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theory of arts practices
postdoctoral research
Completed

Imagination. Between reason and passion, between body and mind

  • Onderzoekers: Helena De Preester
  • Promotoren: Stefan Hertmans (School of Arts), Gertrudis Van de Vijver (Ghent University, dept. Philosophy and Moral Sciences)

2007 – 2013

Philosophy has always had its favourites and black sheep. It is understood that reason was one of its minions, and that philosophical discourse has articulated sharper en clearer – especially in modernity – why the so-called opponents of reason should be shunned. Pre-eminent agents of the non-rational and irrational were the body and all that is intimately related to it: the senses, passions or emotions and imagination. As of the 20th century body, sensory perception, emotion and – progressively – even imagination have been openly subject to philosophical revaluation. Primarily, this is to be noticed clearly in the abandoning of the rigid, over-simplified opposition between reason and emotion, or between the rational mind and the non-rational body. Body and emotion appear to be not merely marginally influencing cognitive-rational processes, but actually even crucial to rational functioning. In view of this, philosophy has revised itself, interacting with a number of other disciplines which have devoted increasingly more attention to the body and its reciprocity with cognitive processes. Cooperation with neuro-scientific disciplines, embodiment studies and philosophical studies have particularly shed new light on this often complex issue. We must not, however, be naive: body, passion and imagination have always been forcing themselves on philosophical thought. That which seemed to threaten pure thought has always been something which had to be thought as well. Apart from the orthodox philosophical history of reason, there was always that other philosophy: that of the body, of passion and imagination. Without that philosophy of the sub- and a-rational, subdued though sometimes very explicit, a philosophy of reason could not have stood its ground.

Our research will reveal that philosophy of the body and imagination. We will retrace the critical steps philosophy has taken in its views on imagination and body, and examine what the mutual relations are between the three discourses of reason, imagination and body / senses and passions. In this survey we will also focus on the ways in which the study of imagination has been both joined to and separate from attempts to get a hold over processes of inspiration. These processes were attributed sometimes to phenomena beyond the subject, and at other times to events taking place in the impersonal depths of the body. shed new light on this often complex issue. We must not, however, be naive: body, passion and imagination have always been forcing themselves on philosophical thought. That which seemed to threaten pure thought has always been something which had to be thought as well. Apart from the orthodox philosophical history of reason, there was always that other philosophy: that of the body, of passion and imagination. Without that philosophy of the sub- and a-rational, subdued though sometimes very explicit, a philosophy of reason could not have stood its ground. Our research will reveal that philosophy of the body and imagination. We will retrace the critical steps philosophy has taken in its views on imagination and body, and examine what the mutual relations are between the three discourses of reason, imagination and body / senses and passions. In this survey we will also focus on the ways in which the study of imagination has been both joined to and separate from attempts to get a hold over processes of inspiration. These processes were attributed sometimes to phenomena beyond the subject, and at other times to events taking place in the impersonal depths of the body. Subsequently, we will examine how an interdisciplinary collaboration between the fields mentioned above can provide a framework for a contemporary critique of imagination, situated between cognition and embodiment. This critique can not be conceived without a call upon the arts, particularly those artistic disciplines whose basic theme is that of imagination and corporality, be it implicitly or explicitly. Against this background, we will suggest that the body does not present itself monolithically, but as a layered concept in which [body image], [body scheme] and [?inner?] body are constitutive, each in a singular fashion, to the motor system, the sensory system, emotion, (inter)subjectivity and the being-in-the-world of an embodied subject.

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