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The Imagination: The Imagined World (Part I)


The Imagination: The Imagined World
(Part I)

Preface: this was the first part of my two articles on imagination. My opinion was based on the assumption that every space on reality was fulfilled by images. But this images were strange and anonymous. They had power and became winner against our personal imagination and images. Man’s personal imagination and images were killed. Then, as the result, man lived this strange images. This situation was very dangerous because the creativity of personal imagination became impotence. In this article i wanted to underline this situation and invited you to revive our personal imagination. Therefore, we might understood the context of imagination (in this first part) and the power of our personal imagination (in the second article)

When people destroyed mall, public transportations, an office, and so on, i thought, their target was not this things. Their only target was the image. Mall, public transportations, office may be, for them, were the images of someone’s power, ownship, etc. This power/ownship and so on were the things that they wanted to destroy. When people chose special and cheap shirts in market, they was choosing self definition, the image. When someone looked at his/her darling’s photo, and at that time she or he said that his/her darling was beautiful/handsome, he/she was experiencing the meaning of image. Life was really created, arranged, directed, and fulfilled by images. Man defined and saw him/hersel, others, and all of the world by images. By this same images too, human could destroyed and killed the others. Because of images, human could be laugh, sad, and happy. The human’s life wasn’t natural but cultural: the images world, the imagined world.

Unfortunately, in this images world, we were surrounded by images that came to us without selves' filteritation. We were detected by the anonim or images that came from the web that couldn’t be traced, and not our creation. They came into us by thousands of signifiers. Thousands of self images, for example, surrounded us by billboard images, entertainment, film, news paper, information in internet that took a focus point to define our perception on reality, including self-reality. In this imagined world, subject as a center became “ex-center”, became impotence. Subject lived like a game operator in this thousands of images: subject has died.

If this images had an essential position in human life, there’s no another way: we might lived the individual imagination (as human’s own to create the images) back so man didn’t alienated. But the problem was man understood this imagination as an abject faculty. Imagination was, sometimes, seen as illution, fantasy, or intuition. Therefore, in this article, i wanted to clarifye then concept of imagination.


Generally, imagination was understood as an ability/capability to create images or mentally concepts that were gotten from the reality by the sense organs. There were some points in this simple definition. Firstly, imagination was the ability, meant that this imagination was the jargon of man. Plants or animals didn’t have this ability. Second, the imagination process resulted images as its substantial things, therefore imagination process was always followed by the creation of images. Third, this process was happened mentally, meant that the images weren’t visual (could be seen) or textural (could be touched) things/events. For example, the picture was resulted from imagination process of artist that could be seen and the images on artist’s mind were two different things, although this artist's images on his mind could be traced in his/her picture. Still from the general definition above, the imagination didn’t result only images but mentally concepts too. But this mentally concepts always had connection with the images.

Concept of imagination, in daily practice, was always misunderstood and connected to concept of fantasy, illusion, intuition. Fantasy was the ability to think the unreal and impossible things/events. Fantasy was the result of illusion. Illusion was meant as an untruth idea, understanding, impression on something, or the misperception about something. This illusion could be created. For example, David Copperfield was an illusionist that could created the untruth impression for public. If illusion or fantasy was connected to the images of impossible things/events, imagination was connected to the images of logic and real (possible) things/ events.

The concept of intuition, sometimes, was mixtured with this concept of intuition, especially in philosophy’s terminology. Bergson explained intuition as the apprehention of truth, as the ability to make someone sure on something as the causa prima. Intuition, therefore, was same with prediction on something. Imagination, in the other side, was more than prediction. It was logic and posibble things/events.

The History of Concept

The concept of imagination have been evolving on man’s history. I tried to explain this change into three era: pre-modern, modern, and postmodern.

1). Pre-modern
Pre-modern's concept on imagination was represented by Jewish, Helenic, and Middle Age’s thought. In the Jewish’s culture, imagination was understood as an ethical awareness on either the truth and the evil or the past and the future. This thought was based on the history of Adam and Eva’s fall (Genesis (2:8). There were two trees in Eden that their fruits were forbidden to be eaten, the tree of knowing the truth and the evil and the tree of knowing the life. But Eve, then Adam, falled into sin and ate this fruits. After they ate that fruits, they got something that they didn’t have before: the awareness (that they’re naked). Jewish’s culture believed that fruits as imagination that was God’s own, but was stolen by man. Therefore, althought this imagination enabled man to aware the opposition between the truth and the evil or the past and the future, it was still understood as sin. So, in Jewish’s tradition, it was a sin to imagine God on the picture or everything because it was a part of imagination process. Imagination was understood pejoratively in this tradition

Helenic’s thought on imagination based on the Greec’s myth of Prometeus who stolen the gods’ “fire” and brought it to man. This “fire" was translated as the imagination that enabled man to abandon or escape from inhuman condition and blindness. This fire (imagination),too, gave man the power to create and transform nature into culture. So, the concept of imagination got new understanding: epistemologic dimention in this culture. But in the other side, this imagination that gave man the power to create the culture, caused the relation between gods and man was broken. Once again, the imagination got the pejorative meaning: as the opposition to the higher power.

Plato, then, continued this thought with saw imagination as an imitation from the higher world (spiritual world). He gave new understanding on imagination: metaphysics dimension. As an imitation, imagination couldn’t touched the really truth. So, the imagination, by Plato, placed in the lowest place of science, ratio at the highest. Ratio, and nothing else, was the only man’s faculty that be able to contemplate the truth (spiritual state), as imaginatin just resulted an illusion in science. Aristotle tried to change this thought from metaphysics to psychologic dimention. He concentrated his thought on imagination as a mental representation. As a mental representation (phantasma), imagination had a duty to mediate sense organs and ratio. Therefore, all of images and mental concepts were accepted from reality, that were brought to ratio by imagination. For Aristotle, imagination and sensation had same existence.

In the Middle Age, Agustinus proclaimed imagination as a disturber to enter into spiritual contemplation. Spiritual state was understood by contemplation (noesis), not by imagination (phantasia). Imagination, then, just arranged and was connected to the unexperienced (for example, the images of the past) and the unreal (the images of myth, numbers, etc).

2). Modern
In the modernism, concept of imagination was changed substantially. “The fire” was not stolen from higher state but something that existed in man, in subject. This fire, the imagination, therefore, got central place in epistemology, aesthetic, and ontology. Immanuel Kant proclaimed the transcendental imagination. The trancendental imagination was understood as the hidden cause of every science, knowing, meaning, or discursive reasoning. This transcendental imagination was inherent entity of man, that inhered in pre-conditioned human’s experience on reality. As the result, imagination wasn’t the mediator between the senses organ senses and ratio but the radix or “manager” of this two faculties. In the other words, imagination (Einbildungskraft) was the synthesis between the thesis, ratio, and the antithesis, sense. The transcendental imagination had three aspects: productive, reproductive, and aesthetic aspect. Productive because imagination presented all images that caught by sense organs without filteritation. Reproductive because the imagination filtered all the images with the specific rule (schemata). Aesthetic because there was harmony between imagination and understanding that couldn’t be conceptualized, just be sensed.

Then, Sartre in “The Imagination” (1936) and Psychology of Imagination (1940) deepened imagination to the very humanly aspect. This thought can be resumed on this four points:
a. image was more an events than a thing of knowing. Image was a productive activity that focused on an object with specific way.
b. Image was a quasi-observation. The imaginative awareness projected the imagined object. This process didn’t need real observation, but unreal one or quasi observation.
c. Image was a spontanity. Image was always active to create its self and meaning spontaneously.
d. Image was a nothingness. Image was differed from an understanding or perception because it assumed its object as nothing.

3). Postmodern
Ego-centrism in the modernism’s thought was changed by postmodernism. As the result, image wasn’t understood just representationally, but this image really real fulfilled all the space in reality, image surrounded man and created the imagined world. This new understanding based on the reality that nowadays, our space full with images. Unfortunately, this images couldn’t be traced its origin and moved in the significance between each other without end. This anonim/strange images lived in and created a simulacrum space in the reality. As the result, our reality could be said as the imagined world: the world that was controlled by the anonim/strange images. In this world that was controlled by anonim images, the subject’s imagination was killed.

Lacan named this condition as the death of imaginary self that killed by simbolic self. Images didn’t create by subject again. Foucault proclaimed the death of man that followed by the death of subject’s faculties, including imagination. The creative imagination of subject has died and prisoned in the structuralism of the strange images. Roland Barthez had same thought with proclaiming the death of otoritative imagination of subject. The subject’s otoritative imagination was killed by collective imagination. Subject, in this loosing situation, escaped from his/her imagination and chose to live the superior imagination (the collective imagination)

The end of this history of imagination was very tragic. Our personal imagination was killed and man chose the winner: the anonim/strange imagination. But, was it true that our personal imagination really died? I didn’t think so. Our personal imagination wasn’t really killed and died. Our imagination still a creative and never ending faculty. Therefore, man might to revive his/her creative imagination. For this purpose, man might knowing the wonderfull power of his/her imagination. I tried to explain the power of man’s imagination on the second part of my two

Published: 2007-01-25
Author: agustinus hartono

About the author or the publisher
Male, not married, fresh graduated in philosophy.I'm very interested in writing articles or books about philosophy or politic. On march of 2007, I publish my first book tittled "Skizoanalisis:Sebuah Genealogi Hasrat".In this book,i claim that the history based on ratio had produced an unconsciousness abnormality.Therefore,I invite you to live your life based on your desire to live the real life.nowadays,all of us can say that it's a new era of

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