Polyversity provides that a word can be taken in various ‘senses.’ In the context of the previous sentence, the word ‘sense’ means something different from what it means when we speak of ‘sense experience.’ Yet there is a connection linking the various senses of sense, as a study of the history of the word will show.
Moreover, this connection may explain why even mental images which are not ‘sense images’ are nevertheless articulated (in both language and experience) as if they were sense images. As signs, some of these mental images are more definite or precise than others occupying the more vague end of the spectrum, just as an external image (such as one displayed on a screen) may be of higher or lower resolution.
Bernard Baars uses the term imagery in reference to ‘internal’ images:
In this book we use the word ‘imagery’ very broadly, to mean all of those quasi-perceptual conscious experiences we can have in the absence of an external stimulus.— Baars (1997, 174)
These ‘experiences’ (we might call them ‘inner objects’) are ‘quasi-perceptual’ in that they typically resemble the objects of sense experience, but without the vivid quality which those objects have for us. (When they are as vivid as an external object would be, but we know by other means that there’s no such object out there, we call them hallucinations or ‘visions.’) Some inner objects are imagined, some are remembered, some are ‘felt senses,’ some are logical possibilities. The ‘imagery’ representing these objects tends to be ‘quasi-perceptual’ due to the innate (or, if you prefer, developmental) bias of a brain which has evolved to guide a body through interactions with an environment external to it. We need the senses to deal with that world, so we can hardly help drawing upon them to shape or inform the experience of our inner being, or our interbeing, and the way we communicate such experience to others.
When we use language to communicate, we do our best to choose terms whose reference is determined by prior consensus. The connection between a word like ‘door’ and a type of sense experience is made very early in language development and is confirmed so frequently in social interaction that it becomes automatic in every child’s formative years. Consequently when we try to communicate experiences which cannot be pointed to (in the way we can point to an object in the visual field), we naturally draw upon the consensual language connected with our common grounding in sense experience. This motivates the way we direct attention, and therefore the way we frame and make sense of ‘inner’ experiences – including our ‘insights’ into the real relations between things. It takes imagination to develop a consensus on the form reality takes.