Kierkegaard on imagination

by Andrea Elizabeth

The fantastic, of course, is most closely related to the imagination, but the imagination in turn is related to feeling, knowing, and willing; therefore a person can have imaginary feeling, knowing, and willing. As a rule, imagination is the medium for the process of infinitizing; it is not a capacity, as are the others – if one wishes to speak in those terms, it is the capacity for all capacities. When all is said and done, whatever of feeling, knowing, and willing a person has depends upon what imagination he has, upon how that person reflects himself – that is, upon imagination. Fichte quite correctly assumed that even in relation to knowledge the categories derive from the imagination. The self is reflection, and the imagination is refelction, is the rendition of the self as the self’s possibility. The imagination is the possibility of any and all reflection, and the intensity of this medium is the possibility of the intensity of the self. (The Sickness Unto Death, p. 30, 31)

Imagination is about possibilities, but can be mistaken for reality, or finding the true self, even if the will brings about what is imagined. For example, a person can imagine inventing a new recipe, and even proceed to make the new dish, but did this process and completion bring about a true self before God? Not necessarily. We are conditioned to accept our imaginations without a second thought to what a true self is.

The self, then, leads a fantasized existence in abstract infinitizing or in abstract isolation, continually lacking its self, from which it only moves further and further away. Take the religious sphere, for example. The God-relationship is an infinitizing, but in fantasy this infinitizing can so sweep a man off his feet that his state is simply an intoxication. To exist before God may seem unendurable to a man because he cannot come back to himself, become himself. Such a fantasized religious person would say (to characterize him by means of some lines): “That a sparrow can live is comprehensible; it does not know that it exists before God. But to know that one exists before God, and then not instantly go mad or sink into nothingness!” (p. 32)

Where infinity meets finity. P’kow (or so I imagine).