Some Recent Work on Imagination

Below we list some scholarly work on imagination published/online first in 2017.  Please feel free to add additional references in the comments!

Featured image credit:  Stacked Papers by Josh, CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr

Featured image credit:  Stacked Papers by Josh, CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr

“Interacting with Emotions: Imagination and Supposition” in The Philosophical Quarterly

by Margherita Arcangeli

Abstract:  A widespread claim, which I call ‘the Emotionality Claim’ (EC), is that imagination but not supposition is intimately linked to emotion. In more cognitive jargon, imagination is connected to the affect system (i.e., the mechanisms that produce emotional responses), whereas supposition is not. EC is open to several interpretations which yield very different views about the nature of supposition. The literature lacks an in-depth analysis of EC which sorts out these different readings and ways to carve supposition and imagination at their joints. The aim of this paper is to fill this gap. I shall argue that existing readings of EC fail to properly account for the emotional asymmetry between imagination and supposition. The tendency is to start from narrow conceptions of both imagination and supposition. I shall argue for a novel interpretation of EC pivoting on different ways a mental state can connect to the affect system.

“Conceivability and possibility: Some dilemmas for Humeans” in Synthese

by Francesco Berto and Tom Schoonen

Abstract:  The Humean view that conceivability entails possibility can be criticized via input from cognitive psychology. A mainstream view here has it that there are two candidate codings for mental representations (one of them being, according to some, reducible to the other): the linguistic and the pictorial, the difference between the two consisting in the degree of arbitrariness of the representation relation. If the conceivability of P at issue for Humeans involves the having of a linguistic mental representation, then it is easy to show that we can conceive the impossible, for impossibilities can be represented by meaningful bits of language. If the conceivability of P amounts to the pictorial imaginability of a situation verifying P, then the question is whether the imagination at issue works purely qualitatively, that is, only by phenomenological resemblance with the imagined scenario. If so, the range of situations imaginable in this way is too limited to have a significant role in modal epistemology. If not, imagination will involve some arbitrary labeling component, which turns out to be sufficient for imagining the impossible. And if the relevant imagination is neither linguistic nor pictorial, Humeans will appear to resort to some representational magic, until they come up with a theory of a ‘third code’ for mental representations.

“Measuring the unimaginable: Imaginative resistance to fiction and related constructs” in Personality and Individual Differences

by Jessica E. Black and Jennifer L. Barnes

Abstract:  Imaginative resistance refers to a perceived inability or unwillingness to enter into fictional worlds that portray deviant moralities (Gendler, 2000): we can all easily imagine that dragons exist, but many people feel incapable of imagining fictional worlds in which morality works differently. Although this phenomenon has received much attention from philosophers, no one has attempted to operationalize the construct in a self-report scale. In Study 1, we developed the Imaginative Resistance Scale (IRS), investigated its relationship to theoretically related constructs, and confirmed its structure and reliability (rα = 0.92) in a large sample. In Study 2, we asked participants to rate scenarios expected to provoke imaginative resistance and predicted these ratings from the IRS and its validity measures. IRS scores accounted for variability in ease of imagining these scenarios over and above gender, political orientation, and three related measures. The results are discussed in terms of theories of imaginative resistance and directions for future research.

“Imagining by feeling: a case for compassion in legal reasoning”  in International Journal of Law in Context

by Maksymilian Del Mar

Abstract:  This paper argues that feeling compassion (and other relational emotions) makes an important, beneficial difference in adjudication, as it improves the exercise of the perspectival imagination – that is, it helps a judge to better understand, and to better describe, a situation as another person experienced it. Even where a judge has a highly developed capacity for empathy and sympathy (these being cognitive and evaluative processes that are distinguishable from emotions), there is something to be gained by a judge actually feeling compassion. However, given the potential for the distortion of understanding as a consequence of feeling compassion, any such feeling has to be accompanied by the robust exercise of the perspectival imagination – that is, by imagining multiple perspectives (including sometimes constructing imaginary ones), so as to avoid privileging any one perspective over others. It is further argued that this ‘imagining by feeling’, as I call it in this paper, is not a threat to impartiality or the rule of law, but in fact a condition of it. It is part of the rule of law that people have a right to be heard, especially those whom we may otherwise find it difficult to understand. Imagining by feeling helps judges to better ‘hear’ a greater diversity of those who come before them, and thus helps the judiciary to improve the quality of the rule of law.

“Imaginative Vividness” in Journal of the American Philosophical Association

by Amy Kind

Abstract:  How are we to understand the phenomenology of imagining? Attempts to answer this question often invoke descriptors concerning the ‘vivacity’ or ‘vividness’ of our imaginative states. Not only are particular imaginings often phenomenologically compared and contrasted with other imaginings on grounds of how vivid they are, but such imaginings are also often compared and contrasted with perceptions and memories on similar grounds. Yet however natural it may be to use ‘vividness’ and cognate terms in discussions of imagination, it does not take much reflection to see that these terms are poorly understood. In this paper, I review both some relevant empirical literature as well as the philosophical literature in an attempt to get a handle on what it could mean, in an imaginative context, to talk of vividness. As I suggest, this notion ultimately proves to be so problematic as to be philosophically untenable.

“Predictive processing, perceiving and imagining: Is to perceive to imagine, or something close to it?” in Philosophical Studies

by Michael D. Kirchhoff

Abstract:  This paper examines the relationship between perceiving and imagining on the basis of predictive processing models in neuroscience. Contrary to the received view in philosophy of mind, which holds that perceiving and imagining are essentially distinct, these models depict perceiving and imagining as deeply unified and overlapping. It is argued that there are two mutually exclusive implications of taking perception and imagination to be fundamentally unified. The view defended is what I dub the ecological–enactive view given that it does not succumb to internalism about the mind-world relation, and allows one to keep a version of the received view in play.

“Is imagination too liberal for modal epistemology?” in Synthese

by Derek Lam

Abstract:  Appealing to imagination for modal justification is very common. But not everyone thinks that all imaginings provide modal justification. Recently, Gregory (2010) and Kung (Philos Phenomenol Res 81(3):620–663, 2010) have independently argued that, whereas imaginings with sensory imageries can justify modal beliefs, those without sensory imageries don’t because of such imaginings’ extreme liberty. In this essay, I defend the general modal epistemological relevance of imagining. I argue, first, that when the objections that target the liberal nature of non-sensory imaginings are adequately developed, those objections also threaten the sensory imaginings. So, if we think that non-sensory imaginings are too liberal for modal justification, we should say the same about sensory imaginings. I’ll finish my defense by showing that, when it comes to deciding between saying that all imaginings are prima facie justificatory and saying that no imaginings are justificatory, there is an independent reason for accepting the former.

“Sensory Substitution and Multimodal Mental Imagery” in Perception

by Bence Nanay

Abstract:  Many philosophers use findings about sensory substitution devices in the grand debate about how we should individuate the senses. The big question is this: Is “vision” assisted by (tactile) sensory substitution really vision? Or is it tactile perception? Or some sui generis novel form of perception? My claim is that sensory substitution assisted “vision” is neither vision nor tactile perception, because it is not perception at all. It is mental imagery: visual mental imagery triggered by tactile sensory stimulation. But it is a special form of mental imagery that is triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation in a different sense modality, which I call “multimodal mental imagery.”

“Video Games and Imaginative Identification” in Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

by Stephanie Patridge

Abstract:  In a recent article, Jon Robson and Aaron Meskin argue that, at least in the main, video games are what they call “self-involving interactive fictions” (SIIFs). Such fictions are self-involving in that they are “about those who consume them” due to their “interactive nature” (Robson and Meskin 2016, 165). Roughly the idea is that in playing video games a player engages in a particular kind of interactive-imaginative activity that generates fictional truths about the player herself.  ... In support of the SIIF view, Robson and Meskin offer two main lines of argument that I focus on in this article: what I call the linguistic practice argument and the argument from moral criticism. The main goal of this article is to open a philosophical discussion about the nature, degree, and scope of our self-involvement with video games. First, I argue that our linguistic practices in ludic contexts are more complicated (and, I think, philosophically interesting) than Robson and Meskin recognize, and this weakens the linguistic practice argument. Second, I argue that the SIIF view cannot do the work that Robson and Meskin claim that it can in the moral criticism argument, as those cases are morally distinctive, and this weakens the argument from moral criticism.

“Do religious “beliefs” respond to evidence?” in Philosophical Explorations: An International Journal for the Philosophy of Mind and Action

by Neil Van Leeuwen

Abstract:  Some examples suggest that religious credences (or “beliefs”) respond to evidence. Other examples suggest they are wildly unresponsive. So the examples taken together suggest there is a puzzle about whether descriptive religious attitudes respond to evidence or not. I argue for a solution to this puzzle according to which religious credences are characteristically notresponsive to evidence; that is, they do not tend to be extinguished by contrary evidence. And when they appear to be responsive, it is because the agents with those credences are playing what I call The Evidence Game, which in fundamental ways resembles the games of make-believe described by Walton's (1990) theory of make-believe.