Malebranche’s conception of imagination is often thought to be entirely contained in Book II of La Recherche de la vérité, which aims at destroying the beliefs and false theories resulting from the untempered use of that faculty. And yet Malebranche shows, in Book VI of the same work, that imagination has an essential function in the construction of science, particularly when it comes to producing geometrical models for phenomena; and it is, from the point of view of cognition, a singular cunning of reason which associates the presence of corporeal affects in the mind, and ideas, which enlighten it without touching it. This conception rests upon unacknowledged quotations from the Regulae ad directionem ingenii, which Malebranche must have had at hand while working on the Recherche. At stake is, for us, the precise understanding of the relation between mathematics and imagination, first in the Regulae and then in the Recherche, in the general context of the project of a universal science or mathesis universalis.
Keywords: Imagination, attention, geometry, mathesis universalis, Descartes