, finally became the equivalent of nature—just take a look at the excellent depiction of cats by the ancient Egyptians. This new “artistry” brought with it a new awareness of differentiation in the minds of men: that there could exist a difference in quality in the objects created by this “artistry” and that the depicted object that is closest to nature should be preferred over that which is merely typecast. Why? It should be possible to explain this on an evolutionary basis: the depiction that is closer to nature is noticed more and thereby also earns more prestige, be it with the deity or with the rulers. With this, the “feeling of beauty”, as an emotional awareness of differentiation that, through the quality of an artificially created depiction by means of sensory perception and sensory comparison, arrives at a judgement, has found entrance into humanity. This does not refer, yet, to the “feeling of beauty” as such, but rather to a comparative judgment with respect to a comparison of concepts of understanding by means of emotio: something is deemed more or less beautiful. Here, the term “beautiful” still stands for the overwhelming of the sensual experience in a manner that was not considered to be possible, as for example, in the closeness to nature of a depiction, to its cult expression by means of sheer size, i.e. in works and buildings that have been created by the hands of men but are also being controlled by the hands of men.
Second Thesis: (Human) awareness of beauty in form of the independent “feeling of the beautiful” as such is a result of the reception of reason. The end of the unfolding of “beauty” through understanding has been reached when, after the exploitation of the active potential of understanding with the increasing quality of trade and artisanship, depiction that is true to nature has been achieved, respectively when typecast patterns that have become valid, have been determined. Quite obviously, these present the maximum of expressive capability of this level of culture and will only be passed on by tradition without any further capability of improvement (see again the art of the ancient Egyptians). The “ideal” of understanding as beauty has been reached with this. For the further development of this stagnation, something new was required: the predisposition towards the reception of reason as well as its furtherance through the intermingling of the ancient cultures. Western culture and art as a culture of reason began with the immigration of the ancient Greek tribes and their settlement in Asia Minor. From there, strategically situated in the area of influence of many powerful, ruling civilizations, the ancient Greeks necessarily became acquainted with all those cultures and civilizations—with the Lydians, Babylonians, Persians, Phoenicians, Cretes and Egyptians. Thus, initially, in Asia Minor and in the ancient Hellas, philosophy and the “new art” did not spring up by accident, at the same time: the independent reception of the data of understanding in interrelation with the mixing of all knowledge of the time allowed for the decisive step towards the future, to draw conclusions from the observation of the typical as to its underlying essence. It was recognized that a certain superficial or outer quality, a particular characteristic, could be traced back to a special and essential role, and that this specific essence, in its function and formation, could, in itself, be equipped in different ways, and that not every provision of an essential quality would be equally suitable for the task that is to be performed through it. After all, the unfolding capability of reason was not only, as understanding was able to, directly grasp the outer appearance along the typical, but rather, along the unfolding of the awareness of reason that occurred vertically to understanding, essential qualities of things can be isolated and compared. This change in observation towards dialectic comparison, in art, leads to a new standard of the beautiful, or rather, to the “beautiful” as such, in the first place. On the one hand, typecasting, stereotyping, that which appears superficially intentional and traditional was being discarded, altogether, and with it, the capability of depiction was freed from “chains alien to art”. On the other hand, it was recognized that closeness to nature in depiction of art was a necessary, but not the only precondition of the beautiful, but rather, that to it were to be added correctness and adequacy. First of all, this meant that typecasting was replaced by the depiction of the individuality of man, and secondly, this meant that this individuality was raised to the status of the ideal: the capability of abstraction in the artist, in his depiction, discards all that which is coincidental and consciously and in contrast to unconscious abstraction by the sensory organs and understanding, it concentrates on the essential, on that which is generally valid (which, parallelly, in the history of the development of ideas, via dialectics, led to ethics—and this provides the connection to philosophy) (25). The ideal type had to be assembled by the artist through his studying in his contemporaries of the respective “most beautiful” features of their bodies, their faces and their comportment; the criterion of the “beautiful”, on the part of the artist forms the “correctness” that arises out of closeness to nature and adequacy, and this was what was actually new: that body or that body part that best suits the task that is put to it, is the “most beautiful”; a face that attracts humans to its bearer is the most beautiful—and here, at the basis of art, there is still evolution and its selective utilitarianism at work! Such a combined ideal type is still close to nature in its details, but overall, it represents a higher truth than nature usually brings forth.
Well, both at that time and today, such artistic and reflective capabilities for the creation of such works of art are only given to few individuals of a generation. The average “feeling of beauty” as well as its “indistinctiveness” arises out of the impact of art on man: such ideally-shaped works of art evoke in man admiration of a similar kind, but in a qualitatively new manner, as compared to the previous admiration of and amazement at works of art at the level of understanding, since man, in this new art, is confronted by and can recognize the idealization of his own kind. The difference that is perceived between the depicted ideal and the observable reality, in retrospect, finds entry into the perception by the actually unreflecting ordinary human being. Without knowing how or why, his emotio feels overwhelmed by the exalted possibility of this ideal type—and with this, the actual “feeling of beauty” has been established in humans.
An actual basic component of beauty is proportionality which man derives from observation of nature, in that he projects himself and his dimensions into nature. If we look at the overall appearance and figure of man respectively at the relation of his limbs and of his facial features within themselves, then we can observe, within the framework of a certain range, a specific relationship between the lengths and widths as well as between lengths among themselves, a range that we unconsciously “recognize”, since our observation has already been unconsciously influenced by these relationships. That which transcends this range is deemed abnormal, where it is depicted particularly well, we consider it “beautiful”. Thus, human legs, in relationship to overall body length, have to have an “appropriate” relationship, head length and width as well as depth should also correspond to each other in a certain way—according to Leonardo da Vinci, the so-called “golden section” provides these “beautiful” proportions. As in the depiction of the human body, proportionality plays an important role in architecture, first of all, of course, in the construction of the temples of deities. Originated in the numinous experiences in groves (that subsequently turned into lines of pillars) and on mountains and hills (that subsequently turned into the building of temples on hills and mountains), these buildings, in addition to their suitability for the purpose, had to, above all, impress the senses. For this reason, it appears that the architects of the cultures of understanding tried to outdo each other by the sheer size of their buildings.(26) At the same time, however, sheer size had to be controlled by the relationship of forms to each other, in order to achieve a harmony in the components: these buildings always also bear within them a symbolic import and therefore, they have to express unity.What is new with the ancient Greeks is that with their added capability of reflection in reason on the data collected by understanding, they began to take into account the subjectivity of the beholder, for the sake of which they began to build their temples in “perspective” proportions; thus, they no longer merely piled stone onto stone, but rather, began to arrange them according to the laws of visual perspective, and thereby emphasized the effect of these buildings. The aim and purpose of proportionality is harmony; by it, it is referred to the appropriate spatial relationship of single components to each other, which, in their effect on the beholder, create the impression of a “well-rounded” whole. With this, one can already clarify their essence: it is insofar something new as man, by means of his capability of reflection, strives to consciously create this harmony, himself. This, in turn, requires the capability of observing and noticing that which is “incorrect” respectively the observation and recognition of disharmony in reality by means of that very same reflection. Further, harmony has to, in order to fulfill the demand for “ideal unity”, evoke in the subjective contemplation by the beholder, his opinion of the correctness and adequacy of that which he is beholding. Therefore, these criteria have to be anticipated by the artist. However, the further something that has to be depicted is reaching out, the more it encompasses within itself, the more difficult is it to fulfill the demand for harmony. In the event that the “ideal unity” is still reached even then, then the effect of such a work will be experienced even more intensely and to a higher degree. This harmony can create in us the appearance of ideality, since in the harmonic arrangement of the individual parts of a work of art, in the beholder, there is created the illusion of wholeness in a form that surpasses reality, which makes him aware of his own subjective disparity and which may cause him to strive for harmony in his own existence in order to round it off into an ideal whole. The reflection in reception of reason on the results of understanding thus led to the fact that correctness became an necessary prerequisite for the beautiful—in its reversal, the concept of beauty was able to enter ethics: that that which is correct is also beautiful—and with it, abstract-ethical terms were charged with sensory perception.
Beauty and Transcendence
The assessment that something is “beautiful” can thus be evoked in two ways: either, a work of art aesthetically-unconsciously evokes the feeling of beauty through understanding, or the contemplation of works of art encounters in the beholder already prevalent, existing concepts of art and is judged from this viewpoint, in a favourable manner. This (often alleged) rationality will, at least in fine arts, be tied back emotionally: that which and what, in a picture or in a statue, can be “beautiful”, can not be rationally explained, but only out of emotio in connection with traditional conditioning--beauty, in the category of understanding and in fine arts, is always relative in its dependency on traditional conditioning.. This is shown by the observation of the feeling of beauty in African tribes as well as in the quickly changing fashion styles of our so highly-developed Western cultures.
This is different in literature, music and theatre (as for example, in ancient Greek tragedy): while these (artistic disciplines) pre-suppose an aesthetic form, they derive their actual content from the reflective observation of reason on the data of understanding; in doing so, rational correctness respectively ideality is combined with a sublimated perception of the “pleasant”. Lively emphasis confirms the self in the realization of rational correctness, respectively leads it, after the takeover of leadership by reason, towards “ethic satisfaction” and with it to ethic beauty. This concept of art as the harmonic connection between the aesthetic and the ethic was, in German culture, certainly most strongly represented by Schiller, in his literary works and theoretical writings.
Parallel to the development of the human mind, there developed the sublimation of the beautiful; what does this sublimation look like for transcendence? Here, it has to be kept in mind that the origins of art and religion are the same and that already in completely “un-reflecting” times, religious works of art were created. Objects that we, today, a posteriori, consider art works, while, at the time of their creation, not the aesthetic, but rather dealing with the numinous in a determining manner stood in the foreground. Can, therefore, anything at all be said with respect to the sublimation of the beautiful with respect to transendence, if one keeps in mind existing examples of acts of transcendence, as they have been related to us by the history of religion and the history of the human mind? If we look at works such as certain works by Plato (Phaidon, Symposion), the New Testament, the sermons of Eckehart, Schleiermacher’s “Reden über die Religion”, or Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Goethe’s “Faust”, Hölderlin’s “Hyperion”, Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra”, or Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion”, Haydn’s “Creation”, Mozart’s “Magic Flute”, Beethoven’s “Ninth”, to name only a few—and, at that, not at the works as such but at that which they still hold in form of lively mental impact on us, today, then this mental impact may evoke in us a certain kind of perception. This perception should be comparable to that which humans experienced at one time when they entered new terrain with discovering for themselves the capabilities of understanding respectively of reason. These respective receptions were, in their time, also a transcending of the previous status, that was assessed by means of the lively sensory perception that here, is to be understood as the sublimation of the “beautiful”: the individual experiences himself as being lifted beyond himself, which functionally, in concentrated agreement, finds expression beyond all of one’s own centres of capabilities.This liveliness is also always part of the beautiful and the beautiful is always also part of this liveliness.. Let me say it with Hölderlin:
"O, ein Gott ist der Mensch, wenn er träumt, ein Bettler, wenn er nachdenkt, und wenn die Begeisterung hin ist, steht er da, wie ein mißratener Sohn, den der Vater aus dem Hause stieß, und betrachtet die ärmlichen Pfennige, die ihm das Mitleid auf den Weg gab."(27) (Man is a God when he dreams, a beggar, when he thinks, and when enthusiasm has died, he is standing there like a prodigal son who has been thrown out of the house by his father, and he is looking at the few measly pennies that compassion threw in his path.)
The maxims of this lively-inner experience can be described as sexual ecstasy in instinct, as a desire for the pleasant in emotio, as a surge of power in understanding, as ethic pathos in reason, and with respect to transcendence, as a unification with the “sacred”.
Thus, if something that is directed at transcendence is supposed to be described as “beautiful”, then, for this evaluation, moments out of the preceding categories can contribute in their role(s) as formal pre-requisites; for, just as aesthetic is the formal prerequisite for beauty in understanding, numinous perception will be founded by ideal enthusiasm towards the direction of transcendence. To put it differently: the manner of the beautiful has to also satisfy the demands of understanding and reason and may not be in contradiction to them. What has to be crucial here is something different: the motivation must neither stem from the emotional realm nor from a rational-ethical concept of the correct and ideal, but rather from the still lively spirit and the transcendent telos of such a work—the beauty that lies in it can neither be objectified nor conveyed, but is only transmitted directly and existentially. This has to be recognized by each beholder in concentrated self-activity and has to be evoked with his contact of the innermost impact of the work, itself. Thus here, beauty is not something that can be seen—as, by the way, already in reason, where the recognition of the correct requires the activation of rational judgment, and the recognition of ideality, even a lively emphasis—but rather something that is hidden and that can only be recognized by one’s leaving behind the first two categories, thus in their transcendence, in one’s lively contact to a supra-rational and supra-temporal truth.
However, if man does not live in harmony with himself and the universe, then he is lacking the overall view and this has to have its effect on the art of such a time, in form and content. It is a question as to how and by what means the works that have been created in such times can be defined as works of art, since, up to the time of the dissolution of the old criteria of art, these, with respect to the view and depiction of the attainable harmony, were their pre-conditions. We find ourselves in the situation of the dissolution of this harmony, but not, as Nietzsche thought, in form of a “Disintegration der Instinkte” (disintegration of instincts), but rather in form of a disintegration of emotions: due to the retroactive progress of reflection into the masses, their formerly relatively unified “Lebensgefühl” (attitude towards life) has been dissolved by ratio, everyone is propagating his own private “emotion”, the cohesion and coherence of society(or: societies) has been lost and has splintered into a thousand groups and little sub-groups—also in art. Artistic “styles” are increasing explosively, for, if one disregards rational and serial techniques, in which already the form is supposed to provide the content, there stands in the foreground everywhere a perception that can not be determined rationally (as to a direction towards meaning and goal), which is supposed to find expression in fine arts, in music and literature, and that in every case is supposed to be connected to a “new expressiveness”, for which reason this “art” rather leads to fads than to a style. After all, the latter would be the result of a mature strength, which can not be built up, since the loud announcement of every kind of “talent” is attracting attention, that wants to excel, at any price, with its “new” contribution and which, in doing so, meets the needs of its “audience”, that is, all the more, dependent on this stimulation by the “new”, the more it has used up tradition, since meaning, goal and harmony are no longer recognizable. As already Musil rightfully pointed out, today one finds “genius” in a tennis player or even in a horse. What interpretation can be rendered with respect to this splintering? That of a double and simultaneous development: the rationality of the great mass is increasing by means of industrialization, urbanization, training and media to such an extent that it has come to a halt between understanding and reason. This potential of exploiting the level of reception of reason in excerpts is obviously wide-spread in humanity, while the reflective level of reason respectively the moving beyond it is still very rare. This is different with respect to “artists” and the levels of society that pay attention to them; the latter could approximately be described thus: certainly mixed types between understanding and reason, just like the masses, however, with their emphasis on the self-use of ratio and with it greater independence from emotio. The latter have caught up with the ideas of the philosophical fore-runners with which the latter interpret the phenomena of their own time, those “ideas” that, for our times consist of the contentions that both ethical ideals (Kierkegaard) as well as religion are illusions (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Feuerbach); so that, now, the “sensitive” natures, those who are actively or passively searching for meaning, thus the artists and their audiences, are lacking a positive guiding idea, as it has heretofore been provided by religion respectively by an “optimistic world view” (as, for example, also in the “socialistic art work” of communism!).
By the way, this connection between art and philosophy already existed in ancient Greece; the ideas of the philosophers created the soil on which man gained a new image of himself, and this new image became the motivation of the new ancient-Greek art that led it to its heights, so that they became the Western ideal. One example is ancient Greek tragedy in which man is arguing with the Gods: in this, his entire new self-confidence is expressed, that, retroactively, extends into the demos. And when fine arts experienced their first zenith, then it was due to the fact that “aesthetic” artists took up their ideas from philosophy and science (which were still one at that time) and, in doing so, took up the new image of man: man becomes an autonomous individual whose ideality is transposed into the work of art, in the Olympic mythos, the boundaries between Deities and men become blurred.
Today, the status of the masses and of the artists create the impression that these phenomena of dissolution are one movement, only at first sight. While the masses vacillate between emotions and ethic ideals, according to their own levels of transition, and while, ultimately, emotion is still the decisive factor, those artists have already lost this ethic ideal, without being able to find a transition beyond this state, in existence and in art. Rather, their talent and their striving is geared towards creation, towards an interpretation of man and world as it presents itself to them, which becomes visible in their work. Therein lies the fulfillment of their existence, and thus they have to move backwards from this point of the destroyed ideals, where a “forward” is not becoming apparent. That is why they depict what and how they see man from this viewpoint: as a broken image, torn up and disillusioned.
In that contemporary art depicts our being torn apart, consciously or unconsciously, it is approaching the boundary line between reason and transcendence, and thus works negatively towards the overcoming of the stagnation. This can not be found in a “great turning back” and in “the illusion of the beautiful appearance” (as, for example, Nietzsche propagates it in the Dionysian chaos of the super-human), and, in my opinion, also not in the “beauty” of scientific theories (S. Weinberg), but will always mean a renewed sharpening of conscience, connected with the thought that it would be very peculiar if we were to, precisely “today”, presume an abrupt end of the possibilities of evolution; from this, there follows the necessity that we react actively towards this openness, and that we keep our cultural evolution active in connection with the capabilities of our brains.
(1) Edition of August 22, 1997, p. 34
(2) Bolding by the author.
(3) Crick, p. 32: "Nach modernen Maßstäben kann Freud kaum als Wissenschaftler betrachtet werden; vielmehr war er ein Arzt mit vielen neuen Ideen, die er überzeugend und ungewöhnlich gut formulierte. Er wurde zum Hauptbegründer des neuen Kults der Psychoanalyse." (Crick writes here that, by modern standards, Freud can hardly be considered a scientist and that he was rather a physician with many new ideas that he formulated convincingly and extremely well and that he became the main founder of the new cult of psychoanalysis). What appears problematic to me in Crick’s book is that he thinks that, in his research, he has found certain areas for a “visuelles Bewußtsein” (visual consciousness) without paying attention to the fact that the rational awareness of both humans and higher animals has to rely on a prior understanding that has been acquired during the individual being’s growing up so that something like a consciousness became possible, in the first place. Considering this, one has to realize, that a purely visual consciousness can not exist, since even for seeing, the context of prior understanding that is gained through ratio and emotio, has to be engaged. Even if, at the optometrist’s office, one’s vision is tested by means of one’s looking at numbers and at letters of the alphabet, one has to have arrived at a prior understanding of these symbols, that has also been been gained through non-visual means. Therefore, it can not be possible that one can arrive at determining certain (brain) areas that are solely connected to visual awareness.
(4) Gardner, p. 18
(5) lat. emergere – to show oneself, to appear, to come forward; with respect to the modern application of this word, see Vollmer, Auf der Suche nach Ordnung, p. 70 and Vollmer, Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie, p. 81/82: "Für Physiker, Chemiker, Kybernetiker, Systemtheoretiker und Gestaltpsychologen ist nämlich das Auftreten völlig neuer Systemeigenschaften durch die Vereinigung von Untersystemen etwas ganz Natürliches. ... Die Eigenschaften eines Systems können sich also wesentlich (qualitativ!) von denen seiner Teile unterscheiden. Diese Tatsache ist für einige der wichtigsten zur Zeit diskutierten Probleme relevant: für die Frage der Entstehung des Lebens, für das Reduktionsproblem (Rückführbarkeit der Biologie auf Physik und Chemie), für die Gestaltpsychologie (das Ganze ist mehr als die Summe seiner Teile), für die Evolution des Bewußtseins oder auch für psychophysisches Probleme. Leben Bewußtsein, Erkenntnisfähigkeit sind nämlich Systemeigenschaften und nur als solche verständlich." (Bolding by the website author; Vollmer writes here that for physicists, chemists, cybernetic scientists, system theorists and ‘gestalt’ psychologists, the appearance of such new system characteristics is something quite natural, and that the characteristics of a system can, therefore, essentially or qualitatively be different from the characteristics of its components, and that this fact is relevant for some of the most important problems that are being discussed, today: for the question as to the origin of life, for the problem of reduction (the traceability of biology back to physics and chemistry), for ‘gestalt’ psychology (the whole is more than the sum of its parts), for the evolution of consciousness, or also for psycho-physical problems, since, after all, life, consciousness and the ability of insight are system characteristics and can only be understood as such.)
(6) Nature has already “learned” information storing through bringing forth life, itself, at the vegetative level, through DNA, yet, at this level, it does not yet provide “knowledge” to “individuals”; rather, the forms of life “are” this knowledge.–
(7) See de Waal, p. 50/51: "Entenküken und junge Gänse haben keine genaue Kenntnis ihrer Spezies, wenn sie auf die Welt kommen; sie nehmen in den ersten Stunden ihres Lebens entsprechende Informationen auf. Normalerweise geschieht dies, indem sie ihre Mutter beobachten und ihr folgen; es kann jedoch auch passieren, daß sie irgend ein anderes bewegliches Objekt als Anhaltspunkt wählen, wenn sie während der aufnahmebereiten Phase darauf stoßen.... Der Wissenschaft ist es ... gelungen, Vögel dazu zu bringen, Spielzeuglastwagen und bärtigen Zoologen zu folgen. Diesen Vögeln ist also weniger ein detailliertes Wissen über ihre Spezies angeboren, als vielmehr eine Neigung, sich dieses Wissen in einem kritischen Lebensstadium anzueignen." (De Waal writes here that little ducklings and geese have no precise knowledge of their species when they are born and that, during the first hours of their lives, they gain that information and that this normally occurs when they observe their mothers and follow them; however, it can also happen that they choose another moving object that they focus on when they encounter it during this period and that science was able to cause birds to follow toy trucks and bearded zoologists and that, therefore, these birds are not born with an actual knowledge of their species but rather with an inclination to acquire this knowledge during a critical phase in their early lives.)
(8) The “emotio” is a system that can not be traced in one singular area of the brain; rather, it connects various structures with each other and that, in turn, itself, is connected to other “larger systems” above and below it: to its realm, one counts, for example, sub-cortically, the limbic system, the Amygdala and cortically distinctive representative areas.
(9)Poetically, we described the firing of both levels, particularly when they offer us contrasting results, with descriptions such as, for example, "Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust ..." (two souls dwell in my bosom): between the rather opposing results of ratio and emotio, we often have a hard time to decide on one of these results. However, also that which we call “conscience” can be derived from this fact: if we want to contravene values of the level of reason that we have acquired by conditioning or on our own by opting for values of understanding or emotio, the “voice of conscience” rises up in us in form of a firing on the part of that value centre that asks for the acceptance of the higher set of values over the lower set of values.
(10) At a linguistic level, one speaks of “background knowledge” that forms the precondition by means of which man can communicate through language, and that, through new experiences, is changed again, itself. This circumstance provides the main difficulty as to why human processes of insight can not be transferred to computers (AI “Artificial Intelligence”), easily.
(11) One just has to think of "Pawlow‘s Dog": By offering his food to him with the sound of a bell, in him, the positive feeling that is triggered by the smell of the food, thus the stomach secretion, and the sound of the bell are associated with the consequence that the sound of the bell alone can trigger the stomach secretion. This emotionally associative storing of sensual experiences provides the data basis for understanding, that combines these events and traces it back to one source and that stores this event as a whole under one “term”.
(12) See the author’s article, "Was ist Metaphysik?" (What is Metaphysic?) in A&K 1/1997, p. 61 f. This definition that is a result of my theory agrees with the thinking of the theoretic neurophysiologist, William H. Calvin, p. 73: "Sprache ist das Hauptmerkmal menschlicher Intelligenz. Ohne Syntax – ohne systematisches Ordnen verbaler Ideen – wären wir nur wenig schlauer als ein Schimpanse." (Calvin writes here that language is the main characteristic of human intelligence and that without syntax, without the systematic alignment of verbal ideas, we would not be much smarter than a chimpanzee.) –
(13) "Was ist Metaphysik?", p. 67 f. Dennett, Chapter 13, describes the origin of the “ego” in quite similar words.
(14) As I found out to my surprise, Damasio’s deliberations (p. 353, note 1) go in quite a similar direction: "Wie der Leser noch feststellen wird, unterscheide ich auch zwischen Gefühl (emotion) und Empfindung (feeling). In der Regel meine ich mit ‚Gefühl‘ eine Reihe von Veränderungen, die in Hirn und Körper stattfinden und gewöhnlich durch einen bestimmten geistigen Inhalt ausgelöst werden. Eine Empfindung ist die Wahrnehmung dieser Veränderungen." (Damasio writes here that he differentiates between emotion and feeling and that he, as a rule emotion, means a number of changes that occur in the brain and in the body and that are usually triggered by a certain mental content, and that feeling is the sensory perception of those changes.) As I can confirm, the vocabulary that is used by Damasio is used in a reverse manner in the German language and that obviously due to the fact that that in the English language, the feeling for language suggests that use, as "feeling" appears to be closer to human ratio than “emotion”; contrary to this, the German can say, "ich fühle mich wohl" (I am feeling well), but not, "ich empfinde mich wohl" (I have the sensation of well-being). Due to this, in German, the term "Gefühl" appears to be closer to ratio than the term "Empfindung" (sensation): ‘sensation’ is a less personal term and more remote from self-awarness than the term “Gefühl” (emotion).
Masson/McCarthy, p. 250-252, with respect to altruism in animals, write:
(16) see de Waal, p. 57f.; in my opinion, most anthropomorphic confusions of the feelings of animals and human emotions have their origin in an insufficient differentiation of animals’ and humans’ empathy and sympathy; since, at first sight, it might look like as if our dog “feels” something similar to us, we suppose that he is governed by our motives, while we fail to see that his empathy and sympathy developed as the basis of cooperation among a herd of wolves.
(17) Masson/McCarthy, p. 258: "Selbst-Bewußtsein gibt es auf emotionaler wie auf intellektueller Ebene. Emotional kann es das Gefühl des Unbehagens sein, beobachtet zu werden (oder sich selbst zu beobachten) – eine Form der Blamage also. Intellektuell ist Selbst-Bewußtsein das Reflektieren über den eigenen Verstand, die eigene Existenz, das eigene Handeln – ein philosophisches Minenfeld.
(18) What should also be noted is the ancient Greek root word aisthanomai (to feel, to notice to understand), the meaning of which obviously covers the entire range of experiences of understanding; its de-potential form refers back to the act of being touched, thus to the independent/individual affixing by understanding, transmitted by the senses and by emotio.
(19) By "transcendence", in the entire text, it is not referred to something mystical and metaphysical, but rather, this term is meant as a cultural-evolutional pendant of the term “emergence” of nature: thus to an approach that consciously reaches beyond the status of what has, so far, been achieved in “human evolutions”, since no-one could seriously state that the end of evolution has been reached. See also Note 5, above: There, Vollmer rejects such a term as it (unbeknownst to me) has already been introduced by H. Schriefers. However, the term will be maintained here, as it, to me, particularly in cultural evolution in man, appears to better express the necessary self-activity than the anonymous “emergence”. And thus the term “transcendence”, above all, also contains the act of the (temporary) creation of meaning that, with this cultural evolution, is also being addressed. Compare Vollmer, Auf der Suche nach Ordnung, p. 15: "Vielleicht erreichen wir ja dabei noch eine weitere, eine fünfte Weltbildstufe, eine Stufe etwa, auf der – wie in den Mythen – Fakten und Normen wieder zusammengehören ..." (Vollmer expresses here that we may, perhaps, reach a further, a fifth level of a world image, perhaps a level at which – as in the myths – facts and norms belong together, again . . . ).
(20) Even in science, the term “beauty” is spoken of, as, for example, of the “beauty of theories”, which, with Steven Weinberg, goes so far that he elevates the “beauty” of a theory to a criterion of its truth.
(21) "schön und gut" (beautiful and good) – with respect to this, see also the reflective attempts at imitating by means of enlightenment: as "gentleman" respectively as "honette homme".
(22) Leakey/Lewin offer an overview of the attempts at interpretation of cave paintings that exist, thus far (p. 313 ff.); according to Reinach and Abbé Breuil, we are dealing here with hunting magic, while André Leroi-Gourhan is of the opinion that here, structures of former society are being portrayed, particularly in the separation of male and female. The latest interpretation is rather going out from the kind of presentation and less from the meaning; thus, one the one hand, one finds geometric patterns, on the other hand, depictions of objects, and thirdly, depictions of beings that can be seen as a cross between animals and humans. As neuropsychological theory, this is associated with the state of the human mind during hallucination and its various states/stages (Lewis-Williams): "»Es gab Berichte über visuelle Halluzinationen, sehr genaue Beschreibungen«, sagt er. »Den Forschungen zufolge sieht man im frühen Stadium geometrische Formen, zum Beispiel Gitter, Zickzacklinien Punkte, Spiralen und Kurven.« (This writer states that there were reports of visual hallucinations, actually very accurate ones and that, as research shows, in the early stages, one sees geometric forms, for example, grids, zig-zag-lines, dots, spirals and curves.) These images, altogether six different types, have a white glow and are lively and full of energy. Such so-called ‘entoptic’ images – the term means >>inward looking<< -- are created through the basic structure of the nerve cells in the human brain. »Da sie aus dem Nervensystem stammen, sind alle Menschen in bestimmten veränderten Bewußtseinszuständen in der Lage, sie wahrzunehmen, unabhängig vom kulturellen Hintergrund«, says Lewis-Williams (this writer states that, since they originate in the nerve system, all humans, in certain states of changed consciousness, are in a position to perceive them, independently from (any) cultural background). In the second state of hallucination, humans try to give meaning to such images. The result of this depends on the cultural environment and on the present life circumstances of the individual. A number of curves can be seen as a group of several hills, provided that the individual is thinking of landscapes in the countryside, but also as waves, if he thinks of the sea. The San Shamans often interpret such groups or rows of waves as honeycombs, since bees represent a strong image of supernatural power, which people make use of when they fall into trance.
(23) Precisely that is what the, on the one hand parallel and signal processing, on the other hand, serial, layer-wise projection of neurons from the sensory organ, via the representative fields to the interpretative fields, accomplishes.
(24) Which proves how little distance there–-is—even today--between many such “elevated” individuals and their forerunner.
(25) Not without reason, the ancient Greeks used the term “téchne” to refer to—to us, today—completely different meanings such as art, artisanry, art work and science. Knowledge of rules and insight into the essential was what made an artist in contrast to our modern cult of the genius.
(26) This still certainly applies, today, if one looks at the gigantism of Napoleon III. and of Mitterand in Paris—and the demonic (=unreasonable, regressive) nature of such an architecture can be seen in Hitler’s buildings and plans...
(27) Joh. Chr. Fr. Hölderlin "Hyperion", First Book, 2nd Letter to Bellarmin
William H. Calvin, Die Entstehung von Intelligenz, in Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Spezial 3: Leben und Kosmos, p. 70 ff.
Francis Crick, Was die Seele wirklich ist – Die naturwissenschaftliche Erforschung des Bewußtseins, Rowohlt TB Verlag GmbH, Reinbek bei Hamburg June 1997 (Original Edition 1994)
Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes‘ Irrtum, Fühlen, Denken und das menschliche Gehirn, dtv, 2nd Ed. 1997
Daniel C. Dennett, Philosophie des menschlichen Bewußtseins, Hoffmann & Campe 1994, Chapter 13
Howard Gardner, Dem Denken auf der Spur, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1989
Richard Leakey/Roger Lewin, Der Ursprung des Menschen, Fischer TB, Frankfurt 1998 (1992/3)
Jeffrey M. Masson/Susan McCarthy, Wie Tiere fühlen, Rowohlt TB, Reinbek 1997
Gerhard Vollmer, Auf der Suche nach Ordnung, S. Hirzel Verlag, Stuttgart1995
Gerhard Vollmer, Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie, S. Hirzel Verlag, Stuttgart1994
Frans de Waal, Der gute Affe – Der Ursprung von Recht und Unrecht bei Menschen und anderen Tieren, C. Hanser Verlag München-Wien 1997
Here you will find two graphics on the overview of the brain as well as the central function of the Thalamus from Francis Crick's book.
Also, please have a look at this graphic, Graphic on the Structure of Awareness/Consciousness, which can exemplify the theory that is presented here (see also the link on the home page).
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