Thursday, May 1, 2008


"The concept of imagination ... can strengthen or clarify the sense in which 'we are all artists'. It is ... so ubiquitous that it is in danger of seeming empty. ... I think we need the familiar word ['imagination'] to designate something (good by definition) to which the contrast with fantasy (bad by definition) gives substance. The human mind is naturally and largely given to fantasy. Vanity (a prime human motive) is composed of fantasy. Neurotic or vengeful fantasies, erotic fantasies, delusions of grandeur, dreams of power, can imprison the mind, impeding new understanding, new interests and affections, possibilities of fruitful and virtuous action. If we consider the narrow dreariness of this fantasy life to which we are so addicted the term 'unimaginative' seems appropriate. ... [I]magination appears as a restoration of freedom, cognition, the effortful ability to see what lies before one more clearly, more justly, to consider new possibilities, and to respond to good attachments and desires which have been in eclipse. ... Imagination is ... a moral discipline of the mind, which would, for instance, help people not to become embittered or brutalised or stupefied by affliction. ...

"We are fantasising imaginative animals. ... Truthful imagining requires courage and humility. ... It is a matter of deepening the concepts in question through a relation to each other. There is a continuous and spontaneous interplay. 'Becoming better' is a process involving an exercise and refinement of moral vocabulary and sensibility."

--Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992)

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