ABSTRACT

The importance of the category of imagination is closely tied up with the conceptual development of the aesthetic discipline in the 18th century. Kant (1987) was the first author who situated this category at the center of his aesthetic theory in his Critique of Judgment (1987). He related such a category to its cognitive powers, although he did not think they were related to truth’s validity. The aesthetic produced its own validity. Kant’s concept of imagination gave account of the active operations which take place in the free play of understanding and sensibility. The concept of imagination differed from past versions because Kant did not regard it as a passive operation-a mimetic imagination-but as an active, productive imagination. With Kant’s concept of imagination the category ceased to be conceptualized as a mirror projecting reflections of some external reality. Instead, imagination was seen as central to all knowledge and as a creative capacity. This kind of knowledge, Kant thought, was neither entirely subjective nor objective. It was a shared knowledge and the result of common sense (sensus communis).122 The following development of this category taken by Hannah Arendt (1982) only enhanced Kant’s original intuitions. As Mary Warnock claims “the mystery of how on earth we communicate with each other has been solved. For the world as it appears is genuinely common to us all, though grasped and understood by each” (1994: 14). We humans share the identical cognitive faculties of imagination and understanding projected on our capacity to communicate our judgments and on sharing our common sense (intersubjectivity). Thanks to the relevance of Arendt’s intervention in rescuing Kant’s original contribution to the concept of imagination, we now think about this concept as involving a Copernican revolution.123 How did this revolution happen? It took some time-I wish to argue-to configure the new scenario where such a concept

would play a significant role in providing the tools for the feminist revolution. To trace back some of the important historical developments that led to this conceptual transformation will be the subject of this chapter.