Imagination

This "higher realism" required a new mode of understanding and interpretation. The Romantics focused on the role of imagination in forming concepts -something Kant had left undeveloped in his first critique. The imagination marks that transitional stage between the receptive sensibility and spontaneous understanding. Keep in mind that the Romantics viewed the world as an organic, living system. It follows that the imagination for them was both receptive, in that it takes up the forces that acted upon the subject, and spontaneous, in that it combines those forces in a novel way, and so contributes a new force to the universe. For some, that new coalescence of forces is given back in the production of art. For others (presumably for Schleiermacher, whose artistic talents did not match those of his fellow Romantics), it is given back quietly through the development of "one's inner humanity into distinctness, expressing it in manifold acts."43 This, by the way, for the Romantics, was freedom - not a transcendental freedom by which we exert ourselves over and apart from the universe, but a creative freedom by which we first take up the forces (including social relations and love) that coalesce in us and then combine them in a unique way. In so doing, we become a microcosm of the whole.

The imagination is also where the infinite and the finite meet most perfectly. The uniqueness of the moment when each person's sense of the infinite is first stimulated - the particular combination of forces and mediations, as well as the unique patterns of activity of each person's imagination - determines what form of expression is given to that revelation. Hence, the Romantics' "new" and "infinite" realism affirmed the reality of the world, the active reality of the "living deity," and our experience of the world and, through it, the divine. And yet their realism allowed different configurations, different ways of understanding the stimuli. "You will not consider it blasphemy," Schleiermacher hoped, "that belief in God depends on the direction of the imagination."44 Was it "blasphemy"? What it atheism? Jacobi's charges still hung in the air.

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