Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Is Imagination and How Do You Use It?

What is imagination? Is it useful and if so, how do you use it and/or can it be a hindrance?
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.   Both Husserl  and Sartre theorized imagination as picture consciousness, and Sartre wrote two books on the imagination early in his career, defining imagination as the synthesis of our knowledge of  and our intention, and imaginary objects as a "melange of past impressions and recent knowledge" (The Imaginary 90)
Dr. Carl G. Jung said, “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.”  His psychology emphasized Active Imagination as a method for visualizing unconscious issues by letting them act themselves out.   Active Imagination personifies the "parts" of us that are talking -- to create more clarity or even resolution that might not be possible with ordinary linear problem-solving. 
Cognitive psychology focused on mental imagery in the 1970s. Great claims continue to be made, by some, for the healing powers of guided imagery, whereby clients (or patients) are encouraged to visualize particular scenes or scenarios thought to have therapeutic value (e.g., Rossman, 2000). Guided imagery techniques have been claimed to be effective for purposes ranging from chronic pain relief (e.g., Fontaine, 2000) to breast enlargement and global spiritual renewal (Willard, 1977; Ekstein, 2001)  Currently, Noetic Science (the study of how thoughts interact with the physical world) continues these studies. 
Imagination is not limited to only seeing pictures in the mind, it includes all the five senses and the feelings.  Imagination makes it possible to experience a whole world inside the mind. It gives the ability to look at any situation from a different point of view, and enables one to mentally explore the past and the future.  Is imagination the common thread that unites creative endeavors?
According to the Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind : “despite being a familiar word of everyday language, imagination is a very complex, contested, and evaluatively loaded concept. It, like many cognate terms, often appears to have radically different senses and connotations when used in different contexts.” 
What do YOU think?