“One Must Imagine What One Denies”: How Sartre Imagines the Imaginary

Evental Aesthetics 4 (1):96-116 (2015)

Sarah Kathryn Marshall
University of Memphis
FEATURED IN EVENTAL AESTHETICS RETROSPECTIVE 1. LOOKING BACK AT 10 ISSUES OF EVENTAL AESTHETICS. This essay is a defense of Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Imaginary as a text which changes the direction of philosophical thinking regarding the image. Historically depreciated as a mere “copy” or “appearance” of a “reality” grasped through perception, the image is reconceived in Sartre’s text, which culminates in a revaluation of imagination as the condition of possibility for a human consciousness that always already transcends its situation towards something entirely other – what he calls “the imaginary.” Despite the metaphysical bias that clearly operates on Sartre’s thinking throughout The Imaginary and leads him to privilege perception over imagination, his work ultimately succeeds in nihilating the traditional thing-image binary. In effect, he imagines something other than his situatedness within the philosophical reality of his time, ushering in a thought of the imaginary through a creative encounter with nothingness. This thought could only occur spontaneously, for the advent of the imaginary is not produced in an act of will. Accordingly, this essay attempts to trace the movements of Sartre’s project in its transformative process.
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