Experience-taking and I-states

A post by Yuchen Guo.

Imagine the following case:

Paul, a method actor, has been playing the role of Romeo on stage for a long time. Each time he takes the stage in front of spectators he feels that he becomes Romeo and that Romeo’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors seem to be his own.

This case shows that Paul enters Romeo’s experience and shares his thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Two psychologists, Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby (2012), introduced the concept of experience-taking to describe this phenomenon. According to Kaufman and Libby, experience-taking is an “imaginative process of spontaneously assuming the identity of a character in a narrative and simulating that character’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, goals, and traits as if they were one’s own” (Kaufman & Libby 2012, p. 1). Through this experience-taking, Paul assumes that he is identical to Romeo and adopts Romeo’s thoughts, emotions, and actions as if he were Romeo. Kaufman and Libby also found that the extent to which one’s self-concept is salient is a crucial determinant in the occurrence and degree of experience-taking (see pp. 4–8); being in a state of reduced self-concept accessibility promotes higher levels of experience-taking, while being in a state of heightened self-concept accessibility makes it more difficult to engage in experience-taking. Experience-taking means not only thinking and feeling how others are thinking and feeling but also entails a kind of self–other merging.

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Enactive Imagination in Nature Aesthetics

A post by James M. Dow.

At the peak of the mountain the sky hurled a lightning bolt in my path. A rounded and gnarled knot of white light and white heat hung at the center of the bolt. The phenomenon connected me, the sky, and the ground. I tried to imagine myself projected into the light and walked forward into the space where the orb hovered. I found myself standing in awe in the empty place where the lightning had been.

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Imagination and the Experience of Sounds as Music

A post by Jennifer Church.

How does imagining contribute to our ability to experience sounds as music?  Most people, when they listen to music, imagine a variety of things: a singer, a rising line, a swirl of activity, an approaching disaster, and so on.  Some of these imaginings seem more closely connected to the music than others, but how are we to understand the notion of ‘closeness’ and when, if ever, is such imagining necessary?

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Extreme Imagination and the Nature of Dreaming

A post by Cecily Whiteley.

It is standardly thought that imaginative experiences are not only ontologically homogeneous, but also phenomenally so. When asked to imagine the Notre-Dame Cathedral, construct visually elaborate daydreams or picture the face of a loved one, we naturally assume that in such cases -  episodes of sensory imagining - each of us undergos experiences of roughly the same sort:  conscious experiences involving mental imagery. Recent empirical findings however, suggest that this ordinary assumption is mistaken. In a number of recent studies Adam Zeman and colleagues at the University of Exeter document the main neurobehavioural features of a new mental imagery generation disorder known as aphantasia - a condition characterised by the total (or otherwise severely reduced) incapacity to produce visual forms of mental imagery. There are, it turns out, a small percentage of the population - current estimations fall around the 2% benchmark - who lack a mind’s eye.

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Logic(s) of Imagination

A Post by Christopher Badura.

What is the logic of imagination?  Which, if any, inferences involving the concept of imagination are valid?[1] Answering this contributes to understanding how and what we can learn from imagination, and also how imagination is constrained. In what follows, imaginative agents of interest are subjects that can be reasonably described as being capable of performing at least one step deductive inferences like conjunction introduction/elimination, modus ponens, and disjunction introduction.[2]

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Imaginary Reasons

A post by Jonathan Drake and Eric Peterson.

What is the relationship between imagining some thing and being motivated to act by that thing? More precisely: what is the relationship between imagining that P and acting for the reason that P? In this exploratory post, we sketch out some of the terrain, eliciting some crucial questions that need to be settled in order to better understand the relationship between imagination and rational motivation. We make a tentative initial argument for the view that there are no imaginary motivating reasons.

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A Post by Nenad Miscevic.

How can a theory of imagination help us understand thought experiments (“TEs”, for short)? In particular, can it help us answer the question of where they belong and what is their wider genus?  Where should we locate TEs on a wider map of related activities? What are their closest relatives? Finding an answer is an important task that has not been undertaken seriously until now (but see on the Junkyard the posts by Eric Peterson and Mike Stuart, and Maks Del Mar).

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Under-explored Epistemic Uses of the Imagination

A post by Madeleine Hyde.

Our imagination is useful in a variety of ways - including ways which engage with our beliefs, desires and knowledge, and ways that the philosophical literature sometimes overlooks. Our focus has often been on how the imagination can aid modal reasoning and scientific discovery – both important, but limited to technical thinking and expertise rather than everyday knowledge. Here, I want to highlight some more familiar ways that imagining can impact our beliefs and knowledge. I'll start by telling a story of why our attention has often been elsewhere until now.

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Artists with aphantasia: extended imagining?

A post by Matthew MacKisack.

In this post I am going to discuss the procedural narratives of visual artists with aphantasia, ‘a condition of reduced or absent voluntary imagery’ (Zeman et al 2015, p1). With the aim of finding out how aphantasia informs the individual’s creative process, I will focus on a claim that appears several times in the narratives: that the pictures the artists make stand in for or somehow supplant the mental imagery they lack. I will explore what could be meant by this, suggest an answer, then conclude by looking at how the answer might square with aphantasia being specifically a deficit of voluntary imagery. The post is a sketch for a more comprehensive qualitative study - comments and suggestions are very welcome.

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The Junkyard Turns Two!

A post by Amy Kind

Today we celebrate The Junkyard’s second birthday.  A year ago, I reported some stats on The Junkyard’s first year.  At that time, there had been about 9K unique visitors to the blog.  We’ve had similar traffic in year two.  As of the writing of this post, there have been over 18K unique visitors to the blog.  These visitors have come from over 50 different countries.  Though the vast majority of our visitors have come from the United States and the UK, we also seem to receive a fair amount of traffic from (in order): Canada, Israel, Germany, Japan, Australia, and Italy.

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Imagining Being Someone Else and Personal Identity

A post by Andrea Sauchelli.

Can you really imagine being someone else—mind you, not just suppose that you are someone else, but imagine being an altogether different person? In what sense and to what degree can we actually achieve this task? What are the theoretical consequences of episodes of imagining being someone else for the contemporary debate on personal identity?

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Machines who Imagine

A post by Sridhar Mahadevan.

We discuss a fundamental challenge for artificial intelligence (AI) enabled systems: can machines imagine? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,  “to imagine is to represent without aiming at things as they actually, presently, and subjectively are… to represent possibilities other than the actual, to represent times other than the present, and to represent perspectives other than one’s own.”[1] Art is perhaps the paradigmatic example of human imagination. Figure 1 shows an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that sold at a recent auction in New York City for over $100 million. 

The scope of imagination in human society goes far beyond art: numerous examples can be given to illustrate that human achievements in the sciences, technology, literature, sculpture, poetry, religion, and beyond, depend fundamentally on our ability to imagine. The importance of imagination to humans naturally raises the question of whether intelligent machines can be endowed with similar abilities.

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Moral Knowledge through Imagination

A post by Razvan Sofroni.

It has been only a few years since the idea that imagination might be a source of non-modal knowledge started to be taken seriously again. Up until now, however, the focus has been almost exclusively on non-normative knowledge (Kind 2016, Kind and Kung 2016, McPherson and Dorsch 2018). In this post, I’d like to explore the idea that imagination might be a source of moral knowledge and address possible reasons to resist its appeal.

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Book Symposium: Stock Commentary and Response

This week at The Junkyard, we're hosting a symposium on Margherita Arcangeli’s recent book:  Supposition and the Imaginative Realm (Routledge, 2018).  See here for an introduction from Margherita.  Commentaries and replies appear Tuesday through Thursday.

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Commentary from Kathleen Stock.

I’m delighted to contribute to this symposium. The book is a fantastic addition to the literature on the nature of supposition. My aim in this piece is to outline what I take to be Margherita’s view, and contrast it informatively with my own.

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Book Symposium: Kind Commentary and Response

This week at The Junkyard, we're hosting a symposium on Margherita Arcangeli’s recent book:  Supposition and the Imaginative Realm (Routledge, 2018).  See here for an introduction from Margherita.  Commentaries and replies appear Tuesday through Thursday.

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Commentary from Amy Kind.

It’s a pleasure to be taking part in this symposium on Margherita Arcangeli’s Supposition and the Imaginative Realm, a book that is sure to generate much interest and discussion.  As Margherita indicated in her opening post [insert link] for the symposium, she ultimately defends a view according to which supposition is a sui generis type of imagination, in particular, it is acceptance-like imagination.  Though such a view had previously been hinted at by authors such as Kevin Mulligan, as far as I know Margherita is the first to develop this kind of view in detail.

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Book Symposium: Humbert-Droz Commentary and Response

This week at The Junkyard, we're hosting a symposium on Margherita Arcangeli’s recent book:  Supposition and the Imaginative Realm (Routledge, 2018).  See here for an introduction from Margherita.  Commentaries and replies appear Tuesday through Thursday.

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Commentary from Steve Humbert-Droz.

In her excellent monograph, Margherita Arcangeli argues in favour of a positive account of supposition that aims at situating this phenomenon within the imaginative domain. Embracing a simulationist approach of imagination, she debunks faulty desiderata on imagination used against the imaginative account of supposition (Part. I) and argues that supposition is a re-creative state of acceptance (Part. II). She also makes a valuable contribution to the literature by showing against a widespread view that supposition is more demanding than merely entertaining a content (§ 5.2).

Supposition and the Imaginative Realm is, in my opinion, an important book and the best existing defense of the imaginative account of supposition.

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Book Symposium: Introduction from Margherita Arcangeli

This week at The Junkyard, we're hosting a symposium on Margherita Arcangeli’s recent book:  Supposition and the Imaginative Realm (Routledge, 2018).  Today we begin with an introduction from Margherita.  Commentaries and replies will appear Tuesday through Thursday.

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The fundamental question that drives my inquiry is: What is supposition? This is a crucial and pressing question, if we consider that while supposition has been frequently invoked as a key notion in many philosophical debates in different domains (e.g., aesthetics, logic, phenomenology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science), we lack a consensual characterisation of supposition. There is a tendency to contrast supposition with imagination, but most of the time this is not premised on a detailed analysis. It may well be, indeed, that supposition is rather a type of imagination. The book offers an extensive analysis of supposition that does justice to its place in the architecture of the mind. My main goal is to show that there are good arguments in favour of the view that supposition is a type of imagination, but that these very arguments also suggest that supposition is a specific type of imagination, distinct from other varieties of imagination recognised by the literature.

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Imagination and Acquaintance Principle

A post by Uku Tooming.

It is intuitive to think that grasping the aesthetic value of something – be it an artefact or a natural object – requires first-hand experience. For instance, it seems problematic to say: “That painting is beautiful, although I have not seen it”. This idea has found its formulation in the so-called Acquaintance Principle (AP). Take an influential statement of the principle by Richard Wollheim:

judgements of aesthetic value, unlike judgements of moral knowledge, must be based on first-hand experience of their objects and are not, except within very narrow limits, transmissible from one person to another. (Wollheim 1980, 233)

Both the content and status of AP are under debate. It may be treated as an epistemic principle concerning aesthetic knowledge or justification, or a non-epistemic principle concerning the acceptable way of making aesthetic judgments. In the context of this blog post, I try to avoid these intricacies and focus on the general idea that first-hand experience of an object is necessary for aesthetic appreciation.

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How to be somebody else: imaginative identification and the limits of ethics Part III

A post by Sophie Grace Chappell.

Part 3 of 3

In my first post I introduced the notion of imaginative identification, and said how crucial I think it is for ethics; but I also suggested that most modern moral philosophy has not made good sense of imaginative identification. I see six reasons for this failure. Last time I discussed the first three of these reasons, which come from the nature of imaginative identification. In this third and final post I’ll look at the three reasons for the failure that come from the nature of moral philosophy.

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