Concerning Image, Idea, and Dream

Hering, Jean 1947. Concerning Image, Idea, and Dream. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 8(2): 188-205.

Although Jean Paul Sartre's book L'Imaginaire is a distinguished one in many respects, from the phenomenological point of view a serious criticism - in my opinion, a justifiable one - can be made of it: the distinction between consciousness of image and consciousness of idea is occasionally clearly seen, but is not consistently carried out. His attempt, in spite of all opposing evidence, to interpret idea as image creates not only terminological absurdities, but also factitious and therefore insoluble problems. (Hering 1947: 118)
Another hint that "idea" and "image" are etymologically related.
Throughout we understand under image-consciousness, according to our terminology, only the cases where, as Sartre (p. 30ff.) very correctly observes, an absent object is represented by a present one. Thus two objects are here to be distinguished: (a) the portraying, actually present object (for example, the picture hanging in the room0; and (b) the object which is portrayed by (a) and appears before me, but which neither exists in my actual surroundings nor pretends so to exist - for example, a tree, King Henry VIII, and so forth. (Hering 1947: 189)
Very much a semiotic problem.
Idea-consciousness, on the other hand, will always be spoken of where an object of the intuitive consciousness is shown as "absent," a terminology which finds support in a definition given by the author: "un etre donne absent a l'intuition" (p. 25). (Hering 1947: 189)
As opposed to image-consciousness where the image may be present, in idea-consciousness the object is always absent.
No second phenomenal object is discoverable through the mediation of which this scene would appear to be. It stands simply before me, before my "spiritual eye," as we are accustomed to say, not very appropriately. (Hering 1947: 189)
This "spiritual eye" is the Estonian vaimusilm. This is the presumed locus of image-consciousness.
As over against this view we must stress again and again with Husserl that every idea is an idea of something. And that means: The object of the idea, though it can never be grasped independently of consciousness, always by its very nature transcends consciousness. (Hering 1947: 190)
This may help understand (or be compared to) Peirce's version of the object of semiosis.
An apparent exception from this rule is found in certain memory-experiences which allow me to discover details which I have forgotten. If I ask myself how many doors there were in the room where I once lived as a student in a certain city, and try to re-visualize this room, it can happen that by close attention details emerge before me which supply an answer to that question. Here an idea appears to be a source of knowledge. (Hering 1947: 191)
Cf. Peirce's lake of consciousness. The "idea" forces memories to emerge up to the reflective consciousness.
Evidently, the contemplation of Henry VIII and Holbein's painting can teach me a great many things which I actually did not know. (And in most cases a portrait - in a gallery of ancestor portraits, for example - has indeed the purpose of transmitting to posterity the features of the personality represented.) One who does not know what the king looked like, how he used to trim his beard, how he used to dress on certain occasions, can learn it here. It is true that the possibility of enriching one's knowledge is here strictly limited: we learn no more than what the artist wants us to know. However alive the despot stands before me "as real flesh and blood," it is still only Holbein's Henry VIII, represented in a definite pose, with a limited number of unalterable characteristics, and not the real personality, which, as it once was accessible to sense perception, continually disclosed new features. (Hering 1947: 191)
This is a problem for the "visual concourse" - an image of a person can only convey "static" information.
Charles V - even this particular Charles V as portrayed by Titian - cannot be experienced as being in the room in which the work of art hangs. He appears, it is true, before the eyes of the spectator, but he belongs to a different space. (Hering 1947: 192)
That is to say, he belongs to a different chronotope. I was quite amazed to read a Russian wiki page and find that they use the term "chronotope" very casually. It seems that for Russians it is more than a piece of Bakhtinian theorizing.
When, sitting at my desk, I imagine my friend sitting on an empty chair opposite me, he is indeed absent in the sense that I never cease to be conscious of the fact that he is not really perceived. But he is nonetheless imagined as present in my actual surroundings. I need not turn my glance from my surroundings; I need not transfer myself elsewhere "in spirit" in order to have him before me imaginatively. The situation does not change essentially if, for instance, I imagine him now climbing the stairs. In that place I could not perceive him visually because he is concealed by external conditions (the walls, the locker door, etc.), but he is still in my surroundings as perceptible in principle. (Hering 1947: 193)
Very somatoception. So wow.
By no means can the situation be schematized - and in addition confusedly schematized - by saying that I am at home in body and abroad the ship in spirit. We have used this manner of speaking occasionally in order to point to the phenomenon in a provisional way. But a more accurate observation shows that I am conscious of being imaginatively on the ship in body, enjoying the view with my bodily eye, fumbling in my pockets with my hands to be sure I have not lost my passport, speaking with my fellow passengers, etc. (Hering 1947: 193)
Somatoception involves this bodily eye, although I cannot decide which term is more robust.
Of course, one cannot speak of such a creative activity as characteristic of idea in general. As a matter of fact, our author, as his more detailed expositions show, means something different; namely, our ability to control the flow of ideas, as opposed to perception, where the objects interlock in spatial and temporal sequence, and where talk of conjunction through contiguity would be much better founded than in the case of the so-called association of ideas. This is not surprising because in perception we have "ideae adventiciae"; they offec themselves phenomenally as penetrating to me "from outside," independent of will or inclination. (Hering 1947: 196)
I tried approaching this same issue through a made-up notion of "indistinction" - in imagination images can be controlled (the self is a "sender") but in dreams images as-if come from the otsude (the self is a "receiver").
Control of ideas seems essentially impossible in dreams. (Hering 1947: 196)
Unless, of course, you consider "lucid dreaming" and the rare case of becoming "distinct" for a moment and orienting the course of the dream in a specific direction through will power.
The dreamer (and we take for the sake of simplicity the case where he does not know that he is dreaming) can act in dreams, can pick his way through the phenomena, but he is just as much at their mercy as in his waking life. It is not up to him whether he catches the train; he cannot arbitrarily change the topography of a city (as many novelists do). He cannot (as the dramatist does) sharten or lengthen time (however different dream-time appears after awakening, from "waking" time). Here too, it appears, the principle of the contiguity of phenomena is in full force, however different the law of nature of the dream-world may be from that of the physical world. (Hering 1947: 197)
These are good points to consider for my next paper on somatoception: the specifics of manipulating the dream chronotope.
But another question arises: are not dream-phenomena dependent on the subject in another, phenomenally experienceable sense? Have we not experienced in dreams (without in the least being conscious that we are dreaming) that the stream of phenomena is influenced by our thoughts, at least indirectly? "If only no train comes," the dreamer lost on a railway track says fearfully to himself - and the express roars toward him. Or perhaps in dreams I am walking across the market-place of my native city and think how pleasant it would be to meet my friend: immediately he is standing there, and the market-place perhaps disappears. (Hering 1947: 198)
A good point. But my "indistinction" concerns more the consciousness/awareness of dreaming.
It is a generally known fact that, as the psychologists say, in dreams thoughts transform themselves with the greatest ease into images (perhaps symbolic ones); or, as we would say, sometimes merely signified by thought or merely imagined transforms itself into something perceived, something by simply dislodging other perceptions. (Hering 1947: 198)
That is to say, dreams are prone to "symbolic transformations" as S. K. Langer would put it.
We take the opportunity to refer to the work of this dream investigator, which appeared anonymously and was consigned to an undeserved oblivion, Les reves et les moyens de les diriger, Amyot, ed. (Paris, 1867). Over a period of ten years, this author had written down and illustrated all dreams he could remember, immediately upon waking, usually several times during one night.
The whole material, as far as we know, has unfortunately never been published. But these notes have enabled the author in writing the above-mentioned book to draw on an abundance of material. Since he is moreover an acute and unprejudiced observer, his expositions are of great phenomenological interest. Unfortunately, the too-romantic covers, apparently enforced by the publisher, seem to have kept many readers from perusing this very scholarly work. (Hering 1947: 198ff)
A valuable piece of trivia.
With this it is proved that still another trait which Sartre indicates as a characteristic of idea-consciousness is not valid for dream-phenomena. I refer to that characteristic discussed by us as "absence," both in the sense of a negation of the "self-representation" and in the sense of appearing in a "different" or unreal space. The dreamed room in which I sit surrounds me "actually" hic et nunc, and is auto-present. (Hering 1947: 199)
Is he saying that dream-images are self-referential?
The people who appear in dreams do and say things which often I am in no way prepared for. In a dream, when I ask a colleague about his opinion, his answer can be at least as unexpected as in waking life. Indeed (though this has no direct bearing on our investigation), we can sometimes learn things which are found to be correct when we are awake. (Hering 1947: 199)
I've had dreams in which I read a book, and although the words may seem asemic or even asyntactic, they do sometimes spell out something that makes sense. The commentaries I write to written texts in waking life continue into my dreams, where I have sometimes read great stuff and sometimes horrible garbage. Once I even read something in German, although I don't yet know the language well enough to read anything in it.
The waking person may succeed, at least partially, in relating his perceptions of the real world to those experienced in his dream. Music heard in a dream turns out to be a dripping faucet, presenting itself now as the thing "really perceived"; the ringing of the phone heard in a dream continues in the clatter of the alarm-clock. Here the ties between the fading dream-world and the "waking" world are not entirely cut. (Hering 1947: 200)
I recall waking up from a dream while listening to an underground hip-hop band named Maple Leaf (I can't find them now) who repeated their name in the song. I dreamed something about Canada. This is also put to good use in the movie John Dies at the End: "...in the dream, you were back with your girlfriend Tina. [...] And you come home and she's there with this big honking pile of dynamite and one of them cartoon plunger detonators, ready to blow. And you say, "what are you doing?" And she says, "this," and boom. Your eyes snap open and the explosion at the end of the dream became the clap of thunder outside of your window."
This situation is in no way altered by the noteworthy fact that one dream can be contained within another, in such a way that the substitution of the waking consciousness by a dreaming consciousness appears as serial function. Each of us has had the experience of awaking in a dream and saying to himself: "I was dreaming before, but now I see that I am awake;" and afterwards to awake "for good." Designating the dream immediately preceding the awakening as Dream 1, then in this dream a second - Dream , - is "encased." There is no general reason why this operation cannot be repeated, although this repetition may be psychologically difficult. If, however, an epistemologist were to ask us how the "real" awakening can be distinguished from the imagined one, the answer could very well be that the phases of the inversion of a serial process are as little distinguishable from each other as the phases of the process itself. (Hering 1947: 201)
The phenomenon of going to sleep, though even more difficult to study, is likewise of high phenomenological interest. As Sartre has correctly emphasized (in critical use of the literature on the subject) there is no phenomenological transition from the so-called hypnagogic "images" (variegated visions of patches of color, carpet-patterns, and so forth, shortly before falling to sleep) to dream-phenomena. Both phenomena have in comon that they have perception-character. They are "ideae adventiciae," containing more than I know of them. According to Sartre, however, it is characteristic of the hypnagogic "images" that they always form only isolated shreds, while dream "images" belong to worlds which are implied in them. That is surely correct. Moreover, it is important for hypnagogie that I am conscious of seeing with closed eyes, although the hypnagogic phenomena appear before my eyes. The dreamer, on the other hand, has no reason to doubt that he is seeing with his eyes, hearing with his ears, etc. (Hering 1947: 202-203)
Hynagogie are still "imaginations" due to their "distinctness". That is, the dreamer has not become a dreamer, because sleep hasn't separated him from the dream. In hypnagogie the person is still half-awake.


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