The Invention of Imagination

Aristotle, Geometry, and the Theory of the Psyche

Humphreys offers a radically new contribution to Aristotelian ontology and epistemology, which not only makes a real contribution to scholarship on Aristotle and on ancient Greek mathematics but stands a good chance to change the way people think about the way imagination was conceived in classical Greek thought and why that matters today.
Michael Weinman, University of Virginia

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Aristotle was the first philosopher to divide the imagination—what he called phantasia—from other parts of the psyche, placing it between perception and intellect. A mathematician and philosopher of mathematical sciences, Aristotle was puzzled by the problem of geometrical cognition—which depends on the ability to “produce” and “see” a multitude of immaterial objects—and so he introduced the category of internal appearances produced by a new part of the psyche, the imagination. As Justin Humphreys argues, Aristotle developed his theory of imagination in part to explain certain functions of reason with a psychological rather than metaphysical framework. Investigating the background of this conceptual development, The Invention of Imagination reveals how imagery was introduced into systematic psychology in fifth-century Athens and ultimately made mathematical science possible. It offers new insights about major philosophers in the Greek tradition and significant events in the emergence of ancient mathematics while offering space for a critical reflection on how we understand ourselves as thinking beings.

about the author

Justin Humphreys

Justin Humphreys is assistant professor of philosophy at Villanova University. He earned his PhD at The New School for Social Research and has taught philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania.

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Justin Humphreys