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This article is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

Some Old Hats from the History of Imagination Christopher Middleton

. . . verschwiegener Tänze geheimnisvolle Bewegung.
Goethe

1.

ON the surface of the table at which I am writing there is this very small object. By saying 'this object' I mark it off from the generality of objects, while making no claim as regards singularity, or strangeness. It is such an ordinary object, in fact, that I could not reasonably see it as amounting to anything much at all. If I were to measure it, it would certainly be something. If I were to classify it, I would perhaps think it out of place on the table, at least on this table. A rational person might lose interest in this object even before he came to consider what purpose it could have: Can I use it? To what end does it lie there, on the table? Is it materially serving some end? Was it there an hour ago? What is it made of?

I might well think about this object in these ways, even if I judged it, as a rational person, to be insignificant. All the same, the object does not exist in a vacuum. I know, too, that I am perceiving it, or I was, even if my perception of it is subservient to, if not sooner or later erased by, my aptitude for considering it in terms of magnitude, use, purpose, class, typicality, and so on.

As a rational person I can tell myself that there ...


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