Thursday, May 22, 2014

Imagination in Indic Philosophy

There’s a wonderful post on the role of imagination in perception in Indian philosophy by Douglas Berger at the Indian Philosophy Blog.
Not mentioned in the post and subsequent discussion (as it’s confined to imagination vis-à-vis perception in philosophy) is an intriguing fact: within the four major schools of Sanskrit poetics (Alaṅkāra, Rīti, Dhvani, and Rasa), according to V.K. Chari, imagination (pratibhā, ‘poetic genius’) is not used in the definition of poetry, “although nearly all critics paid homage to it.” Indeed, pratibhā is simply cited as “only one of the causes of poetry, together with training (śikā) and understanding of the world (vyutpatti).”* Chari himself thinks what others see here as a failure to do justice to the intuitive or imaginative parts of poetic creation is rather an analytic virtue of the scholastic approach of Sanskrit critics, for imagination “is at best a dubious concept, and its usefulness for criticism has not been proved.” The second half of the coordinating conjunction is likely true, although I disagree with the proposition that imagination is “at best a dubious concept.”
* Sanskrit manuals, writes Chari, make a firm distinction between “the cause of poetic creation (kāvya-hetu), the ‘fruits’ accruing from it (kāvya-phala) or the purpose served by it (kāvya-prayojana), and the nature of poetry (kāvya-lakaa).” 


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