Christian von Ehrenfels

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Maria Christian Julius Leopold Freiherr (Christian) von Ehrenfels (20 June 1859 – 8 September 1932) was an Austrian philosopher, and is known as one of the founders and precursors of Gestalt psychology.


  • Not all desired things are valuable, but rather only those which are worthy of being desired. Whether this worthiness belongs to a thing, however, is not in the particular case yielded from the investigation of the objective nature of the thing, but rather from the subjective consideration of the desire directed at the thing. From the examination of our own mental activity in the act of desire we discern whether this is directed at something valuable or not.
    • Christian von Ehrenfels (1897, 3–4), as cited in: Robin Rollinger and Carlo Ierna, "Christian von Ehrenfels", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Winter 2016 Edition, Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

"On Gestalt Qualities," 1890[edit]

Christian von Ehrenfels (1890), "On Gestalt Qualities," translated in: Barry Smith, ‎Christian Freiherr von Ehrenfels , Foundations of Gestalt Theory, 1988.

  • Is it not conceivable, that each tone is the fusion of a sum of still more primitive elements with the Gestalt qualities bound up therewith?... No conclusive argument can be brought forward even against the possibility that we may not, penetrating ever more deeply in this manner, finally arrive at a single proto-quality, or at least at a single quality-continuum, from out of which distinct contents (colours, tones, Y) are generated by the fusion of distinct combinations with the Gestalt qualities bound up therewith, [so that] one can no longer shrink from the idea that tones and colours might be exhibited as the products of a much higher degree of complication of proto-elements as yet unknown.
    • p. 16
  • By a Gestalt quality we understand a positive content of presentation bound up in consciousness with the presence of complexes of mutually separable (i.e., independently presentable) elements. That complex of presentations which is necessary for the existence of a given Gestalt quality we call the foundation [Grundlage] of that quality.
    • p. 93
  • For the intimate fusion of touch, temperature and sometimes also taste and smell sensations into a single unified total impression raises the question of whether we do not have here Gestalt qualities which are built up upon a foundation belonging to several sensory regions. As can easily be recognized, it is just as possible that a complex of, say, touch and temperature sensations should provide the foundation for a Gestalt quality as should a complex of sound sensations. Indeed no a priori objection can be raised even against the idea that there should exist sound-colour-Gestalten spanning the data of the senses of sound and vision as something like a bridge - even though we do not believe that we can detect anything of this sort in sensation.
    • p. 97
  • We must also accept the possibility of Gestalt qualities comprehending complexes of elements of different categories.
    • p. 97
  • It will first of all be clear that not only incompatible but also compatible characters can be thought in emptily intended combinations. This indeed takes place very often, as a result of that parsimony which nature always brings to bear in the achievement of her aims. Unintuitive presentation demands much less expenditure of effort than the intuitive, and thereby goes proxy for the latter in very many cases. Thus anyone confronted with, say, a complicated description of a work of architecture will first of all form a merely indirect presentation of it, which will then be rounded out by gradual execution or fulfilment of the various merely intended components, to yield an intuitive total picture.
    • p. 104

Quotes about Christian von Ehrenfels[edit]

  • Amusing scene when Prof. Ehrenfels, who grows more and more handsome and who B with his bald head sharply outlined against the light in a curve that is puffed out at the top, his hands pressed together, with his full voice, which he modulates like a musical instrument, and a confident smile at the meeting B declares himself in favour of mixed races.
    • R. Rug and K. Mulligan, “Theorie und Trieb — Bemerkungen zu Ehrenfels”, in Fabian 1986a, 214–246; as cited in Smith (1988)
  • Like many of the leading figures in the Gestalt movement, Ehrenfels was a passionate musician. He took lessons in composition from Bruckner, and made a name for himself as the librettist of a number of Wagnerian music-dramas. Ehrenfels made a name for himself also as an exponent of the evolutionary theories of Darwin. He corresponded with Sigmund Freud, and gave lectures on his own peculiar views concerning sexual ethics and related subjects to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.
    • Barry Smith, Austrian Philosophy: The Legacy of Franz Brentano, p. 243

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: