Sartrean Cogitations – I


We may therefore conclude that imagination is not an empirical power added to consciousness, but it is the whole of consciousness as it realizes freedom.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sarte’s The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination (1940), outlines the mandatory stage i.e., the inquiry into imagination which carefully discerns nothingness that consciousness fabricates and the consciousness itself i.e., distinguishing being-in-itself from being-for-itself and hence, constituting its ontological phenomenon. When one asks what is imagination? The imagination can be understood as our experience as a whole authorised by consciousness. 


On Aesthetics: The aesthetic appreciation excites our sensory experience of the imaginary object. When an object is presented with distinctive properties like its color, shape, size, etc., its aesthetic comfort excites and captivates our senses while further being appreciated in imagination. So, a great deal of our daily-imaginary acts are a result of the recognition of the aesthetic appeals in our immediate environment for sensory excitement or satisfaction. 

On Perceptual-Imaginative Model: The perpetual experience vastly differs from the imaginative experience, as perception requires the scrutiny of the object while imagination demands the confluence of the imaged object’s sketch through conceptual reflection. Therefore, it is our imagination that carefully integrates the sketch of a perceived experience according to our will to alter the original perceptual experience into an appealing one. 

On Hallucinations: Hallucinations posits an imaginary stance to the world that designates the discovery of the essence of objects as opposed to aiming to do the same. However, hallucinations differ from perception as it the very imaginary stance that deceives the experiencer regarding the essence of experience itself. Therefore, drug-induced hallucinations alongside dream phenomenon gives the experiencer the will to embrace the imaginary stance.    


A. The Intentional Structure of the Image

(i) Accordig to Sartre, the initial goal of phenomenological psychology of imagination is making explicit the act of reflection which is uniform for all while promising an observer the absolute essence of an image. When an observer observes an object, lets say object x, he perceives and reflects on its properties and therefore gains definite knowledge about its essence. The dilemma present amongst thinkers about the ‘variety’ of principles the act of reflection elucidates seem correctly insignificant, as it is quite logical to conclude that the act of reflection guarantees the essence of object x when perceived and reflected upon i.e., the data derived would be certain and absolute as opposed to probable because probability corresponds to the immediate data perceived from the experience while the certainty corresponds to absolute data. 

(ii) An illusion emanates via the habitual act of thinking in space and on the conditions of the space i.e., Sartrean ‘Illusion of Immanence’. Originating from Hume’s distinction of impressions and ideas, Sartre concludes that ideas are nothing but images itself i.e., just like imaged-object x might have its different characteristics, the same will be true for its ideas. Following the chain of thought, an idea is a product of reflection that comprises attributes that are its determinants, and therefore, while ideas might be mental images of a said object, they can also be a mental conceptualisation of abstraction, in which it is also an abstract conceptual image. 

(iii) The extrinsic-perceived image is when one perceives the photograph of person x through their consciousness obliquely then, person x is what photograph represents, while an intrinsic-perceived image is when the person is comprehended as the matter of the photograph implicitly. Therefore, a synthetic union i.e., synthetic acts of consciousness lies in relating the explicit with the implicit image wherein the nature of the implicit image perceived through consciousness is the very relation of its explicit image. Hence, the image signifies this relation of consciousness to the object, which in this case is the photograph of the person x. 

(iv) An object as imaged is inclusive of the knowledge of its essence. So, the realization of object occurs at the same moment as the object’s intention wherein the intention is the focus of the consciousness which exposes the essence of the object thus revealing and realizing itself simultaneously. Therefore, “the consciousness never precedes the object”. The synthetic act, in the act of consciousness here, is between representative and knowledge elements of the object whereas the unifying aspect is the correlation of the object as absolute and of constituting knowledge at the same time. The realization aspect also plays an essential role in identifying the ‘clear-light’ during an ego-dissolution phase in a hallucinatory-state, as the ‘clear-light’ can only be realized when it is revealed. However, without the intention, the significance of the ‘clear-light’ will remain unrealized and hence, unrevealed. 

(v) An intentional object of the imaging consciousness could be understood as an object x imaged, however an imaged-object x doesn’t necessitate that it exists in the perceived consciousness, and therefore, imaged-object x ceases to exist and thus, is non-existent. Hence, imaged-object x doesn’t occupy our spatial-perception, rather its determinations amalgamation can be posited as ‘intuitive-absent’ i.e., imaged-object x is non-existent to the intuition itself. An object’s nothingness of being is the consequence of quasi-observation, in such that the imaged-object manifests a belief within the observer through intuition but the observer’s immediate consciousness renounces the imaged-object as non-existent by recognising its nothingness. Therefore, the essence of imaged-objects from immediate surroundings constitute of nothingness because of its non-thetic consciousness which implies that imaged-objects are non-existent and only a consequence of a creative-thought process. 

(vi) It is the aspect of nothingness i.e., the non-thetic consciousness of the imaged-object that produces a spontaneous feeble presence of the perpetuated object as a synthesized transversal imaging consciousness as a creative appearance that doesn’t postulate its creative essence. So, when say an artist has an imaging consciousness of mountain scenery that the artist has perceived couple of times, and now wants to make a painting out of the imaging consciousness of the painting as a creative act- the artist would imagine the imaged object in consciousness as an amalgamation of all the times the artist hs perceived the mountain scenery, and now with the pen and brush, the artist would merely draw and paint the exact same object. The painting would be a product of creative imaging consciousness of the perpetuated mountain-scenery and simultaneously would exhibit the nothingness of imaged scenery as the creative alteration would signify. Therfore, creative pursuits of imaged-objects are always an amalgam of creative uniqueness and nothingness.


An image is not an element of consciousness, rather it is consciousness itself as the image when imaged. It posits a restructuring which renders it as a sui-generis consciousness. It is only a product of a mental-temporal synthetic act i.e., the imaged consciousness aligns itself in association with the imaged-object, wherein the association posits the inertia of the consciousness as part of creative-will. Hence, the object is nothing rather than the consciousness one owns of it i.e., the Satrean phenomenon of quasi-observation. This vagueness of the relation between the object and its image propounds that an imaged-object presents an image’s statics and not its synthetic temporal and spatial locus when imagined at any random given point of time.

-Sanjana Singh/26.07.2020




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