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The chapter opens by making the case for a capacious understanding of the psychology of the religious imagination. Psychological capacities and propensities, it is suggested, are enabling as much as they are constraining, and religious actors creatively employ these capacities and propensities as much as they are unknowingly subject to them. The particular phenomenon for which this notion of the religious imagination is then explored in the bulk of the chapter is the deus ex machina of Greek tragedy; the relevant imaginative capacity is the human propensity for make-believe. The chapter argues that both externally, as a form of make-believe, and internally through details of the dialogue between god and characters, deus ex machina scenes pull systematically in two directions: the religious experience they enable is one in which there is room simultaneously for both belief and disbelief, trust and distrust, commitment and distance. A subsidiary strand of the argument aims to contribute to current debates about the notion of ‘belief’ in scholarship on Greek religion. The chapter emphasizes that ‘belief’ is usefully understood as sometimes including an attitudinal dimension. This attitudinal dimension comes to the fore in the deus scenes.
This chapter explores cultural themes in Africa with “narrative politics” and its cultural values central to the discourse. In expounding “narrative,” the chapter brings to the fore its two most potent modes (literature and history), which reflect reality but are different in their modus operandi – through imagination (creativity) and verifiable facts. Written beautifully and with references, this chapter blurs the contrast between the two “narrative devices” and focuses instead on espousing their working togetherness. This is because a co-adoption of both in the narrative adds creativity to facts presentation, which thus makes it interesting to read and sustain readers’ interest just as their Yoruba derivative, Alo and Itan, is often a mixture of both.
The chapter also asserts the importance of autoethnography and how through personal experience and identity, the society’s “collective consciousness” is exhibited and manifested. Also, there are references made to the cultural relevance and implication of “time and season,” “taboos and superstitions,” “greetings and reverence,” as well as “namings and places” in Yorubaland.
This Element explores the nature of both imagination and creative thinking in an effort to understand the relation between them and also to understand their role in the vast array of activities in which they are typically implicated, from art, music, and literature to technology, medicine, and science. Focusing on the contemporary philosophical literature, it will take up several interrelated questions: What is imagination, and how does it fit into the cognitive architecture of the mind? What is creativity? Is imagination required for creativity? Is creativity required for imagination? Is a person simply born either imaginative or not (and likewise, either creative or not), or are imagination and creativity skills that can be cultivated? And finally, are imagination and creativity uniquely human capacities, or can they be had by nonbiological entities such as AI systems?
According to religious fictionalism, a non-believer can participate in religious life by playing a game of make-believe. Considering how games of make-believe build on imagination and pretence, I argue that religious fictionalism requires the non-believing participant to engage in role-playing. Turning to the literature on role-playing games, I demonstrate how religious fictionalism conforms to a qualified definition of such games. I also explore the theoretical consequences of adopting the role-playing perspective, by considering its impact on two key issues concerning religious fictionalism.
With special reference to Diotima’s teaching in Plato’s Symposium, this chapter discusses the central importance to Hermetic spirituality of beauty and reverence (eusebeia), Hermetic psychological theory, and the centrality of imagination to the Hermetic concept of “becoming aiōn” and gaining cosmic consciousness.
The constituent elements of the book: Hermetic spirituality, the historical imagination, alterations of consciousness, the relation between language and experiential knowledge, and radical agnosticism in the study of religion. Narrative historiography and historical-comparative methods.
Historical writing described a form of imaginal enchantment, as illustrated by Hans Jonas’ concept of “gnosticism,” André-Jean Festugière’s “religion of the world,” and Frances A. Yates’ “Hermetic Tradition.” The importance of overcoming philhellenist ideologies, and the centrality of nonduality and embodiment to Hermetic spirituality.
The third chapter explores Sartre’s account of thinking, focusing on his relatively neglected early work on the imagination. It takes up Sartre’s largely unacknowledged debt to Bergson, showing that despite Sartre’s move to phenomenology, his account of the difference between imagining and perceiving relies on Bergson’s logic of multiplicities. It argues that this influence carries on into Being and Nothingness where Sartre’s account of the situation as the process that makes judgement possible relies on a pre-juridical moment that inverts Bergson’s account of free will while remaining true to the categories underlying it. It analyses Sartre’s account of why we falsely understand consciousness as juridical, which reworks Kant’s own arguments in the paralogisms before showing how his account of consciousness ultimately fails to provide the positive account of the constitution of a situation that he requires.
In Egypt during the first centuries CE, men and women would meet discreetly in their homes, in temple sanctuaries, or insolitary places to learn a powerful practice of spiritual liberation. They thought of themselves as followers of Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary master of ancient wisdom. While many of their writings are lost, those that survived have been interpreted primarily as philosophical treatises about theological topics. Wouter J. Hanegraaff challenges this dominant narrative by demonstrating that Hermetic literature was concerned with experiential practices intended for healing the soul from mental delusion. The Way of Hermes involved radical alterations of consciousness in which practitioners claimed to perceive the true nature of reality behind the hallucinatory veil of appearances. Hanegraaff explores how practitioners went through a training regime that involved luminous visions, exorcism, spiritual rebirth, cosmic consciousness, and union with the divine beauty of universal goodness and truth to attain the salvational knowledge known as gnôsis.
Claire Kramsch grew up between four different languages, French, English, German, and Yiddish. She tells how beyond the differences in languages, it is the misunderstandings between the speakers of these languages that have always fascinated her and that have guided her research. Literature and discourse analysis led her to develop the concept of symbolic competence.
Children's imagination was traditionally seen as a wayward, desire-driven faculty that is eventually constrained by rationality. A more recent, Romantic view claims that young children's fertile imagination is increasingly dulled by schooling. Contrary to both perspectives, this Element argues that, paradoxically, children's imagination draws much inspiration from reality. Hence, when they engage in pretend play, envision the future, or conjure up counterfactual possibilities, children rarely generate fantastical possibilities. Their reality-guided imagination enables children to plan ahead and to engage in informative thought experiments. Nevertheless, when adults present children with less reality-based possibilities – via biblical narratives or the endorsement of special beings – children are receptive. Indeed, such imaginary possibilities can infuse their otherwise commonsensical appraisal of reality. Finally, like adults, young children enjoy being absorbed into a make-believe, fictional world but faced with real-world problems calling for creativity, they often need guidance, given their limited knowledge of prior solutions.
Conviction Narrative Theory (CNT) is a theory of choice under radical uncertainty—situations where outcomes cannot be enumerated and probabilities cannot be assigned. Whereas most theories of choice assume that people rely on (potentially biased) probabilistic judgments, such theories cannot account for adaptive decision-making when probabilities cannot be assigned. CNT proposes that people use narratives—structured representations of causal, temporal, analogical, and valence relationships—rather than probabilities, as the currency of thought that unifies our sense-making and decision-making faculties. According to CNT, narratives arise from the interplay between individual cognition and the social environment, with reasoners adopting a narrative that feels ‘right’ to explain the available data; using that narrative to imagine plausible futures; and affectively evaluating those imagined futures to make a choice. Evidence from many areas of the cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences supports this basic model, including lab experiments, interview studies, and econometric analyses. We propose 12 principles to explain how the mental representations (narratives) interact with four inter-related processes (explanation, simulation, affective evaluation, communication), examining the theoretical and empirical basis for each. We conclude by discussing how CNT can provide a common vocabulary for researchers studying everyday choices across areas of the decision sciences.
This chapter examines the importance of teleology (purposiveness) in the understanding of consciousness and nature. Goal-orientation is most evident in human conscious intention. However, this establishes a disjunction between conscious mind and wider nature; the latter, according to much modern science, is not purposive. How, then, does purposive mind arise in a non-purposive universe? It is argued that modern natural science rejects a particular variety of teleological explanation. More sophisticated varieties, particularly in Aquinas’s understanding of action and intention, can be recovered which do justice to our basic intuitions concerning the purposiveness of nature. It is argued, however, that modern natural philosophy rejects a number of metaphysical concepts which make teleological explanation intelligible. Amongst those concepts is ‘habit’. This chapter examines the Aristotelian natural philosophy of habit proposed by the nineteenth-century philosopher Félix Ravaisson. For Ravaisson, habit is a mediating category between matter and conscious intention which indicates that the goal-orientation of mind is, in an analogous sense, present throughout nature, pointing to the possible recovery of a teleological understanding of nature, gleaned from a broad Aristotelian Thomism, which views creation as an expression of divine intention whilst avoiding crude accounts of teleology in modern design arguments for God’s existence.
In The Winter’s Tale, power, eros, death, the utopian, and the aesthetic are the main themes in play. It begins in a world of amoral and dehumanizing power politics and ends in affirmations of the utopian spirit – while acknowledging the realities of death and suffering. It draws on festival traditions, fairy tales, and ancient issues of resurrection and rebirth in its end and political and psychological issues, as King Leontes becomes a mad tyrant. His madness paradoxically takes an aesthetic form in its (perverse) creativity and reliance on intuitive mental decisions as defined by Kant – thus relating to the aesthetic issues later in the play. The play’s utopian space is a mixed, complicated locus that includes both the utopian and the nonutopian. What makes it a consummate example of Shakespearean metatheater is its investigation of the relations of two concepts of ancient provenance, “art” and “nature,” introduced off-handedly, played with extensively in the second half of the play, and climaxed and thematically resolved in the complex, dissonant unity of the two terms figured when an apparent stone statue of the supposedly dead Queen Hermione is revealed as living flesh.
Brandie R. Siegfried “considers three characteristics of [Cavendish's] volume of verse,” Poems and Fancies, arguing first that the book is "thoroughly engaged with philosophers and mathematicians, both ancient and modern: understanding the import of her poems often requires setting them in dialogue with those thinkers.” Second, Siegfried investigates the prefaces of Cavendish's poetry, further contending that they demonstrate a feminist sensibility as they explain her views for an audience that pointedly included women. Finally, Cavendish’s eclectic ideas are not simply the musings of a careless author, but rather are the works of a committed philosopher who uses the form of poetry to clarify her theories, making them more accessible to readers while “enhancing aesthetic pleasure through increased complexity and wit.” Giving special attention to Cavendish’s poetic revisions in Poems and Fancies, Siegfried further emphasizes the importance of Cavendish’s poetry for understanding the natural philosophy espoused in Philosophical and Physical Opinions, Philosophical Letters, and Observations upon Experimental Philosophy.
This chapter describes how much of early African American literature takes shape within competing demands and analyzes how early Black writers negotiate it. Indeed, many early African American writers produced their works within a literary double bind that pressured them to be truthful, to write with the highest level of exactitude, to imitate reality precisely, and to produce perfectly mimetic texts; and at the same time, to use their imagination, to create something beautiful, and to produce an aesthetically valuable text. I explore how George Liele, David George, Boston King, and Venture Smith negotiate this literary double bind at the end of the eighteenth century, a time that saw significant historical transitions including the Zong massacre, the American Revolutionary War, the ratification of the US Constitution, and the French and Haitian Revolutions, all against the backdrop of transatlantic slavery and efforts to eradicate it. In these narratives, although white editors, amanuenses, and interlocutors claim that these texts tell the “simple truth,” each exceeds and problematizes the description that emphasizes the texts’ transparent mimetic exactitude by creatively utilizing literary structures of expression, rupturing what Christina Sharpe describes as the episteme of racial slavery.
In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, Shakespeare plays contradictory roles. On the one hand, he emblematizes the cultural inheritance Britain shares with the United States; on the other, he serves as the vehicle by which to assert British artistic superiority. The tensions between these roles is explored in a scene in which American service men and women, under the direction of a British vicar, rehearse episodes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Through this scene, Powell and Pressburger both mock American movies and betray their anxieties about the British film industry’s postwar future. At the same time, they make the case for the imaginative primacy of British cinema—and, indeed, of their own films—over Hollywood. The chapter concludes by considering links between A Matter of Life and Death and Powell’s unrealized adaptation of The Tempest, in which Prospero stands in for the filmmaker in exile.
Encounters with art can change us in ways both big and small. This paper focuses on one of the more dramatic cases. I argue that works of art can inspire what L. A. Paul calls transformations, classic examples of which include getting married, having a child, and undergoing a religious conversion. Two features distinguish transformations from other changes we undergo. First, they involve the discovery of something new. Second, they result in a change in our core preferences. These two features make transformations hard to motivate. I argue, however, that art can help on both fronts. First, works of art can guide our attempt to imagine unfamiliar ways of living. Second, they can attract us to values we currently reject. I conclude by observing that what makes art powerful also makes it dangerous. Transformations are not always for the good, and art's ability to inspire them can be put to immoral ends.
What does ‘write what you know’ mean? The bedrock of human experience is essentially the same in any age and this is part of what writers ‘know’. We bring imagination – and sometimes research – to our own experience when we write. Everything we have lived through is potentially valuable material; writing involves transforming this material. Even inspiration comes from within. The need to top up our own personal reservoir of experience. All ideas begin ‘What if…’ The importance of pushing beyond what we know we can do easily: creativity thrives when we are outside our comfort zone.
‘The magic isn’t out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered: the ingredients are in you right now, in your experience and in your imagination, waiting for you to make the unique connections that will enable you to discover it.’
Since the rise of the ruling Justice and Development Party in the early 2000s, Turkey has invested in several mega transport and infrastructure projects for the purposes of economic transformation, growth, and development. This article explores the impact of a recently completed mega-project—the Osman Gazi Bridge—on material change and popular imagination about the future. It claims that, while the Bridge created a colossal material change that can be observed by everyone, it also animated an imagined post-industrial transition and inclusive development in the industrial town of Dilovası. Although the dream of a better future serves as a medium for the industrial town’s underprivileged inhabitants to connect and socialize, along with the current marginalizing conditions, it also has the potential to fuel future resistance, if imagination is unable to be transformed into reality.