Quotes on imagination
These quotes on imagination will help you to explore its nature, form links with other WOKs and AOKs, and provide discussion points for TOK lessons. They will also support you as you address knowledge questions within your TOK essay and TOK presentation.
- What do the quotes suggest about the role imagination plays in our acquisition of knowledge?
- Are the quotes consistent, or do they clash about the role it plays as a way of knowing, and its relationship with others WOKs and AOKs?
- Can you think of other ways of knowing and areas of knowledge that these quotes relate to?
- How many of these thinkers are you familiar with? Research the ones you haven’t come across before – and, indeed, the ones you think you already know. Click on the names to take you to the corresponding Wikipedia article, although this should only be used as a starting point for your research.
Finally, how would you use the quotes to construct a typical IB Diploma TOK essay title? Look at previous TOK essay titles, and see if you can compose something similar (and think about how you’d go about structuring it).
1. The nature of imagination
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.
Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.
Imagination rules the world.
Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.
Knowledge is a polite word for dead but not buried imagination.
e. e. cummings
Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.
To imagine is everything, to know is nothing at all.
No amount of skilful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.
Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.
The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.
Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.
W. Somerset Maugham
The imagination is man’s power over nature.
Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.
Henry David Thoreau
Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t. A sense of humour was provided to console him for what he is.
Fools act on imagination without knowledge, pedants act on knowledge without imagination.
Alfred North Whitehead
2. Imagination and emotion
3. Imagination and faith
Faith is spiritualized imagination.
Henry Ward Beecher
4. Imagination and memory
For memory, we use our imagination. We take a few strands of real time and carry them with us, then like an oyster we create a pearl around them.
Life is possible only by the deficiencies of our imagination and memory.
Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Intelligence is the wife, imagination is the mistress, memory is the servant.
Obviously the facts are never just coming at you but are incorporated by an imagination that is formed by your previous experience. Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings of the facts.
5. Imagination and reason
Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.
Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.
C. S. Lewis
Reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.
William Butler Yeats
6. Imagination and the arts
Where there is no imagination there is no horror.
Arthur Conan Doyle
You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.
Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.
Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.
Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.
The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
7. Imagination and ethics
The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
8. Imagination and the human sciences
Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity.
L. Frank Baum
Politics is the enemy of the imagination.
9. Imagination and the natural sciences
Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.
Science does not know its debt to imagination.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.
Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.
Henry David Thoreau
10. Imagination and religious knowledge systems
All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.
Edgar Allan Poe