Social Imaginaries

Volume 5, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Varieties of Creative Imagination

Justin Humphreys
Pages 37-55

Aristotelian Imagination and Decaying Sense

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.