- Hegel’s Theory of Imagination
Bates has made an important contribution to scholarship on the early Hegel. She demonstrates successfully the centrality of the imagination (Einbildungskraft) in Hegel's account of cognitive powers involved in the representation of experience—from simple intuitions to communicative thought—as that account develops through his successive lectures on Geistesphilosophie leading up to the publication of the Phenomenology of Spirit. Equally important, Bates provides an introduction to Hegel's initial and often obscure work in epistemology abstracted from later analyses of the socially and historically mediated forms of consciousness encountered in the Phenomenology. Bates's overall aim is ambitious: she argues that the imagination, since it lies at the basis of all representational thought, is intrinsic to any form of consciousness and thus becomes the overarching, though insufficiently acknowledged, theme of the Phenomenology. In short, she claims to establish that the rational progression of the Concept is the imagination.
Bates' book is divided into two parts. Part One, consisting of five chapters and entitled "Subjective Authentication," traces the development of Hegel's theory of representation and shows the central role of imagination in that theory. Part Two, entitled "Objective Authentication," contains two chapters, the first devoted to the imagination in Hegel's [End Page 494] aesthetics and his critique of romanticism, the second to the place of imagination in the Phenomenology.
Chapter One discusses Hegel's Schellingean period and indicates how imagination is intrinsic to the original unfolding of the Absolute as nature and intellect. Chapter Two offers a careful exegesis of the difficult Fragment 17 in the 1803/04 lectures on Geistesphilosophie. Here Bates indicates the theme prominent within all of the early lectures: the imagination is intrinsic to all intentionality whereby something is identified as something. Chapter Three turns to the full 03/04 lectures and the levels of cognitive processes Hegel explicates as necessary for transforming initial intuitions into thoughts communicable within a shared linguistic community.
Chapter Four focuses on the 05/06 Geistesphilosophie lectures and Hegel's there expanded and more nuanced treatment of imagination. Bates explores how imagination is implicated in all levels of cognitive function: intuition and shaping of mental images, recollection of previously retained images, and formation of names and linguistic expressions—in sum, imagination is operative within all cognitive activities terminating in intentional thought or action. Herein lay Bates' opportunity to chronicle the emergence of Hegel's assault on immediacy or the given. Unfortunately, she fails to take sufficient advantage of the opportunity. She moves toward confronting the issue by noting that Hegel fails to explore adequately the ultimate source of intuitions, though he does defend the claim that consciousness "creates" space and time and thereby determines all objects of experience. How consciousness determines objects in a way that eliminates the given she does not explore. Bates does indicate that imagination is consciousness's first reflective act, the initial "inwardizing" inherent within intuition. But if intuition is reflected, does not this suggest that Hegel already had outlined his critique of immediacy? There are no citations in Bates's book of standard scholarship on this issue—for instance, Sellars, McDowell, Pippin, Pinkard, Forster. Chapter Five explores Hegel's mature account of imagination in his 1830 Philosophy of Subjective Spirit. Again, Bates shows that the dialectic within which consciousness unfolds—from rudimentary images within incipient memory to fully articulated thought—is the inwardizing progression of imagination. What remained implicit in the 05/06 lectures is explicit here: there is no private meaningfulness; the identification of anything meaningful presupposes an inter-subjective arena of communicability.
Chapter Six turns to Hegel's aesthetics and the way he distinguishes Einbildungskraft and Phantasie. She offers a fine explication of Hegel's critique of Phantasie in early German Romanticism, principally its inordinately iconoclastic stance and failure to recognize that art, as something communicated, is thereby both transformative of and mediated by social norms and practices. Chapter Seven is devoted to the role of imagination in the Phenomenology and defense of the ambitious claim that the "spiraling" movement...