Social Imaginaries

Volume 5, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Varieties of Creative Imagination

Roger W. H. Savage
Pages 161-180

Reason, Action, and the Creative Imagination

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.