IMAGINATION, the power of the soul which retains images derived from sense perception, or which combines such images or their parts into new composite images, which took on a special meaning in philosophy. To Aristotle (De Anima, 3), the term "imagination" denoted the faculty of the soul which, as one of the internal senses, functions as an intermediary between the external senses and the intellect , possessing qualities of both. Receiving individual physical images from the five senses (or from a sixth, "common" sense), the imagination either imitatively retains them, filing them in the memory, or passes them on in a more organized and composite form to the intellect, where cognition is completed. Thus, while being different from sense perception, imagination is still dependent on the senses. Also, while imagination is different from thought, images are the objects of thought. Aristotle's definition of the imagination was generally accepted, sometimes with certain modifications, by medieval Muslim and Jewish philosophers. For example, isaac israeli stated that imagination, being intermediate between perception and reason, is joined to both. Deriving from the neoplatonic source also used by al-Fārābī, however, Israeli goes further to say that the imagination is capable of an activity of its own which is no longer dependent on the material supplied by the senses and preserved in memory. This activity opens access to metaphysical truth with the help of images, and manifests itself in translating metaphysical truths into symbols (see A. Altmann and S.M. Stern, Isaac Israeli (1958), 142–3). Maimonides, who attributes to the imagination the functions of retaining impressions by the senses, combining them, and forming images (Guide of the Perplexed, 2:36), sees the action of the imagination as being opposed to the action of the intellect (Guide 1:73, tenth proposition), and seems to identify the imagination with "common" sense (see wolfson , in Jewish Studies in Memory of George Kohut (1935), 583–98). The discussion of the imagination in medieval Jewish philosophy usually takes place within the context of a discussion of prophecy . Some philosophers, like abraham ibn daud , attributed to the imagination no function of prophecy, and considered the intellect as the exclusive organ of prophetic revelation. Others, like Israeli (Altmann and Stern, op. cit., 144–5), Maimonides (Guide, 2:36), and judah halevi (Kuzari, 4:3) saw prophecy as extending equally to the imagination and the intellect. In prophecy, according to Maimonides, the influence of the active intellect is received by both the imagination and the intellect. This influence extends to the imagination alone only in the case of oracles, dreams, and the inspirations of statesmen. In post-medieval philosophy, spinoza rejects the role of the intellect in prophetic revelation and considers the imagination alone as the instrument of prophecy. Thus, in Spinoza's system prophets occupy the place which soothsayers occupy in the system of Maimonides. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Wolfson, in: HTR, 28 (1935), 69–113; idem, in: JQR, 25 (1935), 441–67; R. Walzer, Greek into Arabic (1962), 207–19; Z. Diesendruck, in: Jewish Studies in Memory of Israel Abrahams (1927), 99–123; Guttmann, Philosophies, index. (Alfred L. Ivry)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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