Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Someone recently pointed out to me that intelligence is intimately mixed with imagination. This assertion bothered me and I pondered over it for a few days.

Imagination is not mixed with intelligence, it is "metaxu", that is to say intermediary (in Greek metaxu means "in between"). Imagination is intermediary between intelligence and the senses. When we perceive something of reality, through one of our 5 senses (and we know nothing without them, nor can we imagine anything), imagination depicts sensations before handing them over to intelligence. Then memory stocks these images, and imagination can work and "play" with what it has at hand, but it must firstly constitute a stock from our sensations.

Thus, imagination is linked to intelligence, all right, but in a very precise manner, not indistinctively mixed with it, but as an intermediary between the sensible reality and with it, at least normally and most of the time, because some live with their imagination cut off from reality almost all of their waking hours, and, one might say, from their intelligence.

So this interested me, because after having rethought about what precedes, I realized more distinctly that imagination is neither good nor bad. It does not and it cannot distinguish between what is good and what is bad. It is amoral. Why? Quite simply because goodness and malignity are not imaginary... they are real! Yet with imagination we find ourselves in a place which is truly... imaginary.

This begets a question: what is psyche? Well it is simply imagination... a place which I create myself, situated beyond good and bad in as much as it is precisely imaginary. Consequently, here is a simple demonstration that psychologists can do nothing else but describe and in no way can see the end, that is to say what is good and what is bad. They can only describe what is pleasant and what is not, which is not at all the same!

That's all for now folks, but there are many things to see from this viewpoint. I am even under the impression that this is a very good angle of approach to see almost anything that is worth seeing. :-)

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  1. I agree with you! But I would not say that imagination is psyche, I would say that it is the kingdom of psyche... I believe that psyche is much more than imagination.

  2. What if the body and its senses are imagined? What if you made up a body as an image of yourself to "substitute" reality? No longer could you call the information, brought to you by your senses, reality. Also, in any case, thought precedes imagination. In that sense, imagination is not amoral or neutral, because there are no neutral thoughts. Thoughts are either true or false, but equally powerful in their effects.

    Knowledge through the senses is neither reliable nor valid, and can hardly be called knowledge. Certainty is not linked to what senses tell you, and of course could not be maintained, given the constant change they reflect.

    Know thyself! The senses cannot help to fulfill this imperative.

  3. @Angelshair,
    Nice to see you again. Yes, that psyche bit is probably a shortcut.

    *Contemporary philosophy seems to have been reduced to doubt, often infantile in nature (eg Descartes).
    *morality of imagination: true,if imagination is brought to the real world. as for the passage on thought, this would lead to a long discussion, which I don't have time for at present...
    *It is through a constant back and forth between reality and our perception of it that we approach what is true (eg. the broken stick in the water).
    Thanks for your input.

  4. I don't think that this is correct.

    "imagination depicts sensations before handing them over to intelligence."

    While it might not be true that intelligence and imagination are intimately mixed (mixed is not the correct concept anyway), intelligence, which is intrinsic, influences imagination; or in other words, imagination is directly proportional to intelligence. I don't believe that imagination is "in between", despite the greek definition, but emerges from intelligence and sense, which is to say that imagination is not "handed" over to intelligence. I think it's more a directed graph like this (which is incomplete)

    intelligence -----> imagination <----- senses

    or maybe this:

    senses -----> intelligence -----> imagination

    thomas clancy

  5. @Thomas,
    Unfortunately, I cannot honestly speak for "Avatar" on this one. What would be necessary is to clearly define the terms employed (which includes the initial post). What I can say is that this post was written in the aftermath of a discussion between "Avatar" and another very solid realist philosopher who doesn't have a "metaphysical touch". I followed Avatar for a handful of years, I know his influences, I have not seen him err. Of course, this is an "argument of authority", so it shouldn't score any points! :)

    This reminds me of the distinction Aristotle made between three levels of human life: vegetative, spiritual, and, in between, sensible - ie (sensations ;imagination; passions). Which, if you agree with Aristotle, sets imagination before intelligence. :)

  6. I believe imaginations is connected directly to language and cognition, which I guess would constitute intelligence; the ability to conjure. As we increase our vocabulary, we can take our imagination that much further. Just sayin'.

  7. Hi Marcia,
    This is all very interesting. Unfortunately not an area I have thought about in so much detail. I see imagination defined as a mental picture (it seems to me you don't need language to have a mental picture).


    In a brief discussion dedicated to imagination (De Anima iii 3), Aristotle identifies it as “that in virtue of which an image occurs in us” (De Anima iii 3, 428aa1-2), where this is evidently given a broad range of application to the activities involved in thoughts, dreams, and memories. Aristotle is, however, mainly concerned to distinguish imagination from perception and mind. He distinguishes it from perception on a host of grounds, including: (i) imagination produces images when there is no perception, as in dreams; (ii) imagination is lacking in some lower animals, even though they have perception, which shows that imagination and perception are not even co-extensive; and (iii) perception is, Aristotle claims, always true, whereas imagination can be false, false even in fantastic ways (De Anima iii 3, 428a5-16). He also denies that imagination can be identified with mind or belief, or any combination of belief and perception (De Anima iii 3, 428a16-b10), even though it comes about through sense perception (De Anima iii 3, 429a1-2; De Insomniis 1, 459a17). The suggestion, then, is that imagination is a faculty in humans and most other animals which produces, stores, and recalls the images used in a variety of cognitive activities, including those which motivate and guide action (De Anima iii 3, 429a4-7, De Memoria 1, 450a22-25).

  8. Your post raises several valid points to make the entire topic more interesting. There is no right answer to it, each and everyone can put forward his argument so long as it makes sense and logical to his mind set.

    The whole discussion can be very lively because the term is not universally define and vary from each individual.

    Grace and peace to you all.

  9. Hi James,
    Yes, equivocity (different definitions for a same term)in philosophymakes discussions more difficult.

  10. Hi,its good idea.I like its and jointed your blog.

  11. I think your post, while it may be a trifle complicated, correctly and impressively defines imagination. As someone who spent almost 50 years making a living with his imagination, I do not think it is a function of intelligence. Some of the most intelligent lack all vestige of it. I think it can be said that imagination is a matter of links formed somehow in the brain between ideas or thoughts. Imagination can define expectations, it can produce novel or original ideas, etc. It is amoral. While it takes a solid relation to reality, it can produce new worlds, new realities. This is the mechanism we use to create "ourselves." Count Sneaky

  12. Good evening Count,
    Very interesting. Needless to say, your viewpoint is valued. "Avatar" was a first class artist too, whereas my artistic endeavours have been rather limited. Which is why I cannot contribute much value to the topic.

  13. not being inteligent can be overcome by being resourcefull.