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

A post by Sophie Grace Chappell.

Part 1 of 3

One of the main concerns of ethics, as ordinary good people do it, is the activity that we may call imaginative identification: understanding, getting a feel for, learning vicariously and fictively to inhabit not only my own point of view, but other people’s points of view too. “You don’t know what it was like, you weren’t there”, we say, and “It’s easy to say that when you’re not in my shoes”, and “Try and see it from her point of view”, and “You’re right from your side. I’m right from mine”, and “How would you like it if I did that to you?”. I would say (though other commentators have, implicitly, disagreed) that the Golden Rule propounded by Jesus in Matthew 7.12 (and elsewhere by Confucius, Rabbi Hillel, and many other moral teachers) is about the same thing: about imagining what it would be like to be someone else, and thinking what I would want and not want to happen to me if I were that other person.

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Empirically investigating imaginative resistance: Many questions and a few answers

A post by Jessica Black.

Imaginative resistance (IR) has been addressed various times in this forum, namely by Kengo Miyazono, Eric Peterson, Kathleen Stock, Emine Hande Tuna, and most recently by Hanna Kim.  With the exception of Kim’s explanation of her recent work with Markus Kneer and Mike Stuart, the treatments of IR have been exclusively philosophical.  Some pose questions that have been—to varying degrees—tested empirically in our lab, although much of our results remain unpublished.  In this post I will share some of our more intriguing findings, some of which attempt to probe the phenomenon of IR directly, and others which are relatively independent of philosophical debates. I hope these will raise more questions about the causes and consequences of IR, especially as it appears in cases outside of the more traditional philosophical thought experiments.

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Creative Thought, Emotion, and Imagination

A post by John F. DeCarlo.

The famed Shakespearean actor, Edmund Kean, supposedly declared on his death bed: “dying is easy; comedy is hard.” Might the same be said about ‘doing’ science? For while Newtonian equations are still used for their ease and quickness, they are conditionally limited, and fundamentally, misleading. Accordingly, I would like to address the Quine/Duhem Paradox and offer a critical evaluation of the Bayesian response of abiding by self-credences and offer an alternative procedural methodology. 

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Belief, Knowledge and Imagination – a common thread

According to a very popular view of imagining, belief and knowledge, the three dramatically contrast with one another.

For example in his poem L’enfant (‘The child’)), Maurice Carême implicitly opposes, through a careful word choice, on the one hand beliefs about the actual observable world, knowledge, objectivity and shared perspective; and on the other hand what the child imagines when he closes his eyes and plays, a world to which only he has access through his mind’s eye.

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A Dual Process Model of Imaginative Resistance

A post by Hanna Kim.

The phenomenon of imaginative resistance has been widely discussed in the philosophical literature, including a number of times on this blog (e.g., see here, here, and here). Imaginative resistance has been defined as occurring “when an otherwise competent imaginer finds it difficult to engage in some sort of prompted imaginative activity” (Gendler and Liao 2016). And one of the oldest and most widely discussed puzzles concerning the phenomenon has to do with an asymmetry between imagining counterevaluative propositions and imagining counterdescriptive propositions (Hume 1757, Moran 1994, Walton 1990, Gendler 2000). The empirical assumption underlying the puzzle is that people experience more imaginative resistance when they attempt to imagine scenarios that are evaluatively deviant (counterevaluative) rather than descriptively deviant (counterdescriptive). This “curious asymmetry” (Kieran and Lopes 2003, 8; Matravers 2003, 91) has been widely observed, not very often argued for, and frequently restricted to moral deviance. Given this backdrop, my collaborators, Markus Kneer and Mike Stuart, and I wondered: What motivates this asymmetry? Why should it be any more difficult to imagine a countermoral claim (or counterevaluative claim more generally) than it is to imagine a counterdescriptive claim? Could the puzzle, according to which a difference in imaginative resistance is due exclusively, or at the very least predominantly, to claim type (i.e., evaluative vs. descriptive) largely be a myth?

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Winter Hiatus

The Junkyard will be on hiatus for the next month.  We will return in mid-January with new weekly postings.

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Why Belief Isn’t Enough

A post by Neil Van Leeuwen.

The question I’m thinking of was probably rhetorical. I want to answer it directly nonetheless. But before I can quote the question usefully, I have to do some set-up.

The general issue is the psychology of how humans comprehend fiction. What, for example, are the key features of mental states that encode ideas like Hermione knows spells or Bilbo is a Hobbit or Mark Zuckerberg wore pajamas to an important business meeting (with the last being prompted not by reality but by the 2010 film Social Network)?

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Rehearsal in Imagination

A post by Adam Morton.

Some acts of imagination are so ordinary that we hardly notice them. Some of them are never noticed because they are not conscious. Unconscious perceptual imagination is probably controversial (but see below). On the other hand imagining physical actions, of oneself or other people, seems to be both a very familiar part of life and not to fit a standard idea of what is conscious. Not conscious experience at any rate. One form it takes when the imaginer imagines herself is rehearsal. You are preparing to do something, or anticipating having to do it, and you pause while the things you will have to do and their sequence get organized in your mind. You may have conscious images of yourself performing the acts, or of sensations in your muscles. But you may well not: you simply wait while something happens, and then you are ready to go.

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Imagining as Mental Action

A post by Michael Brent.

When imagining is a conscious mental action we perform, we typically bring content to mind and manipulate the qualitative features that such content possesses, and we do so intentionally. Right now, for instance, I am imagining the visual appearance of my old friend Matt, my flatmate in graduate school. I have intentionally brought to mind an image of Matt smiling, standing in the kitchen of our apartment, cooking dinner. With relative ease, I can manipulate the qualitative features of this image, now imagining him wearing his favourite t-shirt, now imagining him cooking risotto, and now imagining him drinking from a glass of wine. (Life in graduate school was tough, I know.) All of this imagining is intentional mental action, par excellence. How, exactly, do we do this? That is, how do we bring content to mind when intentionally imagining something?

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Resisting an invitation to suppose

A post by Catherine Wearing.

There’s some disagreement in the literature as to whether supposing and imagining are distinct activities, and if they are, what exactly distinguishes them. But one fairly widespread point of agreement is that supposing is less constrained than imagining: we can suppose things that we can’t imagine. And not only does supposing seem to be less constrained than imagining, it is often taken to be completely unconstrained. One can suppose anything, even a contradiction, if it’s for the sake of carrying out a proof by reductio ad absurdum.

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Fake News and Imagined Narratives

A post by Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini.

Fake news can be found everywhere, from traditional news outlets to personal websites and social media. Examples of fake news are conspiracy theories, trolls’ social media campaigns, and many of RT’s headlines. There is now a vibrant debate on how to define the term ‘fake news’. Here I will attempt to shed some light on the type of speech act the term ‘fake news’ refers to by looking at the kind of reactions this speech act is meant to elicit in the audience.

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Vivid descriptions and intense imaginings

A post by Julia Langkau.

Imagine walking through a winter landscape: there is fresh snow on the trees, on the hills and rocks around you, and in the background, you see the snow-covered mountains. It has stopped snowing and a little bit of blue sky and sunlight is getting through the clouds and reflecting in the snow. 

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Update to the SEP Entry on Imagination

A post by Shen-yi Liao.

As you may have seen by now, there is a new Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on imagination. (For comparison, you can still access the archived old entry.) In this post—speaking only for myself—I want to talk about the main changes and their rationales; and also invite this blog’s community for suggestions for further improving this resource.

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Actually Imagining and Foreseeing Imagining

A post by Luke Roelofs.

Can imagination make a difference to what you ought to think or do, even when you don’t imagine anything?

I’m assuming here that, as several philosophers have recently argued (e.g. Dorsch 2016, Williamson 2016, Kind 2016, 2018) properly-constrained imagination (meaning roughly ‘imagination that seeks to accurately match some part of reality) can have epistemically and practically significant results.

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How Similar are Imagination, Memory, and Perception?

A post by Bartek Chomanski.

In this post, I argue that the phenomenological similarity between imaginative, recollective, and perceptual experiences is a complex matter, and that accounting for it is made difficult by empirical data which suggests that there is closer similarity between imagination and perception, and imagination and memory, than there is between memory and perception. I then explain why I think the empirical results raise a potential problem for a certain style of accounting for this similarity and sketch some solutions.

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