Emerson and Santayana on Imagination

In Flamm And Skowronski (ed.), Under Any Sky, Contemporary Readings on George Santayana (2007)
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This paper examines Santayana on imagination, and related themes, chiefly as these are expressed in his early work, Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (1900). My hypothesis is that Santayana under-estimates, in this book, the force and significance of the prevalent distinction between imagination and fancy, as this was originally put forward by Coleridge and later developed in Emerson’s late essays. I will focus on some of those aspects of Santayana’s book which appear to react to or to engage with Emerson’s views and aim to bring Santayana’s treatment of the theme of imagination into relation with Emerson. Understanding the differences in greater detail we stand a better chance of reasoned evaluation of alternative conceptions of imagination. I will argue that the Coleridge-Emersonian conception of the distinction between imagination and fancy is a crucial element of the background of Peircean abduction, and in this fashion, contributes to the continuity of Emerson’s writings with the pragmatist tradition.



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H. G. Callaway
Temple University

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