Some Recent Work on Imagination


Below we list some scholarly works on imagination that have recently been published (see also our previous roundups here and here).  Please feel free to add additional references in the comments!


Supposition and the Imaginative Realm: A Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge), by Margherita Arcangeli

Abstract:  Supposition is frequently invoked in many fields within philosophy, including aesthetics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and epistemology. However, there is a striking lack of consensus about the nature of supposition. What is supposition? Is supposition a sui generis type of mental state or is it reducible to some other type of mental state?  These are the main questions Margherita Arcangeli explores in this book. She examines the characteristic features of supposition, along the dimensions of phenomenology and emotionality, among others, in a journey through the imaginative realm. An informed answer to the question "What is supposition?" must involve an analysis of imagination, since supposition is so often defined in opposition to the latter. She assesses rival explanations of supposition putting forward a novel view, according to which the proper way of seeing supposition is as a primitive type of imaginative state.


“Sugar and Spice, and Everything Nice:  What Rough Heroines Tell Us about Imaginative Resistance,” by Adriana Clavel-Vazquez, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Abstract: This article examines the asymmetry between our engagement with male characters in fictional narratives who transgress moral norms and female characters who do the same. I claim that rough heroines present a new puzzling instance of resistance phenomena that cannot be accounted for by even the most recent accounts of imaginative resistance that incorporate considerations of narrative context, such as genre and narrative artistry. I sketch a solution that points to the violation of gender norms and the challenge to power dynamics as the source of resistance. I argue that rough heroines reveal an important element of narrative engagement that has been largely overlooked in the literature: appreciators’ interpretive horizons.


“Modal Epistemology Made Concrete,” by Daniel Dohrn, in Philosophical Studies

Abstract:  Many philosophers since Hume have accepted that imagining/conceiving a scenario is our prime guide to knowing its possibility. Stephen Yablo provided a more systematic criterion: one is justified in judging that p is possible if one can imagine a world which one takes to verify p. I defend a version of Yablo’s criterion against van Inwagen’s moderate modal scepticism. Van Inwagen’s key argument is that we cannot satisfy Yablo’s criterion because we are not in a position to spell out far-fetched possible scenarios in relevant detail. Van Inwagen’s argument can be applied to the use of conceivability for everyday possibility claims, leaving us with the spectre of pervasive modal scepticism. In order to answer the sceptical threat, I combine van Inwagen’s main example with general considerations about the nature of metaphysical modality to motivate a version of Yablo’s criterion and show that it does not lead to scepticism. One structural condition of p being metaphysically possible is that it coheres with a complete reality. This condition gives rise to Yablo’s criterion. However, for the criterion to be of any avail, we have to disregard details we are not in a position to specify. To account for our practice of doing so, I use Yablo’s distinction between imagining a world as determinate and imagining it determinately. I present a condition when we may simply disregard details as determinate. The condition results from integrating analogical reasoning into the conceivability test.


The Life of Imagination: Revealing and Making the World (Columbia University Press), by Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei

Abstract:  Imagination allows us to step out of the ordinary but also to transform it through our sense of wonder and play, artistic inspiration and innovation, or the eureka moment of a scientific breakthrough. In this book, Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei offers a groundbreaking new understanding of its place in everyday experience as well as the heights of creative achievement.  The Life of Imagination delivers a new conception of imagination that places it at the heart of our engagement with the world—thinking, acting, feeling, making, and being. Gosetti-Ferencei reveals imagination’s roots in embodied human cognition and its role in shaping our cognitive ecology. She demonstrates how imagination arises from our material engagements with the world and at the same time endows us with the sense of an inner life, how it both allows us to escape from reality and aids us in better understanding it. Drawing from philosophy, cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, developmental psychology, literary theory, and aesthetics, Gosetti-Ferencei engages a spectacular range of examples from ordinary thought processes and actions to artistic, scientific, and literary feats to argue that, like consciousness itself, imagination resists reductive explanation. The Life of Imagination offers a vital account of transformative thinking that shows how imagination will be essential in cultivating a future conducive to human flourishing and to that of the life around us.


“Imaginative Presence,” by Amy Kind, in Phenomenal Presence (Oxford University Press), edited by Fabian Dorsch and Fiona Macpherson

Abstract:  When looking at an object, we perceive only its facing surface, yet we nonetheless perceptually experience the object as a three-dimensional whole.  This gives us what Alva Noë has called the problem of perceptual presence, i.e., the problem of accounting for the features of our perceptual experience that are present as absent.  Although he proposes that we can best solve this problem by adopting an enactive view of perception, one according to which perceptual presence is to be explained in terms of the exercise of our sensorimotor capacities, I argue that this is a mistake.  Rather, we can best account for presence in absence in terms of the exercise of our imaginative capacities.


Perceptual Imagination and Perceptual Memory (Oxford University Press), edited by Fiona Macpherson and Fabian Dorsch

Abstract:  This volume presents ten new essays on the nature of perceptual imagination and perceptual memory, framed by an introductory overview of these topics. How do perceptual imagination and memory resemble and differ from each other and from other kinds of sensory experience? And what role does each play in perception and in the acquisition of knowledge? These are the two central questions that the contributors seek to address.  Contributors include R.A.H. King, Dominic Gregory, Robert Hopkins, Dorothea Debus, Paul Noordhof, Derek Brown, Robert Briscoe, Gregory Currie, Magdalena Balcerak Jackson, and Amy Kind.


“Visualizing and Visualizing Representations,” by Derek Matravers, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Abstract:  Opponents of “the dependency thesis” (the view that when we visualize an F what we do is imagine seeing an F) have used an analogy between visualizing and viewing visual representations to bolster their skepticism. This article explores this analogy and argues that when we set out to visualize an F, sometimes what we visualize is either (1) influenced by our prior exposure to visual representations of an F or (2) best described as a visual representation of an F. The ramifications of this are explored, both in the light of arguments over the dependency thesis, and also in the light of the surprising data that suggest that at least during the 1940s and 1950s, people dreamed in black and white.


“Biased by Our Imaginings,” by Ema Sullivan-Bissett, in Mind and Language

Abstract: I propose a new model of implicit bias, according to which implicit biases are constituted by unconscious imaginings. I argue that my model accommodates characteristic features of implicit bias, does not face the problems of the doxastic model, and is uniquely placed to accommodate the structural heterogeneity in the category of implicit bias. Finally I turn to how my view relates to holding people accountable for their biases and what we know about intervention strategies.


“Imagination and Creativity in Organizations,” by Neil A. Thompson, in Organization Studies

Abstract: Scholars adopting a relational ontology of organisational creativity have shifted attention away from a preoccupation with individual minds towards that which is enacted, emergent, shared, unpredictable and contingent. This article follows suit, yet breaks new ground by reconsidering how the mind plays an active role in unfolding creative interactions by building a bridge between literature on organisational creativity, aesthetics and philosophy of imagination. I draw on English Romanticism to craft a theoretical model of organisational creativity as an aesthetic and relational process of shared imagining. This model demonstrates how organisational members use primary and secondary modes of imagination and creative expression to develop, materialise and share perceptions and images of possible futures. By elaborating on their interplay, this article contributes to literature by theorising an active and generative role of mind that does not have the ontological shortcomings of leading theories. In turn, this has a number of implications for literature on entrepreneurship and organisational creativity in terms of situating and embodying creative thinking, explaining the intentionality and motivation for creative actions, overcoming perceptual differences and changing practices and routines.

“There is Something about the Image:  A Defence of the Two-Component View of Imagination,” by Uku Tooming, in Dialectica

Abstract: According to the two‐component view of sensory imagination, imaginative states combine qualitative and assigned content. Qualitative content is the imagistic component of the imaginative state and is provided by a quasi‐perceptual image; assigned content has a language‐like structure. Recently, such a two‐component view has been criticized by Daniel Hutto and Nicholas Wiltsher, both of whom have argued that postulating two contents is unnecessary for explaining how imagination represents. In this paper, I will defend the two‐component theory by arguing that it has three explanatory advantages over its competitors. First, it makes explicit a widely acknowledged distinction between engaged imagination and mere supposition. Second, it explains how imagination is constrained by objects’ perceptual appearances. Third, it explains how imaginings can be exploratory.

Image Credit: typewriter by Amy Ross, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr