Imagination: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Olin Levi Warner, Imagination (1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world,[1][2][3] and it also plays a key role in the learning process.[1][4] A basic training for imagination is the listening to storytelling (narrative),[1][5] in which the exactness of the chosen words is the fundamental factor to 'evoke worlds.'[6]

Imagination is the faculty through which we encounter everything. The things that we touch, see and hear coalesce into a "picture" via our imagination.

It is accepted as the innate ability and process of inventing partial or complete personal realms within the mind from elements derived from sense perceptions of the shared world.[citation needed] The term is technically used in psychology for the process of reviving in the mind, percepts of objects formerly given in sense perception. Since this use of the term conflicts with that of ordinary language, some psychologists have preferred to describe this process as "imaging" or "imagery" or to speak of it as "reproductive" as opposed to "productive" or "constructive" imagination. Imagined images are seen with the "mind's eye."

Imagination can also be expressed through stories such as fairy tales or fantasies. Most famous inventions or entertainment products were created from the inspiration of someone's imagination.

One hypothesis for the evolution of human imagination is that it allowed conscious beings to solve problems (and hence increase an individual's survival fitness) by use of mental simulation.

Children often use narratives or pretend play in order to exercise their imagination. When children create fantasy they play at two levels: first, they use role playing to act out what they have created with their imagination, and at the second level they play again with their make-believe situation by acting as if what they have created is an actual reality that already exists in narrative myth.[7]



The common use of the term is for the process of forming new images in the mind that have not been previously experienced, or at least only partially or in different combinations. Some typical examples follow:

Imagination in this sense, not being limited to the acquisition of exact knowledge by the requirements of practical necessity, is, up to a certain point, free from objective restraints. The ability to imagine one's self in another person's place is very important to social relations and understanding. Albert Einstein said, "Imagination…is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."[8]

In various spheres, however, even imagination is in practice limited: thus a person whose imaginations do violence to the elementary laws of thought, or to the necessary principles of practical possibility, or to the reasonable probabilities of a given case is regarded as insane.

The same limitations beset imagination in the field of scientific hypothesis. Progress in scientific research is due largely to provisional explanations which are constructed by imagination, but such hypotheses must be framed in relation to previously ascertained facts and in accordance with the principles of the particular science.

Imagination is an experimental partition of the mind used to create theories and ideas based on functions. Taking objects from real perceptions, the imagination uses complex IF-functions to create new or revised ideas. This part of the mind is vital to developing better and easier ways to accomplish old and new tasks. These experimental ideas can be safely conducted inside a virtual world and then, if the idea is probable and the function is true, the idea can be actualized in reality. Imagination is the key to new development of the mind and can be shared with others, progressing collectively.

Regarding the volunteer effort, imagination can be classified as: -volunteer ( the dream from the sleep, the daydream) -involuntary ( the reproductive imagination, the creative imagination, the dream of perspective)

Imagination and perception

From the work of Piaget it is known that perceptions depend on the world view of a person. The world view is the result of arranging perceptions into existing imagery by imagination. Piaget cites the example of a child saying that the moon is following her when she walks around the village at night. Like this perceptions are integrated into the world view to make sense. Imagination is needed to make sense of perceptions.[9]

Imagination vs. belief

Imagination differs fundamentally from belief because the subject understands that what is personally invented by the mind does not necessarily impact the course of action taken in the apparently shared world while beliefs are part of what one holds as truths about both the shared and personal worlds. The play of imagination, apart from the obvious limitations (e.g. of avoiding explicit self-contradiction), is conditioned only by the general trend of the mind at a given moment. Belief, on the other hand, is immediately related to practical activity: it is perfectly possible to imagine oneself a millionaire, but unless one believes it one does not, therefore, act as such. Belief endeavours to conform to the subject's experienced conditions or faith in the possibility of those conditions; whereas imagination as such is specifically free. The dividing line between imagination and belief varies widely in different stages of technological development. Thus someone from a primitive culture who ill frames an ideal reconstruction of the causes of his illness, and attributes it to the hostile magic of an enemy based on faith and tradition rather than science. In ignorance of the science of pathology the subject is satisfied with this explanation, and actually believes in it, sometimes to the point of death, due to what is known as the nocebo effect.

It follows that the learned distinction between imagination and belief depends in practice on religion, tradition, and culture.

Imagination as a reality

The world as experienced is an interpretation of data arriving from the senses, as such it is perceived as real by contrast to most thoughts and imaginings. Users of hallucinogenic drugs are said to have a heightened imagination. This difference is only one of degree and can be altered by several historic causes, namely changes to brain chemistry, hypnosis or other altered states of consciousness, meditation, many hallucinogenic drugs, and electricity applied directly to specific parts of the brain. The difference between imagined and perceived reality can be so imperceptible as to cause acute states of psychosis. Many mental illnesses can be attributed to this inability to distinguish between the sensed and the internally created worlds. Some cultures and traditions even view the apparently shared world as an illusion of the mind as with the Buddhist maya or go to the opposite extreme and accept the imagined and dreamed realms as of equal validity to the apparently shared world as the Australian Aborigines do with their concept of dreamtime.

Imagination, because of having freedom from external limitations, can often become a source of real pleasure and unnecessary suffering. A person of vivid imagination often suffers acutely from the imagined perils besetting friends, relatives, or even strangers such as celebrities. Also crippling fear can result from taking an imagined painful future too seriously.

Imagination can also produce some symptoms of real illnesses. In some cases, they can seem so "real" that specific physical manifestations occur such as rashes and bruises appearing on the skin, as though imagination had passed into belief or the events imagined were actually in progress. See, for example, psychosomatic illness and folie a deux.

It has also been proposed that the whole of human cognition is based upon imagination. That is, nothing that is perceived is purely observation but all is a morph between sense and imagination.

Imagination preceding reality

When two existing perceptions (thesis and antithesis) are combined within the mind, a third perception (called synthesis) is formed. At this point, perception only exists as part of the imagination and can become the inspiration for a new invention or technique.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Norman 2000 pp. 1-2
  2. ^ Brian Sutton-Smith 1988, p. 22
  3. ^ Archibald MacLeish 1970, p. 887
  4. ^ Kieran Egan 1992, pp. 50
  5. ^ Northrop Frye 1963, p. 49
  6. ^ As noted by Giovanni Pascoli
  7. ^ Laurence Goldman (1998). Child's play: myth, mimesis and make-believe. Basically what this means is that the children use their make-believe situation and act as if what they are acting out is from a reality that already exists even though they have made it up.. Berg Publishers. ISBN 1-85973-918-0. 
  8. ^ Viereck, George Sylvester (October 26, 1929). "What life means to Einstein: an interview". The Saturday Evening Post. 
  9. ^ Piaget, J. (1967). The child's conception of the world. (J. &. A. Tomlinson, Trans.).London : Routledge & Kegan Paul. BF721 .P5 1967X

External links


See also:

  • Alice in wonderland
  • Watkins, Mary: "Waking Dreams" [Harper Colophon Books, 1976] and "Invisible Guests - The Development of Imaginal Dialogues" [The Analytic Press, 1986]
  • Moss, Robert: "The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination" [New World Library, September 10, 2007]

Two philosophers for whom imagination is a central concept are John Sallis and Richard Kearney. See in particular:

  • John Sallis, Force of Imagination: The Sense of the Elemental (2000)
  • John Sallis, Spacings-Of Reason and Imagination. In Texts of Kant, Fichte, Hegel (1987)
  • Richard Kearney, The Wake of Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (1988); 1st Paperback Edition- (ISBN 0-8166-1714-7)
  • Richard Kearney, "Poetics of Imagining: Modern to Post-modern." Fordham University Press (1998)

See also


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Imagination is accepted as the innate ability and process to invent partial or complete personal realms within the mind from elements derived from sense perceptions of the shared world.


  • For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.
  • Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may in this respect be compared to those angels whom the scripture represents as covering their eyes with their wings.
    • A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume, Book 1, Section 4, p.225
  • Philosophy makes progress not by becoming more rigorous but by becoming more imaginative.
    • Introduction to Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers by Richard Rorty, Volume 3, 1998.
  • The conception of the necessary unit of all that is resolves itself into the poverty of the imagination, and a freer logic emancipates us from the straitwaistcoated benevolent institution, which idealism palms off as the totality of being.
  • The true function of logic,... as applied to matters of experience,... is analytic rather than constructive; taken a priori, it shows the possibility of hitherto unsuspected alternatives more often than the impossibility of alternatives which seemed prima facie possible. Thus, while it liberates imagination as to what the world may be, it refuses to legislate as to what the world is.
  • Science does not know its debt to imagination.
  • Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.
  • All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
    • T. E. Lawrence, Introductory Chapter. Variant: This, therefore, is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place, and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions coming true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.
  • There is no life I know
    that compares to pure imagination
    Living there you'll be free
    if you truly wish to be
  • Impossibility is only the figment of an insufficient imagination.
    • The Song Of Sin by Phil Duncan, 1998.


  • I believe imagination is our greatest asset, as human beings, and I believe it is our best, perhaps our only weapon against despair. I believe imagination is our best, our ultimate means of survival, all of us together -- each of us apart.
    • Timothy Findley
  • Imagination. Imagination. Imagination. It sustains, it alters, it redeems.
  • Imagination is your key to unlock the hidden wonders of our world.
    • Dreamfinder, original Journey Into Imagination ride at Epcot
  • It is not that the child lives in a world of imagination, but that the child within us survives and starts into life only at rare moments of recollection, which makes us believe, and it is not true, that, as children, we were imaginative?
  • Mon incompréhension est ma plus grande qualité car elle laisse une place a l'imagination.
    • Carréric Benjamin (Jabamin) 27/06/2006
  • Nothing is impossible - not if you can imagine it!
  • You cannot imagine infinity but your imagination is infinite.
    • Michael Grasso, 1990
  • Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.
  • Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.
  • "I love my imagination. She allows me to survive."
    • Caroline De Vil

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also imagination



Imagination f.

  1. imagination (image-making power of the mind)

This German entry was created from the translations listed at imagination. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Imagination in the German Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) May 2008

Simple English

Imagination is the ability to form images of things or events in one's mind. When someone imagines something, he is trying to picture something in his mind that he is not experiencing at the moment.

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