The Changing Relations Between Imagination and Thought: From Hegel and Husserl to Ricoeur and Derrida

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts major in Philosophy (Option 1: Thesis)



First Advisor

Mark Raftery-Skehan, PhD


In this project, I demonstrate that in Plato, Aristotle, Pico, and Kant, imagination assumes a mediational role. Imagination mediates between the appearances and eidos (Plato), between the senses and the intellect (Aristotle), between the senses and intellectus (Pico), and between sensibility and understanding (Kant). I argue that in Plato, Aristotle, Pico, and Kant, imagination assumes an ambiguous status. This ambiguity is evinced in their availing of and eventually downplaying the role of imagination in their philosophical articulations. I demonstrate further that this ambiguity obscuring imagination is very much a function of it as a mediation. Furthermore, parallel to the accounts of imagination adumbrated above, I demonstrate that there is to be gleaned an ambiguous gesture in Husserl and Hegel’s treatment of imagination. In them, imagination is both positively and negatively appraised. I contend further that, despite the ambiguity shown in their gestures, Husserl and Hegel implicate imagination as the agency responsible for the formation and apprehension of conceptual universals, of universals figuring within the conceptual signified meanings, thus a further positive appraisal of imagination. Here, Husserl and Hegel’s conceptions of imagination converge. Moreover, Husserl and Hegel’s conceptions of imagination signal the possibility for an imagination operative in language. I argue further that this burgeoning relation between imagination and language can be detected in the contemporary thinking on imagination, particularly in Derrida and Ricoeur. Derrida articulates the possibility of signification and linguistic as arising only through ideality, that is, through the possibility of the reproducibility of the sign and the signified. Ricoeur maintains that thought and imagination are intricately related in the symbol, in thought as it is involved in endeavors of imagination (in the thinking of utopias, in literary fiction). This project, therefore, demonstrates that, although there is an ambiguity obscuring imagination’s role in philosophy, Hegel and Husserl’s conceptions of imagination give an impression that imagination is essentially involved in language, and thus vital to language, discourse, and more broadly, to philosophy. And this rapport between imagination and language finds a more pronounced treatment in Derrida and Ricoeur.

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