Chapter 1b

A harmony is a single thing

by Johannes Kepler Icon

The third feature is the reception of external things into the mind, and the necessity and manner of it.

A harmony is a single thing. The sensible terms outside the soul are not a single thing and can never be made one except within the soul.

However, they cannot be within the soul unless they are received inside it, which it does not need many words to prove from experience.

The craftsman of music in parts can indeed meditate on the harmony of two or more voices within his mind, even though he does not receive them into it.

But that harmony is not in virtue of that fact sensible, whereas we are speaking of the essence of what is sensible.

Yet what is the nature of that reception? Surely the sounds, to use a rather well-known example to stand for all, persist outside the ears, in the air, and so before the sounds do the motions of the bodies, according to the quantity of which the sounds follow?

Do they not remain in their bodies? By what means then do they enter?

I reply, partly actively, partly passively: actively, when they give out emanations—when struck, the sounds of their own motion; when they are shining, the rays of their own light and color; and, as we say, when we speak of objects moving our senses. Now moving is acting.

On the other hand they enter passively, not themselves as such, but by their emanations, which must always experience something passively, according to our manner of speaking, when they are felt, remembered, or compared.

In every way this very making of two terms into one in the mind, from which the sensible essence of harmony results, is in fact a relating and comparing in the case of things taken in conjunction which is of the same kind as seeing and hearing in the case of single things, and to that extent less.

Certainly all these are experienced passively, but are referred to equivocally, with great ambiguity of meaning.

But let us establish the degrees of passive experiences. First, to take an example, water is passive, if it is very cold and grows warm when fires are applied to it.

A second meaning is that moisture is passive, when it is actually active, that is to say in moistening what is dry, because part of it is seized by the pores of what is desiccated, and is mixed with it, which is passive.

Similarly water is also passive when it is sipped; for the thirsty person swallows it down, and absorbs part of it. But in a third meaning also water is passive in the swallowing, at least when it is in contact with the tongue, not only because it grows warm from the warmth of the tongue, though itself it also cools the tongue with its coldness, nor only because a bit of the water sticks on the tongue, but simply because it is touched by the tongue, which is like being very lightly hit, or struck, or pushed, which causes a local motion of the parts within the whole. Now being moved is passive.

Let the fourth meaning be that in which water is said to be passive when it emits a vapor and strikes the nostrils, and is perceived by smell ing. However, being perceived is passive; and in this case indeed it is not passive itself, but its corporeal effluvium is, and by that passive experience a bit of it is consumed. A fifth degree in which water is understood to be passive is when its noise is heard; for first the water itself is in motion, and second the immaterial emanation of the water, as it moves, is diffused into everything roundabout, and is received into the passages of the ears. This receiving is a passive experience, not of the water itself, but of its emanation, or of its material effusion; and in this reception something is lost in time and in a multiplicity of receptions. For the sound is rather dulled if it reaches the ears, or the clothes, of a great multitude, or if it is given out among falling snow.

Sixth, also when water is seen, it is passive. For when it gives out from its surface, or virtually so (that is from its c o lo rs ,in s o fa r as it is colored), rays to the eye, these rays are touched, reflected, refracted, brought to a point, and caught by the netlike coating when they are brought there. All these are passive experiences not of the water itself but of its immaterial emanation, or rays.

Those rays in this case lose nothing at their reception, either locally or in time; for when the thing which they touch is removed, they carry on beyond it, entirely unimpaired, which sound does not do.

Seventh, after these emanations, and to that extent the actual body of the water, have previously been active in a way on the bodily instruments of the senses, that is to say they have affected them with their own likeness, and have assimilated them to themselves, so that the little membranes of the tongue and skin have perceived its coldness and taste, and the spirits of the nostrils its smell, the spirits of hearing ring with its sound, and those of vision shine with its light. Thus an imprint and sensory emanation of it has been formed, which the eyes certainly exhibit even when it has been taken away, often against the man’s will.

In this case the sensible emanations are received within by entrances or openings of the senses by means of a depictive or imaginative power, are recognized by the common sense, are stored by the memory, are produced by recollection, and are discriminated by a superior faculty. Water is understood to experience all these things passively, not in itself, but in its sensible and intellectual emanations.

In that case, then, even the supreme faculty of the soul, which presides over number and comparisons, constructs and forms for itself from a number of intellectual emanations of things, a single emanation of relation, order, and comparison, and compares things which exist outside it with each other. This comparison, as we said above, when it is made about the things themselves, without any action of theirs, is understood to be a kind of passive experience on their part, in almost the same sense as when the reputation of someone who is not there and knows nothing about it is discussed in a law case, or when he is condemned to death, or proscribed. Indeed the resemblance is close in every way.

For just as someone in that position, although he himself feels no harm at that time, and therefore experiences nothing, yet a little later is aware in reality of the force of what he has experienced passively, in the same way also voices, and anything else whatever that shares in this similarity, to the extent to which they have satisfied our intelligence in this comparison, are either continued, or rejected, avoided, prevented obstructed, suppressed, and ended. However, I do not say that in this case sounds have this passive experience in respect of the consequent result, but in the actual fact of the mind’s comparing them with each other. This long explanation of the degree of equivocal meaning in which I speak of this mental comparison as a passive experience is sufficient. But my prolixity in listing these meanings has not been in vain; for by this effort we shall from now on be wonderfully assisted in recognizing the nature of the harmonic faculty and in completing this part of metaphysics, which Aristotle did not even glance at in passing.

From this, what I was previously arguing is also clear, that is to say that the actual formal sensible part of harmony, as harmony, is an accident of sensible things, just as, of course, it is an accident of the Same things to be seen and heard and so forth. Second it is evident that even sensible harmonies are things which are in some sense abstract from actual things, certainly insofar as it is not external things in themselves, but the emanations of things, which enter through the senses, which are brought before the tribunal of the soul, and are made the terms of sensible harmonic proportion. Yet on the other hand these harmonies are still concrete in a double sense: first, because these emanations of sensible things are not emanations of their mere quantity, but also of their sensible quality, say of sound or light and so on; and second because these sensible emanations, as sensible, cannot give light within the mind unless the actual things of which they are emanations are also present and remain present outside.

For if they are taken away, their emanations within also cease, those of light indeed, with respect to their radiation, on the instant, but those of sound within a very brief moment of time.

There remains indeed in the instruments of sensation a certain impression, such as that of light in the eye; but it is not an emanation of the external thing, but rather another emanation of an emanation, impressed on the body, and now become a momentary quality of the body, just as in optics colors, by the pure and very little colored light of the Sun, take on the power of radiating in color in every direction. And this is what we were also arguing at the outset, that the sensible terms and the soul must be present, and deliver their mutual efforts, actively and passively, the former by moving the senses, the latter by comparing. Hence the essence of sensible harmony is established.

Here someone may object that the soul in comparing does not make the appropriate proportion but discovers it. (This was the fourth formal basic element of harmony above.) Therefore, it seems that

i i i ^ ^ the soul cau be absent without loss of the essence of harmony, I reply by inverting the question. To find the appropriate propor

tion in sensible things is to uncover and recognize and bring to light a similarity of that proportion in sensible things to some particular archetype of the truest harmony which is within the soul. Therefore, just as the Athenians found some virtue in Zeno, and did not find the privileges of the Prytaneum in him but conferred them on him, which Zeno could not achieve without the Athenians, so the soul finds order and proportion in the sounds and rays (although it does not find even that outside, but in fact the terms, as stated), but makes this proportion harmonic itself by comparison with its archetype.

It could not be called harmonic, and would be allotted no power in moving spirits, if this archetype did not exist. Enough, then, on sensible harmonies.


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