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NATURAL SCIENCE AND THE I:rt'fAGINA'fiON I. INTRODUCTION I MAGINATION, or as Aristotle called it " phantasy," first received its formal and philosophical airing in his treatise De Anima. Like many other principles of human knowledge introduced there, the imagination has certain obscurities . However, unlike most of the other principles treated in the De Anima, the imagination has not been explicated and elucidated to general satisfaction. There has, it is true, been much written about the imagination as a factor in artistic creation, as a source of fallacies and temptations in morals, as the matrix of the unreal, the fanciful. But little has been done to analyze it as it was originally presented to us by Aristotle, a principle of knowledge.1 Our analysis will be limited to the speculative or scientific function of the imagination, and we think that this is a sound policy. For the imagination, being a principle of knowledge should, like all principles of knowledge, be primarily analyzed in terms of knowing simply. If we analyze the imagination as the point of departure for artistic or moral action, we are beginning from a derivative position on the imagination; and since it is speculative knowledge that has primacy in the order of knowledge as such, it is to our best advantage to understand the imagination as a principle in this context. Moreover, the present discussion of imagination is restricted to an analysis of the imagination in terms of knowledge, and not in terms of psychology. We~re not interested in imagination as a principle 1 The Scholastic commentators in general have restricted themselves to repeating in the same terms what Aristotle said about the imagination. The treatise on the imagination by Pico della Mirandola does not go beyond a general summation of Scholastic opinion on the imagination. 190 NATURAL SCIENCE AND THE IMAGINATION 191 in the construction of the human psyche, but our interest in it lies in its cognitional significance and function" In other words, we are here elaborating the place of the imagination in a theory of knowledge-and necessarily a metaphysic-rather than its role in human life. We believe that in the economy of knowledge imagination has a pivotal and essential function because of the peculiar structure of one field of knowledge, viz. Nature. Nature is the object of the Philosophy of Nature insofar as we consider it as the totality of existence qua movable" But Nature admits of another scientific study, which we call the positivistic study of Nature" Fmm this study of Nature are produced those bodies of knowledge called the Natural Sciences" Since these sciences necessarily have recourse to the sensible as the ultimate arbiter of the validity of their rationalizations, and because this same sensible was the point of departure for the rationalization , it is necessary that the sensible be apprehended as such, if scientific knowledge proper to the Natural Sciences is to be possible. If we could not grasp Nature qua sensible, there could not be any Natural Science, and we hope to show that it is in virtue of the imagination that this apprehension is brought about" If we could never abstract the sensible from its temporal context as we always find it at the level of empirical experience, there could never be any science of Nature qua sensible. For at the level of empirical experience we do not grasp the sensible-the object of Natural Science; but rather we are confronted by the temporal in one of its modes, either in a present intuition, or in a memory" At the level of empirical experience, i. e. temporal experience, there is no abiding object, such as is demanded by any scientific enterprise, but only a multiplicity of different and exclusive existences" Science first emerges from the welter of atomic intuitions of the temporal at the level of the sensible qua sensible-and that is the product of the imagination. Thus, in brief, we have set out the orientation of our investigation into the problem" 192 WILLIAM A. GERHARD II. THE ARGUMENT According to Aristotle, " the proper object of unqualified scientific knowledge is something which cannot be other than it is." 2 However, in empirical experience what...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 190-216
Launched on MUSE
2017-06-15
Open Access
No
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