Richard of St. Victor’s Theory of Imagination


Author: Ritva Palmén
Richard of St.Victor (d.1173) developed original ideas about the faculty of imagination in a twelfth-century Parisian context. Related to the historical study of philosophical psychology, Richard of St. Victor’s Theory of Imagination acknowledges that the faculty of imagination, being a necessary precondition for human reasoning and a link between soul and body, plays an important role in Richard’s understanding of the human soul. Richard also deals with the interpretation of biblical language, metaphors, rhetoric, and the possibility of creative imagination. Considering all these aspects of the imagination in Richard’s texts improves our understanding of his theological epistemology and sheds new light on the theory of the imagination in the history of medieval philosophy in general.

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Ritva Palmén, Th.D. (2013), in Philosophy of Religion, University of Helsinki, is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, working currently on medieval disputational literature.

Acknowledgements vii

1 Introduction 1

2 Imagination in Classical and Medieval Thought 13
2.1 Antiquity 13
2.2 Christian Neoplatonism 24
2.3 The Middle Ages to the 1100s 34

3 The Fundamentals of Richard’s Anthropology
3.1 Richard’s Theological Anthropology 50
3.2 The Rational Power of the Soul: Sensus, Imaginatio, Ratio, and Intelligentia 58
3.3 The Affective Power of the Soul 65
3.4 Richard’s Theological Method 70

4 The Role of Imagination as the Soul Prepares for Contemplation 82
4.1 Introduction to Benjamin Minor 82
4.2 Imagination in Benjamin Minor 88
4.3 Three Modes of Imagination in Benjamin Minor 92
4.3.1 Bala-Imagination 92
4.3.2 Two Forms of the Rational Imagination 101
4.3.3 Dan-Imagination 105
4.3.4 Naphtali-Imagination 112
4.4 Guarding the Inner City of the Soul 124

5 Imagination in the First Two Kinds of Contemplation 134
5.1 Introduction to Benjamin Major 134
5.2 Three Ways of Knowing: Cogitation, Meditation, Contemplation 137
5.3 Richard’s Idea of Contemplation 143
5.4 The First Kind of Contemplation 152
5.5 The Second Kind of Contemplation 167

6 The Third Kind of Contemplation 179
6.1 Introduction 179
6.2 The Objects of Contemplation in the Third Kind of Contemplation: Similitudes (Similitudines) 181
6.3 The Inner and Outer Person 201
6.4 The Transition from Visible to Invisible in Benjamin Major, Benjamin Minor, and In Apocalypsim Joannis 211

7 Imagination at the Uppermost Stages of Contemplation 223
7.1 Is There Any Role for Imagination After the Third Kind of Contemplation? 223
7.2 The Three Heavens 231
7.3 Imagination as an Object of Contemplation 235

8 Conclusion 255

Bibliography 267
Index 292
All interested in the history of philosophical psychology, particularly intellectual history in the Middle Ages, anyone concerned with mystical theology or interested in the scholarship of Victorines.