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Lennon, Kathleen. Imagine and the Imaginary
2015, Imagination and the Imaginary. Routledge.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist

Summary: The concept of the imaginary is pervasive within contemporary thought, yet can be a baffling and often controversial term. In Imagination and the Imaginary , Kathleen Lennon explores the links between imagination – regarded as the faculty of creating images or forms – and the imaginary, which links such imagery with affect or emotion and captures the significance which the world carries for us. Beginning with an examination of contrasting theories of imagination proposed by Hume and Kant, Lennon argues that the imaginary is not something in opposition to the real, but the very faculty through which the world is made real to us. She then turns to the vexed relationship between perception and imagination and, drawing on Kant, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, explores some fundamental questions, such as whether there is a distinction between the perceived and the imagined; the relationship between imagination and creativity; and the role of the body in perception and imagination. Invoking also Spinoza and Coleridge, Lennon argues that, far from being a realm of illusion, the imaginary world is our most direct mode of perception. She then explores the role the imaginary plays in the formation of the self and the social world. A unique feature of the volume is that it compares and contrasts a philosophical tradition of thinking about the imagination – running from Kant and Hume to Strawson and John McDowell – with the work of phenomenological, psychoanalytic, poststructuralist and feminist thinkers such as Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Lacan, Castoriadis, Irigaray, Gatens and Lloyd. This makes Imagination and the Imaginary essential reading for students and scholars working in phenomenology, philosophy of perception, social theory, cultural studies and aesthetics.

Comment: This book introduces the reader to the history of imagination as an area of philosophy, as conceived by Hume and Kant, and as explored by Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. It concerns the relationship between imagination and perception, and the formation of the self and social world based on imagination. It is suitable in a module focusing on imagination, or more broadly on aesthetics.

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Nersessian, Nancy. Creating Scientific Concepts
2008, MIT Press.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez

Publisher’s Note: How do novel scientific concepts arise? In Creating Scientific Concepts, Nancy Nersessian seeks to answer this central but virtually unasked question in the problem of conceptual change. She argues that the popular image of novel concepts and profound insight bursting forth in a blinding flash of inspiration is mistaken. Instead, novel concepts are shown to arise out of the interplay of three factors: an attempt to solve specific problems; the use of conceptual, analytical, and material resources provided by the cognitive-social-cultural context of the problem; and dynamic processes of reasoning that extend ordinary cognition. Focusing on the third factor, Nersessian draws on cognitive science research and historical accounts of scientific practices to show how scientific and ordinary cognition lie on a continuum, and how problem-solving practices in one illuminate practices in the other.

Comment: Nersessian’s book has a two-fold foundation, first, the empirical analysis of two cases of scientific thinking (one from Maxwell and one from a verbal protocol of a scientist); second, philosophical and cognitive analysis of the overall picture of meaning change in science that is the result of her work. The book presents her argument via an introductory chapter, followed by five chapters that develop the argument. Chapter 4 is particularly interesting for the cognitive-scientist: in this chapter Nersessian develops her account of the basic cognitive processes that underlie model-based reasoning. The new approach to mental modeling and analogy, together with Nersessian’s cognitive-historical approach, make Creating Scientific Concepts equally valuable to cognitive science and philosophy of science. The book is accessible and well-written, and should be a relatively quick read for anyone with a previous background in the mentioned fields. It is mainly recommended for postgraduate courses.

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