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Imagination in Classical and Medieval Thought

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Chapter Summary

This chapter deals with the history of the notion of imagination from Antiquity up to the 12th century. It gives an overview of the various theories of philosophy of mind in which imagination is considered as a distinctive function or faculty of the soul. This background provides some useful knowledge of the history of ideas which improves the understanding of Richard of St. Victor's formulations of imagination. The chapter begins by introducing Plato, Aristotle and the ideas of the Stoic tradition regarding human imaginative abilities. There are two terms in Plato's dialogues, eikasia and phantasia, which refer to the process of imagining, or to the pictures and the imitations of visible objects. This chapter examines the texts of the theologians of the school of St. Victor, and the literature of Cistercians, William of St. Thierry, Aelred of Rievaulx, and Isaac of Stella.

Keywords: Aelred of Rievaulx; Aristotle; Cistercians; eikasia; human imagination; Isaac of Stella; phantasia; Richard of St. Victor



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