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Thinking Through the Imagination

Aesthetics in Human Cognition

John Kaag is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His most recent book is Idealism, Pragmatism, and Feminism: The Philosophy of Ella Lyman Cabot.

Publication Year: 2014

Use your imagination! The demand is as important as it is confusing. What is the imagination? What is its value? Where does it come from? And where is it going in a time when even the obscene mseems overdone and passé? This book takes up these questions and argues for the centrality of imagination in humanmcognition. It traces the development of the imagination in Kant’s critical philosophy (particularly the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment) and claims that the insights of Kantian aesthetic theory, especially concerning the nature of creativity, common sense, and genius, influenced the development of nineteenth-century American philosophy. The book identifies the central role of the imagination in the philosophy of Peirce, a role often overlooked in analytic treatments of his thought. The final chapters pursue the observation made by Kant and Peirce that imaginative genius is a type of natural gift (ingenium) and must in some way be continuous with the creative force of nature. It makes this final turn by way of contemporary studies of metaphor, embodied cognition, and cognitive neuroscience.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Like most people, I became acquainted with the imagination at a rather early age. In my case, the meeting took place as a child in my mother’s backyard garden. My mother ensured that my contact with the imagination would not be a passing acquaintance. She taught her children to acknowledge and actualize the possibilities that life affords even,...

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One The Cultivation of the Imagination

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pp. 1-24

For the two children, the season began as a wild dash—a race against the length of summer days.1 But by mid-August, the days proved too long and hot for their short attention spans. The unconstrained freedom of vacation exhausted itself or, more accurately and more ironically, exposed...

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Two Enlightening Thought: Kant and the Imagination

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pp. 25-56

The imagination is notoriously difficult to define.1 Indeed, this difficulty may explain the fact that prior to the Enlightenment there was no attempt to develop a unified theory of the imagination. In the history of ancient Greek philosophy, its amorphous character contributed to...

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Three C. S. Peirce and the Growth of the Imagination

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pp. 57-74

The seeds of the aesthetic are buried deep in the work of Charles Sanders Peirce. The sprouts were, therefore, rather slow to show themselves. However, the concept of the imagination as framed by Kant and other German Enlightenment thinkers does emerge in the ground...

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Four Abduction: Inference and Instinct

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pp. 75-92

Why were so many of Peirce’s college days spent— some might say wasted— on the topic of genius? A look through his unpublished papers points to an obsession with the work and lives of those “great men” of extraordinary mental powers— from Michelangelo, to Mozart, to Edgar Allan Poe. Like his contemporary Josiah Royce, Peirce...

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Five Imagining Nature

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pp. 93-119

Why were so many of Peirce’s college days spent— some might say wasted— on the topic of genius? A look through his unpublished papers points to an obsession with the work and lives of those “great men” of extraordinary mental powers— from Michelangelo, to...

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Six Ontology and Imagination: Peirce on Necessity and Agency

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pp. 120-138

During the 1880s, Peirce employed the triadic nature of thought to ground his budding cosmology. As Karl- Otto Apel suggests, it was during this time (particularly in 1885) that Peirce developed a “metaphysics of evolution.”1 Peirce’s attempt to expose a continuous relation among...

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Seven The Evolution of the Imagination

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pp. 139-164

As we turn our attention to the explanations of the imagination furnished by the contemporary empirical sciences, it is wise to remember the Sphinx.1 When Peirce wrote “A Guess at the Riddle,” he asked that a small vignette of the Sphinx be placed under the title. But...

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Eight Emergence, Complexity,and Creativity

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pp. 165-191

To say that the brain is functionally multimodal begins to point to the organic basis of metaphoric thought.1 More generally, it points to the way in which affect and bodily sense provide the ground for complex human understanding. As Kant and Peirce both recognize, the mediation...

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Nine Be Imaginative! Suggestion and Imperative

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pp. 192-210

At the end of an afternoon of gardening, one looks back, if only for a moment, to survey the ground that one has covered and worked through. It seems fitting, therefore, to take account of the moves made in this book. I have argued that the imagination plays a central role in the...


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pp. 211-234


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pp. 235-248


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pp. 249-252

American Philosophy

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pp. 253-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254965
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254934

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: Cloth

OCLC Number: 875725464
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Thinking Through the Imagination

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Subject Headings

  • Peirce, Charles S. -- (Charles Sanders), -- 1839-1914
  • Schiller, Friedrich, 1759-1805.
  • Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804.
  • Cognition.
  • Imagination (Philosophy).
  • Aesthetics.
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