imaginative rationality

"In my opinion, a mind is healthy when it can perform symbolic acts within mental frameworks which are not immediately obvious. A mind is diseased when it no longer comprehends this kind of linkage and refuses to acknowledge any basis for such symbolic thinking. The twentieth century specializes in producing diseased minds of the type I refer to - minds which uniquely combine ignorance with arrogance. The twentieth century's hard core hyper rationalist would deride a theory of correspondences in daily life and ritual as 'primitive superstition'. However, the rationalist's comment is not one upon symbolic thinking but upon himself, acting as a label to define him as one of the walking dead."-- Robert Temple, The Sirius Mystery

A theory of imaginative rationality was advanced by Rene Descartes who proposed that mind, body and imagination were three separate ways to encounter truth.

A similar theory had been advanced also by Aristotle who claimed that
  • "it is a great thing, indeed, to make proper use of the poetic forms... But the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor... -Poetics 1459a
  • "ordinary words convey only what we know already; it is from metaphor that we can best get hold of something fresh" Rhetoric 1410b

stodgy British guys

While conquering Earth and enslaving all of its inhabitants, however, certain dead white guys had little use for such considerations:

Thomas Hobbes however found absurdity in "the use of metaphors, tropes and other rhetorical figures, instead of words proper." He condemned even very ordinary orientational metaphors such as "the way goeth", or "leadeth hither", or "the proverb says", on the grounds that "ways cannot go, nor proverbs speak". John Locke and Samuel Parker were also opponents of it, and may have strongly influenced English especially after Jonathan Swift had exploited metaphor to make fun of them all.


The re-emergence of an imaginative rationality after the horrific experience of the 20th century goes under various names. The looser forms of which can be called "New Age" and the tighter forms are expressed in theories of green economics, a value of life primarily derived from its creative potential, and Metaphors We Live By that have persistence in human cultures and thus in languages. This is a middle ground between scientific rationality and hermanetic reasonableness.

Of these views the cognitive science of mathematics is the most rigorous and may extend metaphorical coherence to explain among other things why mathematics can predict outcomes in physics. It would thus reach from the reasonableness to the rational albeit via a very long chain of inferences that may ultimately reach back into cognitive chemistry and reconcile The Embodiment with The Enlightenment.

Until such an explanation exists, the experientalist view is closer to the classical view in that imagination and use of metaphors coherent with lived experience is required to make sense of environments and others' sense of it. To backcast to fixed time horizons for instance requires such a breadth of the possible scenarios that may or should be considered to that one future time horizon that it is necessary to find and contrast multiple point of view on what should or will be by that deadline. This is applicable even to a wiki meeting and is used extensively in open politics itself, e.g. in the Living Agenda protocol.