restricted access FOUR: Imagination and Others
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I m a g i n a t i o n a n d O t h e r s 6 3 63 FOUR Imagination and Others he question of the imagination seems straightforward. We all seem to know what it involves. Yet when we try to define it, we find depths that are difficult to penetrate. For Descartes, the imagination was simply our faculty for producing a mental image. He distinguished it from the understanding by noting that while the notion of a thousand-sided figure was comprehensible — that is, was sufficiently clear and distinct to be differentiated from a thousand-and-one-sided figure — the figure could not be clearly pictured in our mind. The representation of its sides exceeded our powers of imagination (Descartes 1990, 68–69). This view of the imagination as our ability to produce a mental image fails, however, to distinguish it from remembering. Let us say that I see an object and then I close my eyes, maintaining the image of the object. Is this imagining or short-term memory? What about the case when I recall this image an hour later?Am I imagining or remembering it? Such examples make it clear that imagination, as distinct from memory, implies something more than the ability to produce a mental image. It involves, as Sartre pointed out, a certain attitude toward what this image depicts. Engaging in it, we deny the latter’s reality. In Sartre’s words, imagination “carries within it a double T 6 4 H i d d e n n e s s a n d A l t e r i t y negation; first, it is the nihilation of the world (since the world is not offering the imagined object as an actual object of perception), secondly, [it is] the nihilation of the object of the image (it is posited as not actual)” (1966, 62). Imagination, then, represents the imagined as nonactual. This sense of the imagination will be the focus of this chapter. Specifically, I will explore how we make the thesis of the nonreality of what we imagine. As already indicated, such nonreality is yet another trace of the workings of our others. It is through them that we both advance and withdraw the thesis of an object’s reality. The Intersubjective Positing of the Real The role of others in our asserting the reality or existence of what we see shows itself in the special quality of existence. As Kant observed, existence is not a real predicate. It is nothing we can see or touch. I can see the red of an object, but not its beingred . I feel its smoothness, but not its being-smooth. Given this, what causes us to posit something as real? What do we intend, in addition to its sensible predicates, when we affirm that an object is “real” or “existent”? The answer can be put in terms of the distinction Kant draws between a judgment of perception and a judgment of experience. The first judgment expresses the claim simply to see something. Its referent is what is there for a subject at this moment. The second, however, goes beyond this and claims that the referent that exists for it is not simply a perceptual experience, but the object of this experience. In asserting that “there is” such an object, it claims that there is something there that I am experiencing and that others could also experience (Kant 1955d; Ak. 4:297–98). The role here of others in the positing of the real is crucial. As Eugen Fink expresses it, when we assume that others can experience the same objects, we implicitly define “the objectivity of objects by the character — if one will — of intersubjectivity.” This means, he adds, that their connection is such I m a g i n a t i o n a n d O t h e r s 6 5 “that one cannot establish between objectivity and intersubjectivity a relationship such that one or the other is prior; rather, objectivity and intersubjectivity are indeed co-original” (Fink 1966, 86). We assume such co-originality whenever we ask others, “Do you see what I see?” When they do, we take the object as real. The thesis of the reality of an object is not a thesis about some perceptual feature or aspect of it. The assertion, “it exists,” does not concern the ascription of a “real predicate.” Rather...


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