From the classical era up until the early nineteenth century, creative productivity was connected to processes of phantasia or imaginatio. Originally, both of these terms had the same meaning. However, the translation from Greek into Latin altered its meaning, and during their long and complex
history both terms experienced characteristic changes in their extension and intension. Since the earliest of times, the moment of creativity has been ascribed to “inspiration”, the basis of which is alterity. Therefore, the creative act was conceived in terms of the theologically motivated fi gure of passio or “receptiveness”.1 Creativity was not a human act or force, but an undesirable gift, mercy, or divine event. With the start of the early modern era, however, it began to be defi ned in reference to sovereignty. We can thus also consider a transition from passivity to activity-all the more so, because it has since been related to the subject that became the creator. Both of these concepts correspond to fundamentally different historical positions, namely the concept of “gift”, which was replaced during the seventeenth and eighteenth century by the doctrine of expression and free capability. With Addison, Kant and Fichte, the location of the act of creation was shifted to the spontaneity of the subject, which, however, raised the question of the relationship between freedom and reason and, thereby, the controlling of the undisciplined phantasia by rationality.2 This brings us to a constant subject of debate which has dominated discourses on imagination and the imaginary from Ficino and Pico della Mirandolla to Diderot, Herder and Hegel. Associated with the uncontrollable and exuberant side of the subject, the philosophers or their philosophical discourses consequently revolve around defending as well as disciplining and constraining the essentially unpredictable and undomesticated imagination, in contrast to the idea of “reason”. As long as imagination was understood in contrast to reason it remained an essentially negative valuation. As a place of dreams, of deception and illusion, it was granted a productive ability, but its excessive character always made it a suspect idea. This opens up the history of a rivalry between the recognition of imaginatio as a creative power and the denial of its capacity to embrace the truth.