A post by Amy Kind.
Speaking at a session at the 2015 meeting of the Pacific Division APA, Noel Carroll referred to imagination as “the junkyard of the mind” – a place where everything gets thrown in. Need something to explain our engagement with fiction? Enter imagination. What accounts for our ability to access modal truths? Again, enter imagination. Pretense. Mindreading. Empathy. Thought experiments. Creativity. Delusions. Dreams. Metaphors. Sure, let’s throw all of those onto the imaginative scrap heap as well – a heap that seems to be getting higher and higher.
This same junkyard is also littered with attempts to understand the nature of imagination. Historically, imagination has played a central role in the work of philosophers such as Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Sartre, and many others, though their pictures of imagination tend to differ, often dramatically, from one another. Likewise, in late 20th/early 21st century philosophy we have seen attempts to understand the nature of imagination offered by philosophers of art/aesthetics, philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists, and epistemologists, and here too the pictures can often be quite divergent from one another. What is the role of mental images? How does imagination relate to belief and to perception? How should we understand the difference between imagination and other speculative mental capacities such as supposition and conception? What is the difference between objectual and propositional imagination, and is one of these forms of imagination more fundamental than the other? Though there are various points of agreement about what imagination is and what it is not, on many of these questions no clear consensus has yet emerged.
That said, to our minds, it would be a mistake to consign imagination to the scrap heap, or to write it off as unsalvageable, and in fact, recent explorations into imagination have proved to be both rich and fruitful. The success of this recent research suggests that we could benefit considerably from continued investigation into imagination and, in particular, from the kind of exploratory, collaborative, and quick-moving kind of investigation that can flourish online. We know that the blogosphere is already crowded, and we also recognize that there are several terrific blogs – blogs that we greatly admire – that occasionally feature posts on imagination. (Here we have in mind especially the philosophical blogs Brains and Imperfect Cognitions, and the psychological blog On Fiction.) But given the increasing number of philosophers and academics in cognate fields to whom the imagination is of interest, we’ve decided that the time is ripe for Team Imagination to carve out space for a blog of our own.
For now, The Junkyard will feature new posts every other Wednesday, with the first one going up on Wednesday, April 5. We have a great series of posts already lined up for the next six months, and we expect to be adding more names to the list very shortly. As we do so, we’ll likely transition at some point soon from a biweekly schedule of posts to a weekly schedule. Interspersed around the Wednesday posts, we will also be featuring occasional symposia, author-meets-critic sessions, interviews, conference reports, and so on. Though the majority of our initial set of contributed posts will be philosophical in content, we intend for The Junkyard to be an interdisciplinary blog, and we’re already at work soliciting contributions from scholars in other academic disciplines – from psychology to religion to legal studies. We very much welcome suggestions for posts and features. If you have an idea for a post, or would like to contribute one yourself, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re on Facebook and on Twitter, so please follow us there (and spread the word!).
So, welcome to The Junkyard. We’re really excited for the intellectual journey ahead of us, and we hope that you are too. Though we can’t know fully what lies ahead, there’s one thing about which we’re pretty sure: When it comes to imagination, there’s really more treasure than trash.