“Aber dies produktive Bilden der Einbildungskraft ist am reichsten nicht dort, wo sie schlechthin frei ist (..) sondern dort wo sie in einem Spielraum lebt, den das Einheitsstreben des Verstandes ihr nicht so sehr als Schranke aufrichtet, wie zur Anregung ihres Spieles vorzeichnet.” Hans-Georg Gadamer, Gesammelte Werke 1, Hermeneutik 1, Wahrheit und Methode, Mohr/Tübingen 1990, p. 52.
(amateuristic English translation (note: I already have issues with the original German): “But this productive force of the imagination is not the most rich where she is just merely free (..) but where she lives in a playing field that was set up by the leveling force of reason – not so much as a boundary but as a stimulus.”)
There was a time, not so long ago, that I thought I would never read something written by somebody like Gadamer. It was a time where I thought things needed to be clean, well ordered and to the point – a time of solutions and a time for science, and hence there was no time for common sense nor could it still be a time of pseudo-problems.
Since then I made a half circle, winding up not just reading Gadamer but also agreeing with a lot of it (but not loving it – no, not loving it at all: I fear he writes more or less as awkwardly as I do; but, at least, he does not write pretentiously). In a nutshell: he resists rationalism for the right reasons without falling into some form of particularism or relativism and reserving a non-mystical place for common sense as a sense (as an intuition).
Enough blablabla, to the quote!
You might be tempted to read this as a cliché defense of art needing to overcome adversity or struggle with the far too real bounds of reality. You need to resist this temptation and the images of romantic genius that go with it. The playing field is a field on which imagination can play, there is no hint of imagination requiring us to be stressed in order to find expression for our innermost torturedness. The playing field is there thanks to reason; reason allows us to get to a play that is more interesting than the free-for-all of nature’s romance.
Reason is not the aim but it is also not an obstacle. Reason is what provides the challenge (challenge is a bad word here, rather something like (sexual) excitation) for imagination. Creativity isn’t a means but neither is it a goal. Creativity is what avoids reason of going stale (maybe a better image would be that of the brave new world). There is no advance of reason without imagination and there is no imagination without the substrate of reason.
It is a matter of quadrialectics: some statistics to start with (association, intuition, sense, ostension), then some logic to consolidate after which some more common sense that is not yet quite able to be captured in strict formulas and then a capturing of that common sense. Quadrialectics is 0 (force of nature) and 1 (logic of reason)in 4 arrangements that are in constant interplay.
“Harmologics” maybe, for lack of an existing word.
I think that is crucial, to demystify what will always be something that will tend to elude us. Because it is doable to get an explanation without that explanation being a termination of anything – but rather the explication of an interminable beginning. I think it’s crucial because without fixing anything it allows us to come away from fixed frames of reference – it allows moral behaviour without religious symbolism or dogmatism – it allows knowledge without threatening a free and flowing movement that has no end and is the only end.
But I get carried away with attempted poetry: I think such demystifcation is possible when combining things on either side of the philosophical spectrum, when converging what is already accepted on either side. And I think I was close in my thesis (which is linked somewhere on this site but which I can’t be bothered to be linking here) in starting with what is essentially statistic to build categories and then having a stepping stone theory of language moving back and forth – from pure logic to probability, and back again, but not in a circle but in an upward spiral.
Sorry for getting carried away.
[Whilst writing this I was listening to Ornette Coleman, “Something Else”, Contemporary.]