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1. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Saulius Geniusas Editor’s Introduction
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2. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Claudia Baracchi The Cosmos of Imagination
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This essay raises the question of the character and status of imagination in ancient Greek philosophy. It is often said that neither Plato nor Aristotle conceived of imagination in genuinely productive terms. The point, however, is not approaching ancient thought while thinking with Kant, as if we were looking for proto-Kantian insights in antiquity. Ancient thought is not a series of ‘tentative steps’ destined to reach a full-blown articulation in modernity, let alone an anticipation of the first critique. On the contrary, it is essential to acknowledge the discontinuities that make the ancient discourse remote and, in many respects, opaque, hidden from us. On the ground of such assumptions, the essay addresses the understanding of imagination (eikasia, phantasia) in the Greek context, focusing in particular on Plato’s Timaeus. First, we consider how imagination, precisely in its creative aspect, operates at the very heart of philosophical argumentation. Plato’s emphatic awareness of this disallows the rhetoric of philosophy as the discipline of truth (of apodictic necessity, objectivity, and neutrality). In fact, it calls for a profound re-thinking of the relation between creativity and the philosophical turn to the ‘things themselves.’ Timaeus imagines the cosmos as a theatrical device: the place of seeing and being seen, of contemplation and the originary emergence of images. This evokes an understanding of imagination outside the order of subjectivity and its faculties, i.e., a meditation on the impersonal character of production and the force of images (of symbols) arising without being constituted by ‘me.’
3. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Justin Humphreys Aristotelian Imagination and Decaying Sense
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Aristotelian imagination is widely understood as a psychological power by which retained perceptual states recur in consciousness. According to this view, imagination is decaying sense, a part of the psyche that is parasitic on perceptual acts for its content. This paper disputes this reading and provides an alternative account of Aristotle’s concept of imagination. I argue that Aristotelian imagination is a power of the psyche that is both productive like intellect, and presentational like perception. Unlike perception and intellect, however, imagination does not correctly discriminate among beings, and thus cannot be relied upon to give one knowledge of the world. When one accepts this alternative conception of Aristotelian imagination, it becomes clear how it can take on the peculiar epistemic function of allowing a particular serve as the vehicle of a universal thought. This paper argues that Aristotle’s explanation of valid judgments in geometry depends on the imagination to allow the perception of a particular diagram to give rise to the intellectual grasp of a general proposition.
4. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Gregory S. Moss Absolute Imagination: the Metaphysics of Romanticism
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Carnap famously argued that metaphysics unavoidably involves a confusion between science and poetry. Unlike the lyric poet, who does not attempt to make an argument, the metaphysician attempts to make an argument while simultaneously lacking in musical talent. Carnap’s objection that metaphysics unavoidably involves a blend of philosophy and poetry is not a 20th century insight. Plato, in his beautifully crafted Phaedo, presents us with the imprisoned Socrates, who having been condemned to death for practicing philosophy in the Apology, has a dream in which he realizes that he ought to make music. In this dialogue, however, Plato indicates no hint of the scorn that Carnap has for metaphysics—rather Socrates’ friends find him setting Aesop’s fables to verse. In the modern era, Nietzsche re-introduced the ‘music making Socrates’ in his Birth of Tragedy. But Nietzsche is not the first to revive the concept in modern philosophy. Before Nietzsche’s call for a new music-making Socrates, the early German Romantics, in particular Schlegel, explicitly called for the identification of poetry and science in the concept of Poesie. As Schlegel writes: ‘Alle Kunst soll Wissenschaft werden, und alle Wissenschaft Kunst werden; Poesie und Philosophie sollen vereinigt sein.’ On the one hand, in Ion Socrates is not wrong to critique Ion for not knowing the significance of his own work. On the other hand, Socrates himself recognizes in Phaedo that he is guilty of failing to heed the call to make music. Long misunderstood, the Romantic concept of Poesie is not mere irrationalism, for it offers an aesthetic metaphysics of the Absolute. Romanticism is indeed a philosophy of the Absolute, but one which cannot conceive of any solution to the profound impasses that confront philosophical knowing except by learning to make music.
5. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Jagna Brudzińska Imitation and Individuation: The Creative Power of Phantasy
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A crucial feature of our individual biography is grounded in our common corporeal structure. Our life begins with a strong bodily intertwining that has an essential biographical and existential meaning. To elucidate this pre-egological form of connection between subjects, I refer to a peculiar form of sympathetical experience which precedes the intersubjective experience proper. From the genetic phenomenological point of view, sympathetical experience is characterized by a prereflective form of intentionality, which I describe as trans-bodily intentionality, as well as by fusional dynamics realised through a special kind of immediate corporeal fantasy. Focusing on the individuation processes of personal life, I show to which degree trans-bodily intentional dynamics result in the dissolution of the subject’s centricity or at least in its fluidification. Such a fluidification, moreover, should be systematically understood as a condition of possibility for the very process of becoming a Self. In my contribution, I discuss to which degree the corporeal phantasy plays a decisive rule in the creative process of becoming a Self.
6. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Michela Summa Is Make-Believe Only Reproduction?: Remarks on the Role of Fiction in Shaping Our Sense of Reality
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This paper develops an analysis of the relation between fiction and make-believe based on the achievements of imagination. The argument aims at a “reciprocal supplementation” between two approaches to fiction. According to one approach, pretense or make-believe structures play a crucial role in our experience of fiction. Discussing Husserl’s view on bound imagining and Walton’s account of fiction as make-believe, I show why pretense and make-believe cannot thereby be reduced to the mere reproduction of something we would experience as original. According to the other approach, which is presented in Ricoeur’s work on imagination, fiction exemplifies a productive or creative power of imagination that is not active in pretense or make-believe activities. The reciprocal supplementation between these two approaches concerns the following aspects: on the one hand, I wish show why Husserl and Walton allow us to rectify Ricoeur’s claim that make-believe is only reproductive. On the other hand, taking up some of Ricoeur’s insights, I wish to clarify why such an impact should be understood in terms of transformation.
7. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Witold Płotka Twardowski, Ingarden, and Blaustein on Creative Imagination: A Study on Early Phenomenology
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The article is a critical elaboration of two phenomenological theories of imagination formulated by Ingarden and Blaustein in their discussion with Twardowski. Ingarden, as well as Blaustein were students of both Twardowski and Husserl, however, they defined imagination in two different contexts: whereas for Ingarden a proper way of analysis of imagination is ontology, for Blaustein imagination is the object of descriptive psychology, connected mainly with an aesthetic experience. As a result, the question of creativity of imagination is described in two different, but intertwined ways. For Ingarden, creative imagination is understood as a noematical structure which generates the imagined object as a purely intentional object. Ingarden’s description expresses the ontological status of the imagined object as ontologically dependent on the act of imagining, and on the content of the imagined object. In his review of Ingarden’s Das literarische Kunstwerk, Blaustein was clear that one has to revise Ingarden’s theory of purely intentional object by adopting it to imaginative intentionality and aesthetic experience. To elaborate Ingarden’s theory of imagination, Blaustein discusses it also with reference to Twardowski. Blaustein claims that Twardowski’s Cartesian differentiation between perceptive, reproductive, and creative imagination is based on a vague criterion, and moreover it does not refer to two key notions of descriptive psychology, i.e., the notion of the representative content, and the intentional object. As a result of his critique, Blaustein limits the concept of creative imagination to ‘fantasy’, understood as secondary imagination.
8. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Dalius Jonkus Aesthetic A Priori and Embodied Imagination
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This paper discusses the modern idea of imagination and its various transformations in the phenomenological conceptual frameworks of Edward Casey, Mikel Dufrenne (1910-1995), Max Scheler (1874-1928) and Vasily Sesemann (1884-1963). I would like to raise and critically assess questions regarding the role of imagination in our consciousness: whether imagination is a productive or reproductive activity; and how, if at all, aesthetic expression limits the imagination. Casey criticizes Dufrenne for his attempt to unite imagination with aesthetic expression. He argues for the autonomy of the imagination but leaves the question of the relationship between the imagination and perception unanswered. Dufrenne partially shares his theory of imagination with Sesemann. Both philosophers claim that imagination is a reproductive activity rather than a productive one in the sense that it is limited by the forms of the material a priori. In other words, aesthetic expression has to obey the principle of correlation between percipiens and perceptum. Creativity becomes possible when the creator is able to reproduce in his expression another subject’s possible perceptivity. Max Scheler emphasized the correlative connection of spiritual activity with the world. He linked the concept of imagination to the practical being in the world. In Sesemann’s aesthetics the role of embodied imagination in artistic creation and the perception of aesthetic objects were also considered. Both authors argued that the connection between imagination and the essential modes of the world’s givenness is guaranteed by the mode of embodied imagination. Both acknowledged that imagination is related to unconscious desires and drive. Both authors stated that the schematisms of imagination express the style of the perception of the world. The fact that imagination is an embodied phenomenon is illustrated by the way it exists in the world, since imagination is essentially a free activity restricted only by “the style of the world’s horizon.”
9. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Roger W. H. Savage Reason, Action, and the Creative Imagination
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The exemplary value of individual moral and political acts provides a unique vantage point for inquiring into the role of the creative imagination in social life. Drawing on Kant’s concept of productive imagination, I argue that an act’s exemplification of a fitting response to a moral or political problem or crisis is comparable to the way that a work of art expresses the ‘thought’ or ‘idea’ to which it gives voice. The exercise of practical reason, or phronesis, is akin to the way that a work augments the practical field of our experiences in this respect. For, like a work of art, the act produces the rule to be followed by means of the example that it sets. Accordingly, I explain how the injunction issuing from the act can be credited to the way that the singular case summons its rule. The singular character of the injunction issuing from the act thus brings to the fore the relation between reflective judgment and this injunction’s normative value. The conjunction of reason, action, and the creative power of imagination offers a critical point of access for interrogating the normative force of claims rooted in individual acts. By setting reason, action, and imagination in the same conceptual framework, I therefore highlight the creative imagination’s subversive role in countering hegemonic systems and habits of thought through promoting the causes of social and political struggles.
10. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Mario Wenning The Dignity of Utopian Imagination
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The utopian imagination is ambivalent in that it both escapes from, while also critically engaging with contemporary societies and forms of living. This paper calls to mind the dignity of utopian longing as well as common objections against political interpretations of utopia. Philosophical utopias, it is argued, make deliberative use of the imagination by sharpening a sense of possibility and providing reasons for (or against) utopian thought-images. On this account, utopias draw on irony and satire as constructive modes of imagining unrealized potentials and exposing what falls short of these potentials. Thus conceived, the utopian imagination is not the enemy, but an essential aid of practical reason.
11. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Jeremy C A Smith, Paul Blokker, Natalie J. Doyle Editorial Introduction
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themed section: american imaginaries
12. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Wolfgang Knöbl ‘Civilizing’ the Americas! A concept goes West!
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As is well known, the concept of civilization and all the imaginaries around this term played an important role in imperial contexts insofar as mostly Western states legitimated their oftentimes ruthless behaviour in other parts of the world by referring to their ‘civilizing missions’. What is not so well-known, however, at least not in the so-called West, is that the concept of ‘civilization’ also played an enormous role in conflicts within (‘Western’) societies, conflicts that were not necessarily shaped by racial categories. The article shows how the concept of ‘civilization’ came into being in France in the middle of the 18th century before it spread into other European languages and—by doing so—slightly changed its meanings depending on peculiar socio-political contexts. Such a change of meaning also happened, of course, when the concept was adopted in the Americas. Contrasting the cases of the United States of America on the one hand and ‘Argentina’ on the other, it will be demonstrated how and why intellectuals in the first half of the 19th century made use of this concept and changed it according to the conflicts they perceived as vital in their interpretation of their own society. Tracing the intercontinental history of the concept makes it again clear how tricky it might be to use ‘civilization’ and ‘civilizations’ as analytical tools in order to theorize historical paths and patterns in different parts of the world.
13. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Jeremy C A Smith North America’s Metropolitan Imaginaries
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Scholars of modernity have taken a particular interest in processes of urbanization and—thinking of Simmel, Benjamin, Mumford and Weber—the character of different varieties of city. From a different angle, notions of urban imaginary have gained greater purchase in the field of contemporary urban studies in comparative analysis of varieties of city. This essay begins with notes on both classical accounts of the city in social theory and current concepts of urban imaginaries. The notes revolve around the essay’s main topic: the institution of cities of New World, specifically those of the United States and Canada. Paralleling Castoriadis’ conception of the imaginary institution, the present author argues for a more exact notion of metropolitan imaginaries, differentiated from the broader subject of urban imaginaries. ‘Metropolitan imaginaries’ denotes processes of urbanization at the heart of networks of migration, transport, and flows of capital and culture. As part of larger imaginaries, metropolises generate immigrant cities. The specific kind of creation in question produces creativity also by concentrating intellectual and creative schools of design in architecture and visual culture. In sum, metropolises are not merely part of networks of connection and creation; they produce networks and act as the hubs of interaction and creativity within larger social imaginaries. The essay explores this argument in the contexts of US and Canadian modernity and state formation, with specific foci on New York, Chicago, and Toronto. The conclusion notes two limitations to the case presented here and sketches planned directions for future research.
14. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Martín Plot Political Horizons in America
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In this paper, I go back to French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s influence on Claude Lefort’s theory of democracy in order to offer a revised understanding of political regimes as coexisting and competing horizons of politics. These horizons develop from differing positions regarding the political enigma of the institution of society—its staging, its shaping, and its making sense of itself. A theological understanding of such political institution of society will be described as fundamentally voluntaristic, while an epistemic understanding will be described as, in its radical iteration, potentially totalitarian. This theorization is triggered by an interpretive perplexity: what happened to the United States in the aftermath of 9/11, in its War on Terror, in its committing of the supreme international crime of aggressive warfare, in its embracement of a massive policy of executive, global targeted assassinations and of a white nationalist, xenophobic politics? Is the theologico-political horizon becoming once again dominant in America? Is the epistemic, plutocratic regime taking over instead? Are they coordinated in their effort to undermine an egalitarian understanding of the American republic? These are the interrogative driving forces behind this investigation.
15. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Gustavo Morello Latin America’s Contemporary Religious Imaginary
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This paper explores how the unfulfilled promises of modernity, both of security and prosperity, affect the Latin American religious imaginary. I study the idea of a ‘religious social imaginary’ not only as a theoretical construct, but also as an interpretative tool to analyze empirical data. This imaginary is composed of an image of the divine in relationship with humanity, a set of cultural practices that shape these interactions, and the expression of a moral order that mirrors this construction of divinity. I use a nonrandom sample of 12 in-depth, semi-structured life history and object elicitation interviews with poor Latin Americans from Córdoba, Argentina, Montevideo, Uruguay, and Lima, Peru. Latin Americans of low income and limited educational backgrounds are the best informants for this study because they are, paradoxically, both the people modernity left behind as well as the popular image of a threat to modernity’s benefits for the rest of the population. I find that the participants construct an image of an accessible, intimate divinity that provides both companionship and protection, which manifests in other people as well as objects, and requires believers to embody these same caring characteristics. I propose that the construction of this contemporary Latin American religious imaginary is not only a response to the unique experience of modernity in the region, but also a tool of resistance against the hegemony inherent in modernity.
16. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Peter Wagner Social and Political Philosophy, Historical-Comparative Sociology and the Critical Diagnosis of the Present: a Reply
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In reply to the contributions to Social Imaginaries vol. 4, no. 1, this article reviews the development of the research programme that the author has been pursuing over more than three decades. It places the emphasis on the conceptual and methodological requirements for a historical sociology of social change. It insists, on the one hand, on the need to avoid overly strong conceptual presuppositions to analyze social phenomena of large scale and long duration, while, on the other hand, sustaining the notion that a minimum of social and political philosophy as well as philosophy of history is necessary to comprehend the ways in which history is directed. Further emphasis is given to the difficulties that arise when studying social phenomena before 1800 and outside Europe, due to the strong epistemic impact European global domination has had since the “great divergence” at around 1800. The article concludes with reflections on the adequate kind of conceptual distinctions that are needed when analyzing large-scale phenomena such as “societies” as well as on the link between scholarly work and a critical, action-oriented diagnosis of the present time.
17. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Dmitri Nikulin The Eternal Return of the Other: Benjamin on the Social and Political Effects of Boredom in Modernity
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This article investigates the constitutive ties of modernity and the modern subject to the phenomenon of boredom, through its interpretation by Walter Benjamin. The nineteenth century—with Paris as its capital—forms the material for this interpretation, and the fragmentary constellations of quotation and reflection in Convolute D of The Arcades Project present boredom both in its social aspect (the city as protagonist) and as experience. A number of the forms of boredom is thus elaborated: the relation of city dweller to nature and the cosmos, as weather; in its temporal orientation, as waiting; the mechanistic character of the modern world and its subject, as repetition; in the cycles of production and consumption, as the ideological boredom of the ruling class. Among three of Benjamin’s typologies for the bored modern subject—the gambler, the flaneur, and the one who waits—I turn particularly to the experience of the flaneur, the dedicatee of Convolute D. In flaneurie the experience of boredom is accumulated and distributed, and in this way the flaneur is in the city but also constitutes and memorializes it, as boredom. This ambivalent relation to the urban fabric and landscape is also captured in his characteristic observation and exhibition, his consumption without acquisition and without production. After considering some possible antitheses to Benjamin’s types of boredom, I conclude with the reflection that passing over boredom to its opposite would require the overcoming of modern subjectivity itself.
18. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Aaron C. McKeil The Modern International Imaginary: Sketching Horizons and Enriching the Picture
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This article aims to bridge the literature of modern social imaginaries with the growing study of modernity in International Relations. Employing a Taylorian conceptual framework and account, the case is made for understanding modern international relations as enabled and constrained by a “modern international imaginary”, which forms a significant part of the modern social imaginary more generally. It is argued that a modern social imaginaries approach offers a means to deepen and enlarge the growing studies of the international implications of modernity, by illuminating overlooked cultural preconditions and forms of modern international relations. First, a social imaginaries approach reveals the international to be coeval with the emergence of modern social imaginaries in general, and that it has come to form their “highest” and most consistently and severely problematic realm. Second, its insight into the enabling and constraining effects of social imaginaries offers a basis for studying the horizons of the international towards a “global imaginary”. Third, unpacking the modern international imaginary offers qualitative benefits for international theory as practice.
notes and discussion
19. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Johann P Arnason Spaces, Connections, Civilizations: Comments on Debating Civilisations
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20. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Nicolas Poirier Castoriadis in Australia: Interview with Suzi Adams
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