I am sure you remember the plain citizen Jourdain in Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme who, nouveau riche, travels in the sophisticated circles of the French aristocracy and who is eager to learn. On one occasion his new friends speak about poetry and prose, and Jourdain discovers to his amazement and great delight that whenever he speaks, he speaks prose. He is overwhelmed by this discovery: “I am speaking Prose! I have always spoken Prose! I have spoken Prose throughout my whole life!” A similar discovery has been made not so long ago, but it was neither of poetry nor of prose—it was the environment that was discovered. I remember when, perhaps ten or fifteen years ago, some of my American friends came running to me with the delight and amazement of having just made a great discovery: “I am living in an Environment! I have always lived in an Environment! I have lived in an Environment throughout my whole life!” However, neither M. Jourdain nor my friends have as yet made another discovery, and that is when M. Jourdain speaks, may it be prose or poetry, it is he who invents it, and, likewise, when we perceive our environment, it is we who invent it.
Every discovery has a painful and a joyful side: painful, while struggling with a new insight; joyful, when this insight is gained. I see the sole purpose of my presentation to minimize the pain and maximize the joy for those who have not yet made this discovery; and for those who have made it, to let them know they are not alone. Again, the discovery we all have to make for ourselves is the following postulate.
The burden is now upon me to support this outrageous claim. I shall proceed by first inviting you to participate in an experiment; then I shall report a clinical case and the results of two other experiments. After this I will give an interpretation, and thereafter a highly compressed version of the neurophysiological basis of these experiments and my postulate of before. Finally, I shall attempt to suggest the significance of all that to aesthetical and ethical considerations.