Thursday, December 08, 2011

Famous Quote and the New Translation

Here's the quote:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Not Chesterton, but he would have if he could have.

That was a part of a post on the new translation now used in the Catholic church.  In context:

....why did we go to all that trouble, all those committee meetings, all the arguments, and the quibbling about this word or that word, this comma or that semicolon? Surely, one might argue, “The former translation was good enough. It was workable. Sure, it was not elegant or eloquent, but who needs all that high falutin’ stuff. The people understood what was going on. Isn’t that what it’s all about?” 

Of course it’s good that everyone understands what’s going on, but the good is the enemy of the best, and mere intelligibility is not really what the liturgy is all about. If intelligibility were the only good then we ought to get to work on the classics and have Hamlet say, “Gee whiz, I can’t decide whether to kill myself or not!” instead of “To be or not to be? That is the question.”

(But then Shakespeare's real point--reality v. falsity, or Truth v. Appearance--would be missed, right?)

...Imagination is more important than knowledge because knowledge is limited to what we now know. Knowledge is, if you like, utilitarian. It’s useful. It works. As such, it closes the mind and heart with a solution. Imagination on the other hand, opens the mind and heart with wonder and with the apprehension of beauty. If knowledge is utilitarian, then (on its own–without imagination) it is also barbaric.

Gee.  There's that word "beauty" again.

3 comments:

Deekaman said...

Imagination is based in knowledge. That is, if you have no knowledge, you cannot possibly imagine, since there is no reference point.

Consequently, knowledge is more important.

Dad29 said...

Granted. But one doesn't need to know MUCH to imagine. See any child under the age of 5, e.g.

Grim said...

That's half right, Deekaman. Knowledge is a product of imagination, not the other way around.

Imagination is a word we have from Aristotle, who gives it to us in De Anima. For him it is the capacity to 're-image' something we have seen -- and thus, it is to a certain degree based on having seen the thing in the first place. This, though, is not knowledge: it is merely sense perception. To say that I have seen a table is not to say that I know what a table is; it is only to say that one has struck my senses.

Once you have seen a table, you can imagine (re-image) it in your mind. But you can imagine it as having three legs instead of four; or being blue instead of brown; or being disassembled into a pile of parts. Or you can imagine two tables you have seen, and sort out what they have in common and what they do not; or what is dispensable to them being tables, and what is essential.

This allows you to grasp the form of the table, that is, what it is that makes the thing you have seen a table instead of something else.

Now you have knowledge of a table. Imagination, however, came first.