18.754 tools for imagining

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 08:06:03 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 754.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 08:02:30 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: tools for imagining

In The Work of the Imagination (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), Paul L. Harris
argues for development of imaginative capacities as the significant turning
point in our species. Palaeolithic cave-art is his introductory example,
children's early fantasy-life his focus. Citing the tools of homo sapiens,
he argues that,

>In a nutshell, the material record testifies to a new power of the
>imagination. Some of the newly emerging artefacts have much the same
>function as props in children's games of make-believe. They help to
>transport participants out of reality and into some imagined setting.
>These artefacts have three characteristic features: (i) they are
>collectively produced and socially recognisable; (ii) there is a
>discrepancy or mismatch between the imagined world that they help to
>instantiate and the actual situation in which the props themselves are
>constructed and displayed; (iii) their manufacture calls for a capacity to
>move back and forth between those two contexts - to take account of actual
>physical constraints, while simultaneously creating a meaningful artefact.
>(p. x)

In children, he goes on to say,

>the capacity to imagine alternative possibilities and to work out their
>implications emerges early... and lasts a lifetime. This capacity is
>especially obvious in children's games of pretend play, but it invades and
>transforms their developing conception of reality itself. (pp. xi-xii)

Indeed, let us look to our tools.


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Received on Fri Apr 29 2005 - 03:09:39 EDT

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