Imagination and Cosmos
by Adam Robbert
A series of great posts on the links between imagination and cosmos has sprung up over the past week. I’ve been unable to join in on the discussion but thought three of these posts were worth considering side by aside.
Matt Segall takes us through James Hillmans psychology in this post where he writes:
Hillman, then, seeks to return metaphysics to the world, to think the Real in service of soul-making. He is after a “metaphysical praxis,” a “psychological metaphysics” closely bound up with the practice oftherapeia. Like the Jamesian pragmatism that Whitehead’s cosmology emerged out of, Hillman demands that we stay close to the practical effects of our abstractions. What do ideas do to soul, to world? Sticking close to the effects of metaphysical pronouncements means asking of their Truths, “True for who?” Metaphysics must situate itself in the mythic context of psychic life, where everything is personified and speaks through the masks of image and symbol. Truth is not “mere” fiction if the deeper structure of the universe is semiotic: The Truth is a story. Where literalisms (scientific, religious, or otherwise) would replace–or paste over–the given with its favored abstractions, a psychological metaphysics drops the bottom out of the given by forestalling the paranoid rush to formulaic certainty. Metaphysical knowledge is here checked by–not the limits of–but the infinity of metaphor.
Similarly, Jason Hills explores a pragmatist aesthetics in terms of the links between imagination and environment in this post with the following excerpt:
This essay on pragmatist aesthetics explains how imagination extends the environment into the possible. While there is no lack of pragmatic theories claiming that imagination extends the environment, few explain how within scholarship on John Dewey. After discussing the incompleteness of Mark Johnson’s scholarship on this question, I engage and expand upon Thomas Alexander’s work to construct a novel Deweyan pragmatic view of the dynamic structure of imaginative function that emphasizes continuity, temporality, and the emergence of meaning. Pragmatist scholars must address the question of how, else they are blind to the limitations of imagination while making promises on its transformative power. Though the present work is rooted in historic scholarship, it promises to flower in contemporary debates in aesthetics, realist phenomenology, and reconciling naturalism and phenomenology.
Finally, Michael at Archive Fire explores how matter becomes imagination in this interesting post with the following introduction:
As preface to future posts on embodied imagination, sentience, sapience and humanphantasy I want to share a little bit of Gerald Edelman‘s groundbreaking work on human consciousness and neural dynamics. Edelman has been a major influence on my thinking ever since my undergrad courses in cognitive science and animal behaviour.
Edelman’s work convincingly demonstrates how human perception is not identical with conceptual categorization (‘thought’) – renouncing both property dualism and reductionism. Edelman argues that ‘conscious experience’ is biological but not causal. He was also an early advocate of the theory of epigenesis and what Dawkins has called “the extended phenotype”.
In addition, Edelman’s theory of neuronal group selection, also known as ‘Neural Darwinism‘, goes a long way towards explaining brain plasticity and cumulative complexity over a person’s life-span. Edelman was one of the first researchers to argue that “neurons that wire together fire together”, and the first researcher to point out the pervasiveness of “degeneracy” in biological systems and the fundamental role it plays in facilitating evolution.
Each of these posts approach the question of a imagination from a different angle and each from a different discipline (psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science, respectively). I’m keeping an eye on these essays as I will no doubt have things to say about each of them when some more free time comes my way.