CHAPTER VII. IMAGINATION.
THE IMAGINATION is another term, the explanation of which will be found to be included in the expositions which have previously been given.
The phenomena classed under this title are explained, by modern Philosophers, on the principles of Association. Their accounts of the mental process, to which the name Imagination is applied, include their explanation of the laws of Association, or the manner in which ideas succeed one another in a train, with little else, except remarks on the causes to which diversity in the several kinds of Imagination may be traced.
It is not to be overlooked that the term IMAGINATION is here used in the sense which is given to it by philosophers when they rank it as a particular power of the mind; for it is no doubt true, that it is often used, in vulgar speech, as synonymous with Conception, and with Supposition, and with Conjecture; as the verb, to imagine, is, with the verbs, to discover, to suppose, conjecture, believe, and perhaps others.
We have seen that Consciousness, and Conception, are names of feelings, taken one by one: Consciousness of any of our feelings so taken; Conception of a particular class of them, namely, complex ideas. IMAGINATION is not a name of any one idea. I am not said to imagine, unless I combine ideas successively in a less or greater number. An imagination, therefore, is the name of a train. I am said to have an imagination when I have a train of ideas; and when I am said to imagine, I have the same thing; nor is there any train of ideas, to which the term imagination may not be applied.
In this comprehensive meaning of the word Imagination, there is no man who has not Imagination, and no man who has it not in an equal degree with any other. Every man imagines, nay, is constantly, and unavoidably, imagining. He cannot help imagining. He can no more stop the current of his ideas, than he can stop the current of his blood.
In the phrase we have just employed, “there is no man who has not imagination,” it is meant, that there is no man who now has not, who has not always had, and who will not always have a train of ideas. Imagination, therefore, is a word connoting indefinite time; it is, to use the language of the Greek grammarians, aoristical. When it connotes, which by the strain of the passage it may be made to do, a particular time, it marks a particular train. When it connotes time indefinitely, it marks trains indefinitely, any train at any time.
The having or doing a thing at any time, means the potentiality of having or doing it. Imagination, then, has two meanings. It means either some one train, or the potentiality of a train. These are two meanings which it is very necessary not to confound.
There is great diversity of trains. Not only has the same individual an endless variety of trains; but a different character belongs to the whole series of trains which pass through the minds of different individuals or classes of individuals. The different pursuits in which the several classes of men are engaged, render particular trains of ideas more common to them than other trains. One man is a merchant; and trains respecting the goods in which he deals, the markets in which he buys, and those in which he sells, are habitual in his mind. Another man is a lawyer, and ideas of clients, and fees, and judges, and witnesses, and legal instruments, and points of contestation, and the practice of his court, are habitually passing in his mind. Ideas of another kind occupy the mind of the physician; of another kind still, the mind of the warrior. The statesman is occupied with a train different from that of any of the classes that have been mentioned; and one statesman with a very different train from another, according as his mind is running upon expedients which may serve the purpose of the day, or arrangements which may secure the happiness of the population from generation to gene ration. A peculiar character belongs to the train which habitually occupies the mind of the mathematician. The mind of the metaphysician is also occupied by a train distinguished from that of other classes. And there is one man, yet to be mentioned, the poet, the peculiarity of whose trains has been a subject of particular observation. To such a degree, indeed, have the trains of the poet been singled out for distinction, that the word Imagination, in a more restricted sense, is appropriated to them. We do not call the trains of the lawyer, or the trains of the merchant, imagination. We do not speak of them as imagining, when they are revolving, each, the ideas which belong to his peculiar occupation; it is only to the poet, that the epithet of imagining is applied. His trains, or trains analogous to his, are those which receive the name of Imagination.
It is then a question, to which we should find an answer, whether, in that by which the trains of the poet differ from the trains of other men, there be any thing which, being wholly absent from that by which the trains of other classes are distinguished, lays a foundation for this peculiarity of naming.
The trains of one class differ from those of another, the trains of the merchant, for example, from those of the lawyer, not in this, that the ideas follow one an other by any other law, in the mind of the one, and the mind of the other; they follow by the same laws exactly; and are equally composed of ideas, mixed indeed with sensations, in the minds of both. The difference consists in this, that the ideas which flow in their minds, and compose their trains, are ideas of different things. The ideas of the lawyer are ideas of the legal provisions, forms, and distinctions, and of the actions, bodily, and mental, about which he is con versant. The ideas of the merchant are equally ideas of the objects and operations, about which he is concerned, and the ends toward which his actions are directed; but the objects and operations themselves, are remarkably different. The trains of poets, also, do not differ from the trains of other men, but perfectly agree with them, in this, that they are composed of ideas, and that those ideas succeed one another, according to the same laws, in their, and in other minds. They are ideas, however, of very different things. The ideas of the poet are ideas of all that is most lovely and striking in the visible appearances of nature, and of all that is most interesting in the actions and affections of human beings. It thus, however, appears most manifestly, that the trains of poets differ from those of other men in no other way, than those of other men differ from one another; that they differ from them by this only, that the ideas of which they are composed, are ideas of different things. There is also nothing surprising in this, that, being trains of pleasurable ideas, they should have attracted a peculiar degree of attention; and in an early age, when poetry was the only literature, should have been thought worthy of a more particular naming, than the trains of any other class. These reasons seem to account for a sort of appropriation of the name Imagination, to the trains of the poet. An additional reason may be seen in another circumstance, which also affords an interesting illustration of a law of association already propounded; namely, the obscuration of the antecedent part of a train, which leads to a subsequent, more interesting than itself. In the case of the lawyer, the train leads to a decision favourable to the side which he advocates. - The train has no thing pleasurable in itself. The pleasure is all derived from the end. The same is the case with the merchant. His trains are directed to a particular end. And it is the end alone, which gives a value to the train. The end of the metaphysical, and the end of the mathematical inquirer, is the discovery of truth: their trains are directed to that object; and are, or are not, a source of pleasure, as that end is or is not attained. But the case is perfectly different with the poet. His train is its own end. It is all delightful, or the purpose is frustrate. From the established laws of association, this consequence unavoidably followed; that, in the case of the trains of those other classes, the interest of which was concentrated in the end, attention was withdrawn from the train by being fixed upon the end; that in the case of the poet, on the other hand, the train itself being the only object, and that pleasurable, the attention was wholly fixed upon the train; that hence the train of the poet was pro vided with a name; that in the cases of the trains of other men, where the end only was interesting, it was thought enough that the end itself should be named, the train was neglected.
In conformity with this observation, we find, that wherever there is a train which leads to nothing be yond itself, and has any pretension to the character of pleasurable (the various kinds of reverie, for example), it is allowed the name of Imagination. Thus we say that Rousseau indulged his imagination, when, as he himself describes it, lying on his back, in his boat, on the little lake of Bienne, he delivered himself up for hours to trains, of which, he says, the pleasure surpassed every other enjoyment.
Professor Dugald Stewart has given to the word Imagination, a technical meaning; without, as it appears to me, any corresponding advantage. He con fines it to the cases in which the mind forms new combinations; or, as he calls them, creations; that is, to cases in which the ideas which compose the train do not come together in the same combinations in which sensations had ever been received. But this is no specific difference. This happens, in every train of any considerable length, whether directed to any end, or not so directed. It is implied in every wish of the child to fly, or to jump over the house; in a large proportion of all his playful expressions, as puss in boots, a hog in armour, a monkey preaching, and so on. It is manifested in perfection in every dream. It is well known that, for the discovery of truths in philosophy, there is a demand for new trains of thought, multitudes of which pass in review before the mind, are contemplated, and rejected, before the happy combination is attained, in which the discovery is involved. If imagination consists in bringing trains before the mind involving a number of new combinations, imagination is probably more the occupation of the philosopher than of the poet.
Mr. Stewart appears not to have understood the real distinction between the use of the words Conception, and Imagination; that the one is the name of a single idea, the other that of a train. He also involves, without seeming to be wholly aware of it, the idea of a train destined to a particular end in the meaning which he bestows on the word Imagination. Imagination is with him, not the name of a train having merely new combinations, but of a train having new combinations, and those destined to some end. But this is not more the character of the trains which belong to the painter and the poet, as his language appears to imply, than it is of the lawyer, or the metaphysician; or, indeed, the professors of many of the vulgar arts; the tailor, for example, and the mantua-maker. (77)
[77 The foregoing analysis of the Imagination brings to view some of the important points of distinction between it and the other faculties; for example, the circumstance that the trains and constructions of the Imagination are their own ends, and not a means to farther ends, as in the constructions of science and of the industrial arts. All creative originality is not imagination; the steam-engine was not a product of this faculty.
The main features that distinguish the Imagination seem to be these three:
1. It is a faculty of the CONCRETE, like Perception and Memory, and not of the Abstract, as the scientific faculties. When we imagine a thing, we picture it to the mind, as far as we are able, in its full concrete reality. Our imagination of a scene in the tropics is of the character of an actual perception; it embraces, or should embrace, whatever would strike the view of any one surveying the reality.
2. Imagination rises above Perception and Memory, in being a CONSTRUCTIVE faculty. It alters, re-arranges, puts together the materials of perception and memory to satisfy certain demands of the mind. In this respect, it is more than Conception, which as viewed by the author, is also a faculty of the concrete, but introduces no novelty of combination. Conception may involve a great constructive effort, as when we try to picture to ourselves a poet s creation by the help of his language; nevertheless, the term imagination loses its characteristic force, and leaves an important meaning without a name, if applied to this conceiving or realizing effort. The imaginative stretch belongs to the poet or artist; the power of conceiving is what the reader of a poem brings into exercise.
3. Imagination is swayed by some PRESENT EMOTION. This is another way of expressing the author’s view that it is an end in itself. If we were to use the general word feeling,” we should encounter the difficulty of separating imagination from common industry, which is all intended to gain pleasures or ward off pains.
The brief designation “present emotion” approximates to, but does not fully bring out, the precise operation of the feelings in the constructions of Imagination. When, actuated by the love of the marvellous, any one invents a fabulous story, or highly exaggerates a real occurrence, the process is a typical instance of the imaginative workings.
The Fine Arts are the domain of Imagination; the one goes far to specify the other. If the coincidence were exact, Imagination would be defined by a definition of the Æsthetic emotions. Now, although any original construction, selected and put together to gratify an Æsthetic emotion, is a work of Imagination, yet imagination is not exhausted by fine art. The picture that an angry man draws of his enemy would be called an effort of imagination, but not a work of fine art. All our emotions, Wonder, Fear, Love, Anger, Vanity, determine the constructions of the intellect, when called into active exercise; and for these constructions we have no other name but imagination, whether they may, or may not give pleasure as works of art.
Perhaps this exceptional region may be marked out by a statement of the perverting influence, or bias, of the feelings in matters of truth and falsehood, or in works of utility. When the true and the useful, instead of being determined by their own ends, or their proper criteria, are swayed by extraneous emotions giving birth to mythical or fictitious creations we have the corrupting substitution of Imagination for Reason in men s judgments and opinions.
Thus, Fear is a potent spur to Imagination; its creations may not be aesthetically agreeable, and therefore may not come under the definition of Fine Art; yet they are fairly to be de scribed as perverting the judgment of true and false. B.]