31 May 2021

With/Out Reason: Art and Imagination in the Western Tradition

Today the imagination occupies an august, if ill-defined, place in the popular mindset. While we might at some level link the imagination to the arts, its capacities for innovation are thought to span all human creative endeavours across the arts and sciences. In Western society today, thinking imaginatively, or outside the box, is a deeply revered feature of our strongly individualistic culture. Yet, until the eighteenth century, the products of human imagination were understood to be unavoidably communal insofar as they were thought to generate certain palpable effects. For good or ill, works of the imagination were expected to aesthetically impact all those who encountered them. They were never simply the result of abstract thought processes that functioned at a level beyond expected norms. Rather, imaginative inventions were governed by an understanding of the imagination in its most ordinary sense as that which creates mental images.

This course will examine the consequences of this understanding of the imagination for the Western tradition and how it has led to where we are today. Through an investigation of key philosophical and theological texts (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Schelling, Coleridge, Derrida) as well as works of art (e.g. Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth), it will look at the place of image and imagination in a variety of forms of cognition from the ‘objective’ world of phenomenon to the ‘inobjective’ world of the highest truths. It will consider the traditional place of imagination in ethical theory. And it will clarify the inextricability of the arts and artistry from this history as well as offer points of departure for a theory of imagination today.

Dr. Rebekah Smick
ICS 120106 / 220106 F21
ICH5752HF L0101*
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Wednesdays, 10am - 1pm EST

(MWS, MA, PhD)


Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 17, 2021. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Attention TST students: you have to contact the ICS Registrar to complete your registration.