What is Bronowski's definition of imagination? Have you thought of imagination this way before?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jacob Bronowski is a scientist and also a writer. This seems an odd combination. eNotes describes him as...

...a Polish-Jewish a British mathematician, biologist, historian of science, theatre author, poet and inventor.

One of the things Bronowski concentrated on was the concept of imagination, and he was able to apply it in science and in writing—in fact, in all facets of a human being's life.

...imagination is a specifically human gift. To imagine is the characteristic act, not of the poet's mind, or the painter's, or the scientist's, but the mind of man.

Bronowski, then purports that imagination is something that can be used by anyone, despite profession or artistic leanings. It can even be used scientifically. He studied...

...the role of imagination and symbolic language in the progress of scientific knowledge.

What makes it very distinct, however, is that it is something strictly human.

Bronowski makes his point by citing that animals cannot retain the memory of details except for a brief time (though they have "practical memories" far superior to our own). From a Pavlovian standpoint, an animal can remember to ring a bell to be fed, but according to Bronowski, animals remember little by comparison to adults, or even children.

Bronowski, then, defines the concept.

To imagine means to make images and to move them about inside one's head in new arrangements...The tool that puts the human mind ahead of the animal is imagery...we fix [imagination] in images or other symbols.

One source states:

This power of the imagination allows people to live infinite lives and undergo infinite situations, all in short periods of times and with no physical basis.

What startles me most about Bronowksi's study and application of the imagination is that it does not have a "fluffy" connotation that is often associated with the imagination. Often times the imagination is discounted as frivolous:

It's all in your imagination.

This comment would infer that imagination is a fluke of the brain. This kind of stance makes one think that imagination is for dreamers...for those who live in an imaginary place. Bronowski's point is that this is not the case: he speaks even to Galileo with regard to hypotheses he developed by using his imagination. "Imagination" becomes something more powerful than one might think in considering this use of the mind. Perhaps, though, great minds have always been using their imaginations to anticipate what can happen. In that case, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy had wonderful imaginations. The word "imagination," according to Bronowski, does not express the impossible, but the "possible."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial