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Reviewed by:
  • Imagination in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times
  • M. V. Dougherty
Lodi Nauta and Detlev Pätzold, eds. Imagination in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times. Groningen Studies in Cultural Change 12. Leuven: Peeters Publishers and Booksellers, 2004. xvi + 213 pp. index. illus. bibl. €40. ISBN: 90–429–1535–8.

This collection of essays is the most recent volume to be published under the series Groningen Studies in Cultural Change, a program of publishing conference proceedings that aims at multidisciplinary approaches to subjects from European history. As the twelfth volume of this series, this collection seeks to provide "interesting and new" contributions (xi) to the study of the imagination, focusing for the most part on late medieval and early modern discussions of the imagination found in the two traditions of rhetoric and philosophy. In the introduction, editors Lodi Nauta and Detlev Pätzold cleverly anticipate the standard objections to a volume of this sort; they readily acknowledge the "protean character" (xi) of the imagination among thinkers of different traditions, and they indicate areas of study left out of the present volume. Alleging that "there is no such thing as the history of the imagination," and acknowledging the "sheer variety of themes" (xiii) present in the volume, the editors have nonetheless succeeded in producing a scholarly collection of essays on a topic of much importance to the philosophical and rhetorical traditions.

In the first chapter, "The Subtle Knot: Robert Kilwardby and Gianfrancesco [End Page 595] Pico on the Imagination," Jan R. Veenstra examines the two thinkers identified in the chapter title, summarizing how the former's commitment to Augustinian thought pervades the central argument of his De spiritu fantastico, while the latter thinker's view in De imaginatione should be read in light of his theological commitments. In the second chapter, "On the Matter of the Mind: Late-Medieval Views on Mind, Body, and Imagination," Olaf Pluta sets forth the doctrine of imagination found in the largely neglected writings of Nicholas of Amsterdam. Contending that there are remarkable affinities between some late medieval theories of mind and contemporary philosophy of mind, Pluta begins the essay with a discussion of a medieval anticipation of neural networks found in a rather obscure fifteenth-century manuscript drawing of the brain, and then ends with an surprising argument for a parallel between Nicholas's thought and contemporary supervenience theory.

The third chapter is a careful reappraisal of Francisco Suárez's moral philosophy in light of the traditional charge of moral rigidity. Surprisingly, the essay does not discuss the imagination and thereby leads the present reviewer to question its inclusion in this volume. Acknowledging that "Suárez's actual account of the imagination" has already been presented by another scholar elsewhere (J. South, "Suárez on the Imagination," Vivarium 39 [2001], 119–58), (37), M. W. F. Stone presents what must surely be part of a larger future book project. The chapter, titled, "The Scope and Limits of Moral Deliberation: Recta Ratio, Natural Law, and Conscience in Francisco Suárez," includes discussions of ways to proceed in cases of moral uncertainty.

The next three chapters of the book examine thinkers of the rhetorical tradition. In "Early Modern Ideas of Imagination: the Rhetorical Tradition," Peter Mack presents Quintilian's views on enargeia, or visualization, and vivid description and discusses how Northern European figures (Agricola, Erasmus, Vives, Melanchthon, Sidney, Bacon) reappropriated the ideas of the classical tradition. Particularly interesting in this essay are the comparisons between poetry and other disciplines, such as philosophy and history. In "Poetic Imagination and the Paradigm of Painting in Early Modern France," Suzanne Kooij presents an ambitious attempt to link together medieval faculty psychology, the rhetorical technique of enargeia, poetic theory, and sixteenth-century painting. The essay "Lorenzo Valla and the Limits of Imagination," by Lodi Nauta, presents Valla's rejection of the scholastic philosophical-psychological tradition concerning the imagination and his formulation of a simpler notion of the imagination particular to the rhetorical tradition. The essay concludes with analogies between Valla's view of the imagination and that of Wittgenstein.

Martin Gosman's seventh chapter, "Imagining the Necessary: Italian Artists and the Road to Fame...


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pp. 595-597
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