Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Thomas Hobbes, the seventeenth century English Philosopher, had a similar view about imagination as the slightly later, Neapolitian rhetorician, Giambattista Vico had about the development of sensus communis:


When a Body is once in motion, it moveth (unless something els hinder it) eternally; and whatsoever hindreth it, cannot in an instant, but in time, and by degrees quite extinguish it: And as wee see in the water, though the wind cease, the waves give not over rowling for a long time after; so also it happeneth in that motion, which is made in the internall parts of a man, then, when he Sees, Dreams, &c. For after the object is removed, or the eye shut, wee still retain an image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And this is it, the Latines call imagination, from the image made in seeing; and apply the same, though improperly, to all the other senses. But the Greeks call it Fancy which signifies appearance, and it is as proper to one sense, as to another. IMAGINATION therefore is nothing but decaying sense; and is found in men, and many other living Creatures, as well sleeping, as waking. From The Leviathan (New York: Prometheus Books, 1988 {1651]), p. 5.

David Appelbaum applies this point of view to his study on voice: with the fruits of phonemic control comes the first distancing from the actual event, and therefore the fall through metaphorical abstraction from experiential grace:

What imagination brings to its conjunction with vitality is feebleness, degeneracy, and ruin. The dimness of perception surrounding the imagination is shame itself... What is shameful is the pretence of control, the hubris that replaces the freshness of vital contact with the decayed trace left of its body. What the imagination discovers and must keep hidden from itself is that its retentive ability is in fact null. The sole thing that the imagination manages to retain is concealment of discovery. The shame of the imagination is and must remain secret like a venereal disease brought to stain the purity of a virgin's bed. From Voice, by David Appelbaum (New York: State University of New York Press, 1990), p. 61.


Last Modified 20 January 1998