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Intuitively, aside from being convoluted, it doesn't seem to make sense.

Power of an imagination can arise from what it refuses to foresee.

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closed as too localized by Mitch, Jasper Loy, JSBձոգչ, kiamlaluno, F'x Aug 3 '11 at 10:01

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There's nothing grammatically special about this. You're right it's just convoluted. –  Mitch Aug 1 '11 at 12:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It means that the power (or lack thereof) of an imagination can be defined by what it doesn't imagine, as well as by what it does.

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I don't accept the implications of "can be defined" in this reading. I think the original statement clearly intends "[increased] power" can be causally related to a refusal to foresee [whatever]. It's talking about cause and effect, not definitions and how to assess or recognise characteristics. –  FumbleFingers Aug 1 '11 at 16:23

It's actually "The power of an imagination can arise from what it refuses to foresee", from the prolific "rent-a-quote" child psychologist Michael Lewis.

I'm not familiar with the specific quote in context, but on the face of it the meaning is that a person can simply refuse to fall into line with the "default" future they might conventionally be expected to have in store, thereby "freeing up" their powers of imagination and ambition in order to have a much better future.

It's often said, for example, that someone born of "bad" parents may be expected to grow up "defective" in ways similar to their parents. Lewis is making the point that refusing to accept that projected future can help avoid it coming to pass.

When quoting, most people will read "it" in this quote as referring to the imagination of an individual who may be able to "rise above" his background. But given Lewis's consistent position regarding larger-scale social attitudes and corrective initiatives, I suspect he himself may be referring more to the power of our culture's "collective" imagination to overcome the social injustices caused by a general tendency to "pigeonhole" people early in life as "never going to amount to anything". Only by resisting that tendency will society enable each individual to achieve their full potential.

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