A Few Thoughts on Freedom of Imagination

Perhaps the best knowledge we have is scientific knowledge, in which repeated observations and the use of our deepest intuitive faculties (a priori synthetic reasoning, Mathematics, for example) can yield knowledge of reality.  In this sense, I am trying to be a good Kantian.  Kant’s philosophy had trouble offering arguments for the existence of that reality, but I’m not sure any philosophy can. 

Descriptions of science can never capture the process of actually making a scientific discovery, or uncovering and unifying previous understanding into a relatively simple, beautiful law of nature (nature loves to elude us).  Scientists don’t need philosophy to do their work.  However, scientists, without fail, need to use their imaginations so that they can understand what they are doing.

For this reason, some people constantly advocate the free use of the imagination without understanding.  I think this occurs because, for many of us, the imagination is not something we’re encouraged to use freely.  It is constricted by all sorts of moral codes, social mores, ethical obligations and responsibilites we have to others and to survival in our own societies.  As a result, and probably a useful result, the discussion of imagination remains highly important publicly, but something very small, not encompassing all the other possible uses of the imagination.  It can be easy to think that science, for example, is objective and passionless.  

Even more limiting is the attempt to turn the work of the artist or genius into a humanist, collectivist, or political, or for that matter, educational program.   You can teach children art, but the artist among them with great talent will realize how restrictive and limited the teaching is at some point.   

Of course, why do you need someone like me telling you this?  You’re free to use your imagination anyway you please.