Some Recent Work on Imagination


Below we list some scholarly works on imagination that have been published since our last round-up a year ago.  Please feel free to add additional references in the comments!

“Taming the runabout imagination ticket” in Synthese, by Francesco Berto

Abstract:  The ‘puzzle of imaginative use’ (Kind and Kung in Knowledge through imagination, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016) asks: given that imagination is arbitrary escape from reality, how can it have any epistemic value? In particular, imagination seems to be logically anarchic, like a runabout inference ticket: one who imagines A may also imagine whatever B pops to one’s mind by free mental association. This paper argues that at least a certain kind of imaginative exercise—reality-oriented mental simulation—is not logically anarchic. Showing this is part of the task of solving the puzzle. Six plausible features of imagination, so understood, are listed. Then a formal semantics is provided, whose patterns of logical validity and invalidity model the six features.

“Imaginative Content, Design-Assumptions and Immersion,” in Review of Philosophy and Psychology, by Alon Chasid

Abstract:  In this paper, I will analyze certain aspects of imaginative content, namely the content of the representational mental state called “imagining.” I will show that fully accounting for imaginative content requires acknowledging that, in addition to imagining, an imaginative project—the overall mental activity we engage in when we imagine—includes another infrastructural component in terms of which content should be explained. I will then show that the phenomenon of imaginative immersion can partly be explained in terms of the proposed infrastructure of imaginative projects.

“Imaginative transportation” in Australasian Journal of Philosophy, by Samuel Kampa

Abstract:  Actors, undercover investigators, and readers of fiction sometimes report ‘losing themselves’ in the characters they imitate or read about. They speak of ‘taking on’ or ‘assuming’ the beliefs, thoughts, and feelings of someone else. I offer an account of this strange but familiar phenomenon—what I call imaginative transportation.

“Mental imagery and fiction” in Canadian Journal of Philosophy, by Dustin Stokes

Abstract:  Fictions evoke imagery, and their value consists partly in that achievement. This paper offers analysis of this neglected topic. Section 2 identifies relevant philosophical background. Section 3 offers a working definition of imagery. Section 4 identifies empirical work on visual imagery. Sections 5 and 6 criticize imagery essentialism, through the lens of genuine fictional narratives. This outcome, though, is not wholly critical. The expressed spirit of imagery essentialism is to encourage philosophers to ‘put the image back into the imagination’. The weakened conclusion is that while an image is not essential to imagining, it should be returned to our theories of imagination.

Imagination and Social Perspectives: Approaches from Phenomenology and Psychopathology, Routledge, edited by Michela Summa, Thomas Fuchs, and Luca Vanzago

Abstract: Our experience of other individuals as minded beings goes hand in hand with the awareness that they have a unique epistemic and emotional perspective on the experienced objects and situations. The same object can be seen from many different points of view, an event can awaken different emotional reactions in different individuals, and our position-takings can in part be mediated by our belonging to some social or cultural groups. All these phenomena can be described by referring to the metaphor of perspective. Assuming that there are different, and irreducible, perspectives we can take on the experienced world, and on others as experiencing the same world, the phenomenon of mutual understanding can consistently be understood in terms of perspectival flexibility. This edited volume investigates the different processes in which perspectival flexibility occurs in social life and particularly focuses on the constitutive role of imagination in such processes. It includes original works in philosophy and psychopathology showing how perspectival flexibility and social cognition are grounded on the interplay of direct perception and imagination.

“Is phenomenal force sufficient for immediate perceptual justification?” in Synthese, by Lu Teng

Abstract:  As an important view in the epistemology of perception, dogmatism proposes that for any experience (e.g. perceptual, memorial, imaginative, etc.), if it has a distinctive kind of phenomenal character, then it thereby provides us with immediate justification for beliefs about the external world. This paper rejects dogmatism by looking into the epistemology of imagining. In particular, this paper first appeals to some empirical studies on perceptual experiences and imaginings to show that it is possible for imaginings to have the distinctive phenomenal character dogmatists have in mind. Then this paper argues that some of these imaginings fail to provide us with immediate justification for beliefs about the external world at least partly due to their inappropriate etiology. Such imaginings constitute counterexamples to dogmatism.

“Imaginative resistance as imagistic resistance,” in Canadian Journal of Philosophy, by Uku Tooming

Abstract:  When we are invited to imagine an unacceptable moral proposition to be true in fiction, we feel resistance when we try to imagine it. Despite this, it is nonetheless possible to suppose that the proposition is true. In this paper, I argue that existing accounts of imaginative resistance are unable to explain why only attempts to imagine (rather than to suppose) the truth of moral propositions cause resistance. My suggestion is that imagination, unlike supposition, involves mental imagery and imaginative resistance arises when imagery that one has formed does not match unacceptable propositions.

“Feeling, emotion and imagination: in defence of Collingwood's expression theory of art” in British Journal for the History of Philosophy, by Nick Wiltsher

Abstract:  In ‘The Principles of Art’, R. G. Collingwood argues that art is the imaginative expression of emotion. So much the worse, then, for Collingwood. The theory seems hopelessly inadequate to the task of capturing art’s extension: of encompassing all the works we generally suppose should be rounded up under the concept. A great number of artworks, and several art forms, have nothing to do with emotion. But it would be surprising were Collingwood philistine enough to think that art is only ever concerned with communicating quotidian affective states, like anger, fear or love. Surely he has some more sophisticated notion of emotion in mind, and quite probably of expression too. And it turns out that those sophisticated notions can be pushed towards a version of the expression theory that meets the extensional challenge. If we interpret Collingwood as saying that expression is a particular application of imagination, and that imagination is the faculty that refines ideas of emotions, and that ‘emotions’ are the phenomenal feels of experiences, then all manner of things that would be omitted on an ordinary understanding of emotion are brought into the ambit of expression, and the expression theory is rendered adequate to art’s extension.

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