Use your imagination! The demand is as important as it is confusing. What is the imagination? What is its value? Where does it come from? And where is it going in a time when even the obscene seems overdone and passe? Thinking Through the Imagination takes up these questions and argues for the centrality of imagination in human cognition. It traces the development of the imagination in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (particularly the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment), and claims that the insights of Kantian aesthetic theory, especially concerning the nature of creativity, common sense, and genius, influenced the development of 19th century American philosophy. To this end, the book identifies the central role of the imagination in the philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce, a role that is often overlooked in analytic treatments of Peirce's thought. By returning to Peirce's reading of the imagination in Kant and Friedrich Schiller, contemporary Peirce scholars have a chance understand his work in its proper context and identify fruitful paths for future research.
Peirce exposed not only the aesthetic, but also the epistemological and metaphysical significance of the imagination. The final chapters of Thinking Through the Imagination pursue the observation made by Kant and Peirce that imaginative genius is a type of natural gift (ingenium) and must be in some way continuous with the creative force of nature. It makes this final turn by way of contemporary studies of metaphor, embodied cognition, and cognitive neuroscience.