Despite these parallels (see Albertazzi, 2001), it was Ehrenfels who tematized the topic. By asking “is a melody (i) a mere sum of elements, or (ii) something novel in relation to this sum, something that certainly goes hand in hand with but is distinguishable from the elements.” Like Stumpf (1890), he concluded that it is much more than the sum of the parts. “the qualities are not in the least changed … but a new relation is introduced between them, which establishes a closer unity than that between members of a mere sum (Stumpf, 1890, p. 64). In line with this theoretical background, and rejecting a simplistic approach to perception, Ehrenfels explains Gestalt as follows,
By 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 of that quality (Ehrenfels, 1890; Smith, 1988, p. 93).
Ehrenfels foci Gestalt qualities in its relations (Ehrenfels, 1890; Smith, 1988, p. 101), in which the movement of going from an unintuitive to the corresponding intuitive presentation gives rise to a Gestalt quality,
Given the Gestalt nature of relations, Gestalt qualities can be compared to one another and give rise to increasingly higher order Gestalt qualities. Ehrenfels adds to this the “intimate unity with which we combine presentational contents of physical and psychical occurences” (Ehrenfels 1890, tr. Smith 1988, p. 107).
Thus, the goal that should be pursued in the study of Gestalt qualitative relations is, the discover and analysis of necessary functional connections among visual phenomena, identification of the conditions that help or hinder appearance or the degree of their evidence, in other words: determination of the laws which the phenomenological field obeys. And this without leaving the phenomenological domain; without, that is, referring to the underlying neurophysical processes . . . The influence of such processes and activities certainly cannot be denied, but they must not be identified with seeing…The experimental phenomenology of vision is not concerned with the brain, but with that result of the brain’s activity that is seeing (Kanizsa, 1991, pp. 43-44).
The study of Gestalt qualitative relations does not obviously deny the existence of stimuli, nor the correlation between the physical stimulus and the behavioural response, but stimuli are seen as the triggers to the perceptual experience. For that reason, the phenomenological method distinguishes between what concerns psychophysics of brain analysis, and what concerns qualitative analysis of the phenomena.