Thursday, February 27, 2014

That double-faced companion

Above all things he feared imagination, that double-faced companion, friend on one side and foe on the other – friend in so far as one distrusts it, and enemy if one goes trustfully to sleep to the sound of its sweet murmur.
Ivan Goncharov – Oblamov

Spinoza distrusted imagination, seeing it as the primary form of defective and deceptive thinking. However, both his view and Goncharov’s may have been influenced by the absurdly superstitious worlds in which they found themselves.

These days we value our imagination, often equating it to creativity. Yet I think Spinoza and Goncharov had a point and we should distrust its sweet murmur. It seems to me that vast swathes of political reasoning are little more than the sweet murmur of imagination swirling around some more or less nebulous utopian core.

Impossibilities dressed up as possibilities, like a dream where we swoop and soar through fluffy clouds supported by nothing better than the power of the unconscious mind to pooh pooh physics.

One day there will be an app for people who hanker after a more active imagination. An app which knows our habits and limitations will trawl the web to find some imaginative yet personalised possibilities complete with bespoke ads and special offers...

...and that’s enough imagination for one day.


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Sackerson said...

Adapting your style/content to your interlocutors is a powerful way to control them.

I think of the wall-sized interactive telescreens in "Fahrenheit 451", asking the viwer how she would like the sory to continue; or Alistair Cambpell's references to political/news "narrative".

A K Haart said...

Sackers - yes, although we don't hear much of it, I think many lessons have been imbibed from the systematic study of behaviour.