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4.0 out of 5 stars The world is abundance, the imagination posits nothingness, 11 April 2007
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This review is from: The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination (Paperback)
"The act of imagination is an incantation destined to make the object of one's thought appear in such a way that one can take possession of it." And the object of this book is to allow us to grasp just what the imaginary object is and what it means, in all its psychological minutiae, for human reality and consciousness.

The work is split into four sections. `The Certain' deals with the relation of a mental image to real portraits, photos, drawings, etc, and how they are all involved in representing something that is not actually there, a `nothingness'. `The Probable' moves from actual physical matter to less tangible causes of imagery, like the swirling colours under our eyelids we perceive when falling asleep and which develop into dreams. `The Role of the Image in Psychic Life' considers image/thought relations, ranging from simple symbolic thought to higher abstractions such as classes and ideas. And lastly, `The Imaginary Life' accounts for people seemingly trapped in an imaginary `world' of their own making replete with its own `quasi-qualities' of time and space.

Although some of this can get a bit boggy, Sartre admits later in the conclusion that his `oblique method' is a result of writing when phenomenological method was `still repugnant to many French readers.' The conclusion itself, moving towards considerations of aesthetics and the nothingness central to his later and greater work, is relatively luminous.

As Mary Warnock says in her introduction to A Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions: "Readers may be uncertain whether to classify it [ie, The Imaginary] as an essay in psychology or philosophy; but they could remind themselves that there is the same ambiguity in the works of Hume, and of Husserl in particular, from whom Sartre derived so much." Despite this ambiguity, The Imaginary is still the only work by a western philosopher to deal specifically with the imagination, and as such is highly recommended. Read the Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions first though; it's a great little introduction to Sartre's phenomenological method and, as such, is very handy in untangling some of The Imaginary's denser passages.
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The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination
The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination by revised by Arlette Elkaim-Sartre (Paperback - 12 Feb. 2004)
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