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[Xmca-l] Re: Imagination

Apologies, as ever, for tiptoeing into a river already in spate - I recently ruptured an Achilles tendon and am having to get used to life on crutches but this means I have not been able to keep up with the flow on imagination as much as I would have liked. I have read the Strawson chapter, though and found in this echoes of studies I dimly recall (reproductive imagination) which suggested that only about 10% of what we 'see' comes from optical information - sensation from our retinae with the rest coming from our active, situated and embodied interpretation of this information.

Strawson's account of Wittgenstein's section on ambiguous images (the duck-rabbit) reminded me of the important difference between seeing THINGS and seeing PICTURES of things. A difference which resembles, in some ways, that between hearing oral stories and reading written ones. In all of these cases an experience which was once intensely relational is 'reduced'  to some degree in ways which significantly alter the nature of the relations. The 'duck-rabbit' picture is not resolved by turning one's head, looking at it from another angle or waiting for it to move so one's visual relationship with it is very different. A written story is not affected by one's response to it in the way a spoken story might be so again the relationship is altered. Third shift seems particularly relevant in discussions about thinking and imagining because it reminds us that these are ACTIONS - we DO thinking and we DO perceiving and because we DO them we have embodied memory traces of what it felt like to be doing them. If we shift our thinking onto a more categorical level, to think in terms of 'thoughts', 'images' and 'memories' rather than 'thinkings', 'imaginings' and 'rememberings' we move from thinking about experiences to thinking about 'pictures' of experiences and our relationships with the activities is shifted.

An earlier post (sorry, I can't remember whose) looked at the important distinction between the 'structure' of visual (or other sensory) information and the structure of the world perception we are able to construct or imagine. I read many years ago about studies which sought to restore 'sight' to blind people, one by placing an array of electrical contacts on the tongue another by placing an array of micro vibrators (tactons) on the back. In both cases these arrays were connected to a computer which received input from a video camera, converting it into a pattern of 'ons' and 'offs'  which could be felt by the blind person using the equipment. What really interested me, however, was the observation that it was ONLY when the camera was mounted to the operator's head, so that it could be turned and 'aimed' at will that, in a remarkably short space of time, operators were able to 'sense' objects in their environment. Merely feeding a signal to the tongue or back was not enough to allow someone to 'see' - what was needed was the relationship between MOVING the camera and FEELING the associated changes in sensation. And of course when the operator 'clicked' with the system any awareness of tingling on the tongue or vibrations on the back were replaced by an awareness of things 'out there' in the environment. Just as we routinely 'project' our re-membered re-assembly of visual information out into our perception of the world around us (with no awareness of what is going on in our eyes and brains) so these blind people were able to project an imagined external world which allowed them to move around, avoiding obstacles and finding objects.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that it is, surely, all in the felt experience of relationships with acts of seeing/thinking/imagining. Exploring the ways in which babies 'learn to see' is one fascinating way into the quintessentially human journey from unmediated, immediate sensory experience (seeing it like it is but without any ideas about what it is like or what might be interesting about it) to a socially constructed, culturally filtered way of relating with the world, not just through our own senses but also through (accounts of) the sensory experiences of others as well. While this is often felt as a loss (the gates of perception have been corrupted) it is also recognised as a unique feature of what it means to be human - that we are not left to think and imagine on our own. Not only are we able to share our experience but also we are able to experience sharing.


All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
Sent: 14 December 2014 00:54
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Imagination

Esteemed discussants,

Having finished the paper, and considering Mike's comments, I might suggest that metaphorical reasoning is an essential engine to imagination, and I wonder if I say that because impressions taken of the perceived object as it presents itself to me (the Big Dipper) is the identical to taking the object as a product of seeing-as (a star constellation as a Big Dipper), is the identical to taking the object to represent something else entirely (such as Wittgenstein's triangle as a mountain, as an arrow, etc., or a flag to represent a nation).

In other words, that imagination begins as a perceptual process which then develops into metaphorical reasoning and perhaps continues on to more complex forms of imagining and conceptual renderings. There is definitely a dynamic relationship to perception and imagination.

If metaphor isn't THE essential engine, it must serve as a priming process (arising from embodied experience in the world), possibly in the same way the gesture manifests into the word and its meaning. At least that's how I see it at the moment...even though I'm only looking at pixels on my screen as I write this...

(Thinking out loud, but I hope not too loud).

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu>
Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2014 2:02 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Imagination

Here are some questions I have after reading Strawson and Williams.

Kant et al (including Russian developmentalists whose work i am trying to
mine for empirical
strategies and already-accumulated results) speak of productive
imagination. The Russians write that productive imagination develops.

At first I thought that the use of productive implies that there must be a
kind of ​imagination called UNproductive imagination. But I learned that
instead the idea of RE-productive imagination appears and is linked to

So, it seems that imagination is an ineluctable part of anticipation and
Imagine that!

On Sat, Dec 13, 2014 at 12:16 PM, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com> wrote:
> Strawson provides a long view historically on imagination (starting with
> Hume and Kant), Williams a more contemporaneous look, and provides a space
> for imagination not afforded by the socio-cultural as fixed. This, coupled
> with Pelaprat and Cole on Gap/Imagination, gives me a ground to take part
> in the thread on imagination. Of course, I start with preconceptions: Vera
> on creative collaboration and the cognitive grammarian Langacker on
> symbolic assemblies in discourse and cognitive domains, particularly the
> temporal. Everyday discourse, it seems to me, is full of imagination and
> creativity. I am terribly interested in two aspects of temporality:
> sequence and rhythm (including tempo and rhythmic structure), which I think
> must both figure in imagination and creativity, for both individual and
> distributed construals of cognition and feeling.
> Henry
> > On Dec 13, 2014, at 12:01 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > Henry, Mike, and others interested in this topic.
> >
> > I too see the affinities with notions of the third *space* and the
> analogy
> > to *gap-filling*
> > I am on holiday so limited access to internet.
> > However, I wanted to mention Raymond Williams and his notion of
> "structures
> > of feeling" that David K references. This notion is explored under the
> > notion of historical *styles* that exist as a *set* of modalities that
> hang
> > together.  This notion suggests there is a form of knowing that is
> forming
> > but has not yet formed [but can be "felt" [perceived??] if we think
> > imaginatively.  Raymond explores the imaginal as *style*
> > Larry
> > On Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 4:38 PM, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >>
> >> Mike and Larry,
> >> I promise to read your profer, but just want to say how jazzed up I am
> now
> >> about this thread. My mind has been going wild, the mind as Larry
> construes
> >> it. I ended up just now with a triad, actually various triads, finally
> >> found my old friend Serpinski. Part now of my notebooks of the mind, as
> >> Vera would construe it. I’ll be back! Gap adentro, luega pa’ fuera.
> >> Fractally yours,
> >> Henry
> >>
> >>> On Dec 12, 2014, at 5:09 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
> >>>
> >>> For those interested in the imagination thread, attached are two
> articles
> >>> by philosophers who have worried about the issue.
> >>>
> >>> My current interest stems from the work of CHAT theorists like
> >> Zaporozhets
> >>> and his students who studied the development of imagination in a manner
> >>> that, it turns out, goes back to Kant's notion of productive
> >> imagination. I
> >>> am not advocating going back to Kant, and have no intention of doing
> so.
> >>> But these ideas seem worth pursuing as explicated in the attached
> texts.
> >>>
> >>> Through reading the Russians and then these philosophers, I came upon
> the
> >>> idea that perception and imagination are very closely linked at several
> >>> levels of analysis. This is what, in our naivete, Ettienne and I argued
> >> in
> >>> our paper on imagination sent around earlier as a means of access to
> the
> >>> work of the blind-deaf psychologist, Alexander Suvorov. Moreover, such
> >>> views emphasize the future orientation of the perception/imagination
> >>> process. I believe that these views have direct relevance to Kris's
> paper
> >>> to be found on the KrisRRQ thread, and also speak to concerns about the
> >>> role of different forms of symbolic play in development.
> >>>
> >>> So here are the papers on the imagination thread. Perhaps they will
> prove
> >>> useful for those interested.
> >>> mike
> >>>
> >>> --
> >>> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
> >>> object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.
> >>> <Imagination and Perception by P.F. Strawson.pdf>
> >>
> >>
> >>

It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.


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