“But the fact that we see the imagination as a faculty peculiar to artists is probably related to the fact that we view artistic activities in particular as original creations. Our job is to elucidate the logic of imagination as a logic of historical creation, while liberating it from its restriction to the realm of beauty and broadly introducing it into the world of action.” – Miki Kiyoshi, The Logic of Imagination
Miki Kiyoshi, a 20th century utopian thinker who combined Marxism and Pure Land Buddhist philosophy, used the relationship between imagination and history to clarify his vision for the future of society. Miki’s work is influenced by the Kyoto School — an intellectual movement led by thinkers who interpreted Western philosophy in the context of East Asian intellectual traditions — which lays the foundation for his conception of ideas like logos, pathos, and imagination.1 His novel ideas about the historical applications of imagination not only created new ways of interpreting history, but also unprecedented ways of imagining the future.
In his published collection of essays, The Logic of Imagination, Miki argues that imagination is not a purely fictional realm belonging only to artists, but a process which directly impacts the real world.2 This is also true of myth, which he sees as the product of imagination, and whose impact on historical reality can be traced throughout history.3 If imagination influences action, and action shapes history, then imagination must directly influence reality. This supports Miki’s claim that, “being human also means to exist in a particular historical context — as Miki puts it in ‘History’s Reason,’ ‘human beings do not exist outside of history; they stand within history’.”4 He defines human reality as grounded in historical reality, and historical reality as directly influenced by imagination. In her study of Pure Land Buddhism and 20th century utopian thinkers, Melissa Anne-Marie Curley argues that Miki used the imaginary utopia of the “Pure Land” as a historical myth to help shape his Marxist vision for the future.5
According to Miki, the myth of the Pure Land belongs to the realm of imagination, but this does not negate its importance — if anything, imagination provides a conceptualisation of the future which cannot be found in reality. The ability to imagine a better future or a “Pure Land” allows humans to act on this myth. Here, he applies Marxist theory to imagine such a future: a unified human community supported by the principles of mutual aid.6 Religion, which exists primarily in the human of imagination, is an internal realm, but “Miki maintains that this internal experience inevitably and directly manifests socially, generating new religious phenomena or new forms of social life that are founded upon a demand for happiness and thus arc always toward utopia.”7 Imagination, by Miki’s definition, is both a historical actor as well as a force which influences our future.
- Masakatsu Fujita, The Philosophy of the Kyoto School, trans. Robert Chapeskie (Singapore: Springer, 2018), vi, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-8983-1_5. [↩]
- John W.M. Krummel, “Introduction to Miki Kiyoshi and his Logic of the Imagination,” Social Imaginaries 2, no.1 (2016): 17. [↩]
- Ibid., 19 [↩]
- Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, Pure Land, Real World: Modern Buddhism, Japanese Leftists, and the Utopian Imagination (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), 141, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvvmxmx. [↩]
- Ibid., 148 [↩]
- Ibid., 151 [↩]
- Ibid., 143 [↩]