“Mediating between perspective and language is pure imagination. It is a medium of appearance and expressibility, a medium which does not exist for itself but for the purpose of making other things possible. It is a bridge between the disproportion of ‘the verb’ with which we express ourselves and ‘the look’ which is tied to perspective. Ricoeur uses the term ‘pure imagination’ because it connotes the ‘throwness’ of the thing before me, a thing which is at once given to my point of view and capable of being expressed. By means of the function of pure imagination things appear before us as intelligible and expressible, but pure imagination is not intelligible on its own. It is a Kantian term, but it unites meaning and appearance rather than the intelligible and the sensible (as Kant used it), to stress that the objectivity of the object is constituted on the object itself. One condition for the possibility of this synthesis is time, for it is via time (a series of units following one after the other) that we are able to determine quantity, connection, and other appearances. How high is the tree? take a moment to measure it. How far away is my friend? take the time to count the steps. How blue is the house? a darker shade than the one we saw this morning.
Ricoeur admits that the problem of how we differentiate between subject and object, how we know thing A is different from thing B, has only been clarified, not solved. Pure imagination is still enigmatic, and it is not itself the ‘I’ of the ‘I think’. Reflection on the term imagination, however, is helpful in understanding the puzzling nature of this function. This function is pure because it is itself without content. Without sensory data to collate into an appearance, the function is empty, without anything upon which to function. The word ‘imagination’ is fitting because it is by means of this synthesizing function that we are able to make sense of the images (or sounds, or other sensory data) that come before us” (Huskey 2009:50).
Huskey, Rebecca K.
2009 Paul Ricoeur on Hope: Expecting the Good. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
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