Gendler, Tamar, "Imagination", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall

2011
Edition),
Edward
N.
Zalta (ed.),
URL
=
<http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/imagination/>.

Imagination
First published Mon Mar 14, 2011
To imagine something is to form a particular sort of mental representation of that thing.
Imagining is typically distinguished from mental states such as perceiving, remembering
and believing in that imagining S does not require (that the subject consider) S to be or have
been the case, whereas the contrasting states do. It is distinguished from mental states such
as desiring or anticipating in that imagining S does not require that the subject wish or
expect S to be the case, whereas the contrasting states do. It is also sometimes distinguished
from mental states such as conceiving and supposing, on the grounds that imagining S
requires some sort of quasi-sensory or positive representation of S, whereas the contrasting
states do not.
Contemporary philosophical discussions of the imagination have been primarily focused on
three sets of topics. Work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology has
explored a cluster of issues concerning the phenomenology and cognitive architecture of
imagination, examining the ways that imagination differs from and resembles other mental
states both phenomenologically and functionally, and investigating the roles that
imagination may play in the understanding of self and others, and in the representation of
past, future and counterfactual scenarios. Work in aesthetics has focused on issues related to
imaginative engagement with fictional characters and events, identifying and offering
resolutions to a number of (apparent) paradoxes. And work in modal epistemology has
focused on the extent to which imaginability—and its cousin conceivability—can serve as
guides to possibility.
Because of the breadth of the topic, this entry focuses exclusively on contemporary
discussions of imagination in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition. (For an overview
of historical discussions of imagination, see the sections on pre-twentieth century and early
twentieth century accounts of mental imagery in the corresponding Stanford Encyclopedia
entry; for a more detailed and comprehensive historical survey, see Brann 1991. For a
sophisticated and wide-ranging discussion of imagination in the phenomenological
tradition, see Casey 2000.)

1. Overview: Varieties of Imagination

2. Imagination and Other Mental States
o 2.1 Imagination and Mental Imagery

o 2.2 Imagination and Belief
o 2.3 Imagination and Desire
o 2.4 Imagination and Supposition
o 2.5 Imagination and Dreaming
o 2.6 Imagination and Pretense

3. Imagination: Norms and Violations
o 3.1 Mirroring and Quarantining
o 3.2 Disparity and Contagion
o 3.3 Explaining Contagion

4. Some Roles of Imagination
o 4.1 Imagination and Mindreading
o 4.2 Imagination, Fiction and Moral Understanding
o 4.3 Imagination and Reshaping Responses
o 4.4 Imagination and Counterfactual Reasoning
o 4.5 Imagination and Possibility

5. Imagination: Puzzles and Problems
o 5.1 Imagination and Fictionality
o 5.2 Imaginative Resistance
o 5.3 The Paradox of Fictional Emotions
o 5.4 The Paradox of Tragedy
o 5.5 The Puzzles of Iteration
o 5.6 Visualizing the Unseen (Berkeley's Puzzle)

6. Empirical Work on Imagination
o 6.1 Developmental Work on the Origins of Pretense
o 6.2 Imagination and Autism
o 6.3 Imagination and Delusions
o 6.4 Recent Cognitive and Social Psychological Work on Imagination

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1. Overview: Varieties of Imagination
There is a general consensus among those who work on the topic that the term imagination
is used too broadly to permit simple taxonomy. Indeed, it is common for overview essays
(including this one) to begin with an invocation of P. F. Strawson's remarks in “Imagination
and Perception” (1970), where he writes:
The uses, and applications, of the terms ‘image’, ‘imagine’, ‘imagination’, and so forth
make up a very diverse and scattered family. Even this image of a family seems too
definite. It would be a matter of more than difficulty to identify and list the family's
members, let alone their relations of parenthood and cousinhood (Strawson 1970, 31; cf.
McGinn 2009, 595).
These taxonomic challenges carry over into attempts at characterization. In the opening
chapter of Mimesis as Make-Believe—perhaps the most influential contemporary booklength treatment of imagination—Kendall Walton (1990) throws up his hands at the
prospect of delineating the notion precisely. After enumerating and distinguishing a number
of paradigmatic instances of imagining, he asks:
What is it to imagine? We have examined a number of dimensions along which imaginings
can vary; shouldn't we now spell out what they have in common?—Yes, if we can. But I
can't. (Walton 1990, 19)
The only recent attempt at a somewhat comprehensive inventory of the term's uses is due to
Leslie Stevenson (2003), who enumerates (without claiming exhaustiveness) twelve of “the

most influential conceptions of imagination” that can be found in recent discussions in
“philosophy of mind, aesthetics, ethics, poetry and … religion. ” These range from “the
ability to think of something not presently perceived, but spatio-temporally real” to “the
ability to create works of art that express something deep about the meaning of life”
(Stevenson 2003, 238).
In light of this unwieldiness, recent attempts at taxonomy have tended to eschew
comprehensiveness, focusing instead on identifying and classifying selected aspects of the
phenomenon. Kendall Walton (1990), for instance, distinguishes between spontaneous and
deliberate imagining (acts of imagination that occur with or without the subject's conscious
direction), between occurrent and nonoccurrent imaginings (acts of imagination that do or
do not occupy the subject's explicit attention), and between social and solitary imaginings
(episodes of imagining that occur with or without the joint participation of several
subjects.)
Other taxonomies concentrate on carving out a particular aspect of the topic for further
discussion. Gregory Currie and Ian Ravenscroft (2002) begin their book-length work on
imagination by distinguishing among creative imagination (combining ideas in unexpected
and unconventional ways); sensory imagination (perception-like experiences in the absence
of appropriate stimuli); and what they call recreative imagination (an ability to experience
or think about the world from a perspective different from the one that experience
presents), focusing the remainder of their discussion largely on the third (recreative) sense,
and setting aside the first (creative) sense almost entirely. (Cf. also Strawson 1970, 31.)
[Recent work on the creative imagination has taken place largely within the context of
empirical psychology (see Boden 2003; Csikszentmihalyi 1997; Sternberg 1998), though
there has been some philosophical attention to the issue in recent years (see Carruthers
2007; Gaut & Livingston 2003).]
Yet other taxonomies classify varieties of imagination in terms of their structure and
content. Many philosophers distinguish between propositional imagination (imagining that
P) and non-propositional imagination, dividing the latter into objectual imagining
(imagining E) (Yablo 1993) and active imagining (imagining X-ing) (Walton 1990). (For a
related distinction, see the discussion of Thomas Nagel's (1974) distinction between
sympathetic imagining (imagining oneself undergoing a certain experience) and perceptual
imagining (imagining oneself perceiving a certain event or state of affairs) in section 4.5
below.) These notions are often spelled out by means of examples.
When a subject imagines propositionally, she represents to herself that something is the
case. So, for example, Juliet might imagine that Romeo is by her side. To imagine in this
sense is to stand in some mental relation to a particular proposition. (See propositional
attitude reports.)
When a subject imagines objectually, she represents to herself a real or make-believe entity
or situation. So, for example, Prospero might imagine an acorn or a nymph or the city of
Naples or a wedding feast. To imagine in this sense is to stand in some mental relation to a
representation of an (imaginary or real) entity or state of affairs. (Yablo 1993; see also
Martin 2002; Noordhof 2002; O'Shaughnessy 2000.)

and so on. The most prominent debate in this area concerns the representational format of visual mental images. On this sort of account. 2006.When a subject imagines X-ing. in particular.) A more general question—which has received less attention in philosophical discussions of the imagination—concerns the relation between mental imagery (or sensory imagination) and imagination more generally.1 Imagination and Mental Imagery To have a (merely) mental image is to have a perception-like experience triggered by something other than the appropriate external stimulus. Shepard and Metzler 1971. for example. imagined action (or action-like imagining). be attached to any (mental) state. holds that visual mental images are non-pictorial. No particular taxonomy has gained general currency in recent discussions. Tye 1991. also Block ed. 31) in the absence of any corresponding visual or auditory object or event. cf. the question of whether visual mental images are “picture-like” in the sense they can be “mentally scanned” in much the way that we can visually scan objects that we see. 2002. roughly. language-like representations of visual scenes (Pylyshyn 1973. one might have “a picture in the mind's eye or … a tune running through one's head” (Strawson 1970. Imagination and Other Mental States 2. Although it is possible to form mental images in any of the sensory modalities. While most theorists of the imagination distinguish between sensory imagination (forming a mental image) and cognitive imagination (conceptually entertaining a possibility) (cf. 2003). Budd 1989) that can. following McGinn 2004). or between perception-like (sensory) and belief-like (propositional) imaginings (Currie and Ravenscroft 2002). Goldman 2000. Ophelia might imagine seeing Hamlet or getting herself to a nunnery. The alternative. McGinn 2009. 2. (For a detailed presentation and discussion of these issues. (For some speculative . so. questions such as whether sensory and propositional imagining are related as perception is to belief have not been explored in detail. one might speak of imagined perception (or perception-like imagining). 1994. the bulk of discussion both in psychological and philosophical contexts has focused on visual imagery. To imagine in this sense is to stand in a first-personal mental relation to some (imaginary or real) behavior or perception. that the mental representations we experience in cases of visual imagining represent spatial relationships via representational properties that are themselves inherently spatial (Kosslyn 1980. in principle. “propositional” or “descriptive” theory. A final way of thinking about imagination treats imagined as a “decoupling” or “facsimile” or “counterpart” operator (cf. she simulatively represents to herself some sort of activity or experience. imagined desire (or desire-like imagining). The “picture theory” holds. a taxonomy of imaginative attitudes would share whatever shape governs experience more generally. for example. for example. 1981. So. Shepard and Cooper 1982). Leslie 1987. Kosslyn et al. and. So. imagined belief (or belief-like imagining). see the discussion of the analogpropositional debate in the entry on mental imagery.

In so doing. we are—roughly—suggesting that he regards the proposition in question as true. has a propositional use. for discussion of potential relations between perceptual imagination and objectual imagination. however. there are propositions—a posteriori necessary falsehoods—that can be imagined but not believed. (For related discussion of direction of fit. see Velleman 2000).” we attribute to the subject (Macbeth) an attitude (belief) towards a proposition (that there is a dagger before him). when we say something like: “Juliet imagines that Romeo is standing beside her. we are—roughly—suggesting that she regards the proposition as. like belief. also Kind 2001. see Chalmers 2002. cf. regardless of whether P actually obtains. it appears that the in-principle domain over which both belief and (propositional) imagination range is the same: roughly. say. Setting aside these exceptions. 150–151. The reason for this is straightforward. since to imagine P is to take P to hold of some particular (set of) non-actual world(s). In so doing. But whereas what we believe is determined by (what we think) the actual world is like. Yablo 1993. and since which worlds are imagined is (in the relevant sense) up to us. up to us. the domain of all understandable propositions. What does this characterization illuminate about the relation between the two attitudes? It is widely accepted that—at least in their propositional usage—imagination and belief range over similar.thoughts about the ways in which sensory and cognitive imagination may be related. (Cf. When we say something like: “Macbeth believes that there is a dagger before him.) To a reasonable approximation. Walton 1990. imagining's task need not be to conform to some pre-ordained . fictional or make-believe or pretend. ranges of content.) Likewise. then.) And if one holds a certain view of epistemic modality. what we imagine is (to a large extent). Since to believe that P is to take P to hold of the actual world.” we again attribute to our subject (Juliet) an attitude (imagination) towards a proposition (that Romeo is standing beside her). to believe that P is to regard P as literally true (for complications with this account. see the entry on speech acts. and since which world is the actual world is (in the relevant sense) not up to us. imagination. see McGinn 2004. Currie 1990. chapters 12 and 13. whereas to imagine that P is to regard P as fictional or make-believe or pretend. 2. Nichols and Stich 2000. though perhaps not identical. belief's task is to conform to some pre-ordained structure—its direction of fit is mind-to-world. then there are (abstract) propositions that can be believed but not imagined (though they can presumably be conceived.) By contrast. (See belief. The caveats arise because if one holds a view of imagination according to which imagination must be quasisensory.) A detailed discussion of the topic of mental imagery and its attendant debates can be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on mental imagery.2 Imagination and Belief As was noted in section 1.

Nichols and Stich 2000.1 below. According to such accounts. imagining that content involves taking that content to be true-in-fiction. Walton 1990.structure. or to have a desire-like imagining. it is my desire-like imagining that I be with Antony. 2. see the Stanford Encyclopedia entries on truth and fictionalism and Zalta 1992. and Velleman 2000 as well as essays collected in Lopes and Kieren eds. For further discussion of some of these issues. see section 5. or make-believe-true. Unlike belief. we are—roughly—suggesting that he regards the state of affairs represented by the proposition as one to be brought about.) This distinction is sometimes expressed by saying that whereas believing some content involves taking the content to be true in the actual world. if I'm pretending to be Cleopatra.” When we say this. 2003) cognitive theory of pretense. we attribute to our subject (Hamlet) an attitude (desire) towards a proposition (that Claudius drink from the poisoned cup). 2006. (Discussion of the relation between truth simpliciter and truth-in-fiction goes beyond the scope of this entry. we might say: “Hamlet desires that Claudius drink from the poisoned cup.) On the basis of these sorts of considerations. To desire that P is.3 Imagination and Desire Like belief and imagination. would be to wish—in an imaginative way—that it were or will be the case that P hold (in some fictional or make-believe or pretend world.) The notion of desire-like imagination (Currie 1990. desire does not have a world-to-mind fit. see Currie and Ravenscroft 2002. 2003 and Nichols ed. to wish that it were or will be the case that P hold of the actual world. and a “Possible World Box” in the case of imaginings—each governed by characteristic set of rules that regulate its relation to behavior and to other mental states. desire has a propositional use. For general discussions of the relation between imagination and belief. in conjunction with my belief-like imagining that you are . In this sense. and the apparent existence of desires evoked by fictions. 2002. To imaginatively desire (i-desire) that P. according to which belief and imagination are psychological attitudes that operate on propositional content ‘stored’ in different mental ‘boxes’—a “Belief Box” in the case of beliefs. the question arises whether—in addition to there being an imaginative analogue to belief—there is also an imaginative analogue to desire. roughly. In so doing. for discussion of these issues. Desire is an attitude that is conative rather than cognitive: it has a world-to-mind fit. a number of theorists have proposed cognitive models on which belief and imagination (or pretense) involve distinct but structurallysimilar psychological mechanisms that act on similar sorts of representational content. or pretend-true. (A possible exception is guided imagination of the sort generated by stories and works of art. The most prominent of these is Nichols and Stich's (2000. Velleman 2000) or i-desire (Doggett and Egan 2007) has been invoked to explain two phenomena: the generation of behaviors in imaginary contexts. In light of this.

for example. (For a characterization and discussion of imaginative resistance. ch. 2003. rather than desiring-in-imagination that Romeo and Juliet live. A related distinction is made by Alvin Goldman (2006) between suppositional imagination (s-imagination) on the one hand. Currie and Ravenscroft 2002.6 below. Similarly. Tyler Doggett and Andy Egan (2007) point out that vividly imagining tends to motivate actions in the context of pretense. just as I may imagine that Romeo and Juliet both die (and thus imagine something about them in a belief-like way). while merely supposing tends not to. on such accounts. Doggett and Egan 2007.5. . Relatedly.4 Imagination and Supposition A number of contemporary discussions of the imagination distinguish between mere supposition on the one hand. Roughly. (dissenters) Carruthers 2003. or absorbing games of make-believe. For further discussion of desire-in-imagination/i-desire. Richard Moran (1994). Nichols and Stich 2000. Currie 2002. S-imagination involves supposing that particular content obtains (for example.) Gregory Currie and Ian Ravenscroft (2002) contend that this difference arises because supposition involves belieflike imagining in the absence of desire-like imagining. engaged pretense. see (defenders) Currie 1990. I may also ‘want’ them to go on living (and thus imagine something about them in a desire-like way.) Objections to such accounts contend that the notion of desire-like imagination (or i-desire) is unnecessary to explain the phenomena for which it is intended to account. that leads me to take actions such as embracing you.” (Goldman 2006. whereas mere supposition does not. whereas vivid imagination is what is involved in aesthetic participation. On such views. mere supposition is what is involved in simple cases of hypothetical reasoning. 47–48.) (Note that Goldman's notion of s-imagination is to be distinguished from Peacocke's notion of the same name (see section 5. elation itself. Funkhouser and Spaulding 2009 2. what I desire(-inactuality) is that in the fiction Romeo and Juliet live.)) The distinction between mere supposition and vivid imagination is often invoked in discussions of imaginative engagement. e-imagination involves “enacting. and engaged or vivid imagination on the other. distinguishes between them on the grounds that vivid imagination tends to give rise to a wide range of further mental states. see section 5. supposing that I am elated). including affective responses.) In a related vein. italics omitted. whereas engaged imagining involves both.3 below.Antony. and enactment imagination (e-imagination) on the other. (See section 5. or trying to enact. merely supposing it does not. Velleman 2000.2 below. Tamar Gendler (2000) points out that while attempting to vividly imagine something like that female infanticide is morally right seems to generate imaginative resistance.

they argue. But there has been a recent flurry of discussion about the question of whether dream contents are (experienced as) imagined or believed. Dennett 1976. they may also involve belief. On what might be called the ‘orthodox view’ of dreaming. according to which dreams are like fictions where we become so deeply engaged that we ‘lose ourselves’ and thereby form (admittedly atypical) beliefs. see Currie & Ravenscroft 2002. describes dreams as “spontaneous. Doggett and Egan 2007. 2007) have denied that dreaming involves believing. Ichikawa. Rather. (See also Malcolm 1959. (2009). (2003). Jonathan Ichikawa (2009) and Ernest Sosa (2005. as well as the book-length treatment in Flanagan 2000. dreaming is a form of imagining. As John Sutton (2009) notes.” while psychologist David Foulkes characterizes dreaming as “the awareness of being in an imagined world in which things happen” (Foulkes 1999. Thus. expanding on work by Sosa. Moran 1994. Kendall Walton (1990). Weinberg & Meskin 2006.5 Imagination and Dreaming Dreaming is often characterized by appeal to the idea of imagination. if I dream that I'm falling. More recently. Ellman and Antrobus eds. see Flanagan 2000)—including the literature on imagination. undeliberate imaginings. the topic of dreaming has been relatively neglected in recent discussions in the philosophy of mind (for an exception. He argues this partly on the grounds that dreams often involve a deep emotional engagement that is absent from both imagination and daydreaming. Perhaps the most famous adherent to the orthodox view is Descartes. Gendler 2000.For additional discussion of the relation between supposition and vivid imagination. 9). who uses the purported fact that we often believe what we dream to motivate his skepticism. Colin McGinn (2004) has argued that. and dream ‘beliefs’ are subject to radical shifts in ways that waking beliefs are not. they contend. (1991). (For related discussion. or the book-length treatments by . for example. observes that the dream-analogues of beliefs do not behave like normal beliefs: dream ‘beliefs’ are not related to perceptual experience or to behavior in ways that waking beliefs are. although dreams do involve mental imagery rather than perceptual experiences.3 below. and Pace-Schott et al eds. yet characteristic of belief (97–8).) Sosa claims (2005. 2007) and Ichikawa denies (2008) that this reconstrual fully blunts the force of the Cartesian dreaming argument.) For an overview of the range of philosophical issues raised by dreaming—including a number that relate directly to the issue of imagination—see Sutton 2009. our relation to the contents of our dreams is one of imagination. while dreaming I have the belief that I'm falling. see 5. not belief. 2. In support of a version of the orthodox view. For an overview of recent empirical discussions of dreaming see the anthologies edited by Barrett and McNamara eds. Nichols 2006. He proposes what he calls the fictional immersion theory of dreaming (103–4).

1994). Nichols and Stich 2003). others take imagination to be more mentalistic and pretense more behavioral. children consider the non-tipped cup to be ‘full’ (in the context of the pretense) and the tipped cup to be ‘empty’ (both within and outside of the context of the pretense). tend to share a pair of features that have been dubbed mirroring and quarantining. act-as-if) without imagining. Ryle 1949. reality-oriented. with three competing theoretical positions predominating. For a review of recent empirical work on the nature of daydreaming. see also Leslie 1987. for the most part. Nichols and Stich 2000). Perner 1991. and that one could pretend (that is. Tomasello and Striano 2004). Currie and Ravenscroft 2002. Perner 1991. For example. Some (following Ryle 1949) speak of imagination and pretense interchangeably. Intentionalist accounts maintain that what underlies the ability to engage in pretense behavior is the ability to intend to pretend or to act as though the contents of the pretense episode were true (Searle 1979.6 Imagination and Pretense Questions about the relation between imagination and pretense are to some extent terminological. to the extent that imaginative content is taken to be governed by the same sorts of restrictions that govern believed content. (Cf. and thus holds that those who engage in pretense behavior must possess a concept of pretense (Leslie 1987. children are asked to engage in an imaginary tea party. (Walton 1990). (For further discussion.) In the developmental psychology literature. most philosophers agree that one could imagine without pretending. 2000. see Klinger 2009. and visual art are governed by principles of generation.Domhoff (2003) and Hobson (1988. to the contrary. cinema. that pretending requires only the ability to ‘behave as if’ the content of the pretense were true (Harris 1994. and imaginative episodes in general. Mirroring is manifest to the extent that features of the imaginary situation that have not been explicitly stipulated are derivable via features of their real-world analogues. A more detailed discussion of pretense in the context of early childhood development can be found in section 6. On the latter reading. (Gendler 2003. there is debate over the underlying capacities that facilitate pretense behavior in children. Metarepresentational accounts maintain that pretense involves representing the contents of the pretend episode as pretense. in a widely-discussed experiment conducted by Alan Leslie (1994). Imagination: Norms and Violations 3. it appears that both games of make-believe and more complicated engagements with fiction. or. Behaviorist accounts maintain. 3.1 below. see . More generally. 2002).1 Mirroring and Quarantining Games of pretense in particular. Rakoczy. according to which particular prompts or props ‘generate’ or ‘render make-believe’ particular fictional truths and that those principles tend to be. When an experimenter tips and ‘spills’ one of the (empty) teacups. 2. more generally.

And content that is imagined may give rise to discrepant responses.) 3. Nichols 2006. where an emotional response generated by an imagined situation may constrain subsequent behavior. 2003. For example. Leslie 1994. 2006.3 Explaining Contagion . More generally. both may be violated in systematic ways.g. for example. 2006. cf. also Gendler 2003. This is common in cases of affective transmission. Imagined content may be incomplete (e. So. Mirroring gives way to disparity as a result of the ways in which (the treatment of) imaginary content may differ from (that of) believed content.) And it also occurs in cases of cognitive transmission. Related issues are discussed below in section 3. it might be that the toaster serves (in the pretense) as a logical-truth inverter). Harris 2000. see section 6. Nichols and Stich 2000. Lewis 1983b. (The failure to quarantine imaginary attitudes in certain contexts is often taken to be a mark of mental illness. quarantining is manifest to the extent that proto-beliefs and proto-attitudes concerning the imagined state of affairs are not treated as beliefs and attitudes relevant to guiding action in the actual world. the child engaging in the make-believe tea party does not expect that ‘spilling’ (imaginary) ‘tea’ will result in the table really being wet. Gendler 2003. cf.) Quarantining gives way to contagion when imagined content ends up playing a direct role in actual attitudes and behavior. cf.2 below. the imminent destruction of all human life is treated as amusing rather than terrifying.2 Disparity and Contagion Though games of pretense and imaginative episodes are largely governed by mirroring and quarantining. her bank account will contain a million dollars. Leslie 1987) have suggest that mirroring and quarantining fall out naturally from the architecture of the imagination: mirroring is a consequence of the ways in which imagination and belief share a “single code” and quarantining is a consequence of the way in which imagination takes place “off-line” (Nichols 2004. cf. Harris et al 1991.) Quarantining. Gendler 2003. imagining some object (such as a sheep) may make one more likely to “perceive” such objects in one's environment (such as mistaking a rock for a ram.g.) 3. Harris and Kavanaugh 1993. imagining something fearful (such as a tiger in the kitchen) may give rise to actual hesitation (such as reluctance to enter the room. where imagined content is thereby “primed” and rendered more accessible in ways that go on to shape subsequent perception and experience. most strikingly in cases of discrepant affect (where.3 below.Currie 2002. 2006. For example.) (For an overview of such cases. for example. there may be no fact of the matter (in the pretense) just how much tea has spilled on the table) or incoherent (e.) Some (Nichols and Stich 2000. see also section 5. is manifest to the extent that events within the imagined or pretended episode are taken to have effects only within a relevantly circumscribed domain.3 below. nor does a person who imagines winning the lottery expect that when she visits the ATM.

So. 2008b. are source-indifferent. and in providing knowledge of possibility (Section 4. 4. (Gendler 2008a. Early discussions of mindreading were often framed as debates between the “theory theory”—which holds that the attribution of mental states to others is guided by the .4). by their nature. Baker.3). and Zimmerman 2007. a mental state that has some of the distinctive features of belief and some of imagination: bimagination is both action-guiding (and hence belief-like) and inferentially highly circumscribed (and hence imagination-like. (Gendler. Five of the most widely-discussed are the role of imagination in the understanding of other minds (Section 4. see also section 5.) On Egan's view. where the behavioral propensities to which an alief gives rise may be in tension with those that arise from one's beliefs. see section 6.1 Imagination and Mindreading Mindreading is the activity of attributing mental states to oneself and to others.) Further discussion of related issues can be found in Perner.3 below. in the reconfiguration of responses (Section 4. 2008b. One recent explanation of this phenomenon makes appeal to what Tamar Gendler has dubbed alief. and Hutton 1994.3 below. despite the imaginer's explicit avowal that she does not take the imagined content to be real. Schwitzgebel 2001.A number of philosophers have proposed explanations for how imagining might give rise to emotional and behavioral responses typically associated with belief. 4. in planning and counterfactual reasoning (Section 4. Additional discussion of contagion in the context of fictional emotions can be found in section 5.) Andy Egan (2001) explains similar phenomena in terms of what he calls ‘bimagination’.’ Since aliefs. imagined content may give rise to alief-driven reactions. while a subject may believe that drinking out of a sterile bedpan is completely safe. Some Roles of Imagination Much of the contemporary discussion of imagination has centered around particular roles that imagination is purported to play in various domains of human understanding and activity. she may nonetheless show hesitation and disgust at the prospect of doing so because the bedpan renders occurrent an alief with the content ‘filthy object. disgusting. As a result. the notion of alief may explain how content that we explicitly recognize to be purely imaginary may nonetheless produce powerful emotional and cognitive responses. 2008a. see also Dennett and McKay 2009) To have an alief is—roughly—to have an innate or habitual propensity for a real or apparent stimulus to automatically activate a particular affective and behavioral repertoire.1). this distinctive mental state can be invoked to explain a number of cases that other philosophers have described as involving imagined content that gives rise to belief-typical responses (particularly delusions.2). stay away. and of predicting and explaining behavior on the basis of those attributions.5).3 below. in the cultivation of moral understanding and sensibility (Section 4. for example.

Goldman 1989). cf.application of some (tacit) folk psychological theory—and the “simulation theory”—which holds that the attribution of mental states is guided by a process of replicating or emulating the target's (apparent) mental states. Saxe 2009. eds. Goldman (2006).) Many such hybrid accounts include a role for imagination. Davies and Stone. (Cf.g.) In recent years. the entry on folk psychology as mental simulation. also empirical work adverted to in section 6 below. 1995a. Saxe 2005. On such accounts of mindreading.) Traditional versions of simulation theory typically describe simulation using expressions such as “imaginatively putting oneself in the other's place” (Gordon 2004). Many recent discussions have endorsed hybrid views of this sort. Saxe 2005.g. (For an overview of theory theory. 1995b. On pure versions of such accounts. mindreading involves simulating the target's mental states so as to exploit similarities between the subject's and target's processing capacities. Carruthers 2009. How this metaphor is understood depends on the specific account. 1996. the projection is assumed to involve the subject's imaginatively “running” mental processes “off-line” that are directly analogous to those being run “on-line” by the target (e.. theorizing plays a role in certain cases as well. see Goldman 2009. 2009. see. eds. It is this simulation that allows the subject to make predictions and offer explanations of the target's beliefs and behaviors. Heal 1986. no special role is played by conscious imagination. see Goldman 1989.) On many accounts. imagination plays no special role in the attribution of mental states to others. (A collection of papers exploring various versions of simulation theory can be found in Dokic and Proust. the entry on folk psychology as a theory). eds. (For early papers. Recent empirical work in psychology has explored the accuracy of such projections (Markman et al eds. 2006. 2009. e. for example. (Influential collections of papers on this debate include Carruthers and Smith. Nichols and Stich 2003. cf. for an overview of simulation theory. Goldman 2006. perhaps through mechanisms involving the imagination. Carruthers 2003. with more or less weight given to each of the components in particular cases. On simulation theory views. On theory theory views. Gallagher 2007. 2009. Gordon 1986. argues that while mindreading is primarily the product of simulation. for recent dissent.) Many contemporary views of mindreading are hybrid theory views according to which both theorizing and simulation play a role in the understanding of others' mental states. cf. Nichols and Stich 2003. mindreading involves the application of some (tacit) folk psychological theory that allows the subject to make predictions and offer explanations of the target's beliefs and behaviors. section V. proponents of both sides have increasingly converged on common ground. Carruthers 2003.) Though classic simulationist accounts have tended to assume that the simulation process is at least in-principle accessible to consciousness. (For discussion. 2002.) . allowing that both theory and simulation play some role in the attribution of mental states to others (Cf. a number of recent simulation-style accounts appeal to neuroscientific evidence suggesting that at least some simulative processes take place completely unconsciously.

may be a resource for the regulation of behaviors that lie beyond the range of our immediate rational control. equally capable academically.) According to such accounts. (Historical discussions of this technique can be found in the entry on Ancient. philosophers and others have argued that fiction can play a role in the ‘moral education’ of those who imaginatively engage with it through developing of their abilities to think and act in morally desirable ways. and cultivate existing moral understanding and capabilities by directing the reader's attention in ways that allow that understanding to be applied.) 4. Goldman 2006. yet nonetheless read the papers of my female students less charitably. Partly in light of these considerations. Ch.2 Imagination. and explored throughout the works of Iris Murdoch passim. On his account. Mark Johnson (1994. Mullin 2004. I might. on the whole. properly deployed. yet nonetheless find myself unable to tolerate their presence. Medieval. Nussbaum 1990. and Robinson 2005. for an overview of recent discussions. One suggested mechanism for this process is that fictions allow imaginative acquaintance with unfamiliar moral perspectives and emotions. Martha Nussbaum maintains that one of the central moral skills is the ability to discern morally salient features of one's situation. Nichols and Stich 2003. that is. believe that snakes are harmless. the relative lack of spontaneous pretense in children with autistic spectrum disorders is taken as evidence for a link between the skills of pretense and empathy (see section 6. and our moral education consists at least partly in the development of abilities to imaginatively apply moral concepts to events in our everyday lives. Fiction and Moral Understanding Since ancient times. engaging in pretense involves imaginatively taking up perspectives other than one's own. Empirical evidence suggests that engaging in certain types of mental imagery exercises can mitigate these sorts of unwanted automatic associations.3 Imagination and Reshaping Responses Another purported role for imagination is in reshaping innate or habitual patterns of response. is one that must be developed. that imagination. 4. 8) holds a view on which our moral understanding and moral development are both fundamentally tied to our imaginative abilities. This skill. she contends.2. see Carruthers 2009. 46–8). or I might believe that male and female students are. and one to which the engagement with literature might effectively contribute by providing “close and careful interpretative descriptions” of imagined scenarios that enable emotional involvement untainted by distorting self-interest (1990. and the ability to do so skillfully may rely on—and contribute to—one's ability to understand those alternate perspectives. Currie 1995b.A number of philosophers have suggested that the mechanisms underlying subjects' capacity to engage in mindreading are those that enable engagement in pretense behavior (Currie and Ravenscroft 2002. for example. our abilities to imagine morally relevant situations and alternatives aids in our moral understanding. Hakemulder (2000) reviews some empirical psychological evidence for this hypothesis. Theories along these lines are endorsed by Carroll 2002. and . Jacobson 1996.

“If only I hadn't divided my kingdom between Regan and Goneril. such contemplation gives access to a suitably circumscribed set of worlds only if the imaginative exercise is somehow constrained with respect to what is held constant. 4. 2006. 2009. sect. for example. (For references to studies of the efficacy of mental imagery in more than forty sports. Clearly. The role of imagination in counterfactual thinking—and.” it is Lear's imagining a relevant situation in which he hadn't divided his kingdom between Regan and Goneril that allows him to move from the antecedent to the consequent of the counterfactual conditional that he entertains. see Kosslyn and Moulton 2009. cf.Renaissance theories of emotions and on 17th and 18th century theories of emotions. if King Lear thinks to himself. (For discussion. people tend not to imagine worlds with different natural laws. 4. For example. suggests that “When we work out what would have happened if such-and-such had been the case.) These issues have been explored extensively in work in sports psychology. Roese and Olson 1995. the question of what tends to be held constant when subjects contemplate counterfactual scenarios—has been explored in detail in recent empirical psychological work. see Gendler 2008b. Beck 1993. Cordelia would still be alive. and alternatives to events that were within their control as opposed to events outside of it. including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (cf. alternatives to actions as opposed to inactions. ) Such issues may bear on other philosophical work that makes appeal to counterfactual reasoning.) For further discussion. for an overview of some recent work in this domain. In her monograph-length discussion of the role of imagination in counterfactual reasoning. Johnson-Laird 1983. we frequently cannot do it without imagining such-and-such to be the case and letting things run. conceivability is taken to be a (prima facie) guide to possibility. (Additional influential work on this topic can found in Byrne 2005.4 Imagination and Counterfactual Reasoning It has been argued that imagination plays a central role in figuring out what would happen —or what would have happened—had things been different from how they in fact are or were. what is imagined tends to fall into certain typical categories.) Mental imagery also plays a central role in a number of therapeutic practices. 38. in particular. Ellis 2001.” (Williamson 2005. On this sort of account. see the Stanford Encyclopedia segment on the mental imagery revival. 19. and they tend to imagine alternatives to more recent as opposed to earlier events. see Yablo 1993. theories of causation. where researchers have demonstrated the efficacy of mental imagery practice in domains ranging from table tennis and golf to kayaking and dart throwing. when people reason using counterfactuals. III. counterfactual conditionals and modality. for example. Timothy Williamson. Ruth Byrne (2005) presents evidence showing that. On the simplest . Williamson 2007).). Markman et al.5 Imagination and Possibility On one widely-discussed view of the epistemology of modality.

see Yablo 1993). for reasons discussed below. David Chalmers has argued that even those who hold that there are propositions that are not epistemically accessible on the basis of a complete qualitative description of the world should still accept that what he calls “ideal primary positive conceivability” entails what he calls “primary possibility. where a proposition is metaphysically possible iff it describes some way things might have been. On the defenders' side.D. Contemporary advocates of related arguments—details of which can be found in relevant sections in the SEP entries on zombies and dualism—include Saul Kripke (1972/80). Given these clarifications. concludes from this that: Zombie-possibility: It is possible that there could be an exact physical duplicate of me who lacked consciousness. particularly in the context of mind-body dualism (for details. it is clear that the P-C thesis is a non-starter. reasoning from the fact that he could clearly and distinctly conceive of his mind and body as distinct to the real distinctness between them. 2002). for an overview of some of the distinctions that this characterization brushes over.” Primary (as opposed to secondary) possibility concerns the question of whether there is some world W that makes . (Cf. have played a central role in a number of traditional and contemporary discussions.) Descartes famously offered one such modal argument in the Sixth Meditation (CSM II. relying on some suitably strong C-P-style principle. where conceiving is something like “the capacity that enables us to represent scenarios to ourselves using words or concepts or sensory images. Gendler & Hawthorne 2002. whatever can be conceived is possible (sometimes called the C-P thesis) and whatever is possible can be conceived (sometimes called the P-C thesis). scenarios that purport to involve actual or non-actual things in actual or non-actual configurations” (Gendler & Hawthorne 2002. Possibility in this context is generally understood as metaphysical possibility. 54). But versions of the C-P thesis. and David Chalmers (1996.. according to which the fact that we can represent P to ourselves provides (probabilifying or decisive) evidence in favor of P's metaphysical possibility. Conceivability here is generally taken in a broad sense. Both defenders and critics of such modal arguments have suggested that appeal to the notion of imagining—as distinct from mere conceiving—may play a role in such arguments' soundness. And. at least without heavy idealization: the range of metaphysical possibilities certainly outruns the range of propositions that we ordinary humans can represent to ourselves. see relevant sections in the SEP entries on zombies and dualism. Hart (1988). Fine 2002). no one holds).version of this account (which. 1. One form of such argument takes as a premise something implying or implied by the following: Zombie-conceivability: It is conceivable that there could be an exact physical duplicate of me who lacked consciousness. W.

(For discussion. footnote 11). then. recent papers on this topic can be found at PhilPapers Conceivability. see Chalmers 2002. the “exact physical duplicate” is imagined in one way. because of the independence of the disparate types of imagination” (Nagel 1974. The subsections below present some of the main issues that have emerged in these discussions by looking at six sets of puzzles and problems around which a great deal of discussion has been focused. for states of affairs that are. Levin 2008. on reflection.) For a comprehensive discussion of the major philosophical positions concerning the relations among imagination.) Ideal (as opposed to mere prima facie) conceivability concerns the question of whether P is conceivable on ideal rational reflection. a certain sort of C-P thesis holds for states of affairs that are conceivable on reflection in the positive sense—that is. Imagination: Puzzles and Problems Much of the most sophisticated discussion of imagination in recent years has taken place in the context of the relation between imagination and aesthetic experience—often focusing on issues of imaginative engagement with fictional content through literature. see Byrne 2007. 5. imaginable. theater and cinema. So the argument cannot get off the ground. then Descartes/Kripke/Chalmers-style modal arguments fail. for related discussion. see relevant sections in the entries on zombies and dualism. has argued that if we distinguish properly between sympathetic imagining—wherein one imagines oneself undergoing a certain experience—and perceptual imagining—wherein one imagines oneself perceiving a certain event or state of affairs. Christopher Hill (Hill 1997. 5. (For a discussion of the relation between this notion and the notion of metaphysical possibility. Yablo 2002. Hill & McLaughlin 1999). He contends that in the Zombie argument. footnote 11). A detailed introduction to the issues in question can be found in Gendler & Hawthorne 2002b or Evnine 2008. (Chalmers' response can be found in Chalmers 1999. see the entry on the epistemology of modality. See especially Byrne 2007 and Stoljar 2007.) On the critical side.P true when W is considered as actual. the relation between the physical and phenomenal features “will appear contingent even if it is necessary. Stoljar 2007.1 Imagination and Fictionality . and visual art. And positive (as opposed to negative) conceivability concerns the question of whether P is imaginable: to positively conceive of a situation is “to in some sense imagine a specific configuration of objects and properties” (Chalmers 2002). following a suggestion of Thomas Nagel (Nagel 1974. As a result. whereas the “lacking consciousness” is imagined in another: the conceiving that goes on with respect to the relevant physical features involves perceptual imagination. conceivability and possibility. According to Chalmers. Imagination and Possibility. Stalnaker 2002. whereas the conceiving that goes on with respect to the relevant phenomenal features involves sympathetic imagination.

For related considerations in the context of film.When we engage with a fiction. If you and I are putting on a production of Twelfth Night and we decide that I'll play Viola and you'll play Sebastian. even though the author had done everything authors usually do to make such a story fictionally true. The intimate relationship between imagination and fictionality is illustrated by the puzzle of imaginative resistance (see Section 5. what is fictional is defined as that which the author (or actor. by watching a play or reading a book or viewing a work of visual art or playing a game of make-believe. we take certain things to be fictional. contend that there is an intimate connection between imagination and fictionality. On Currie's account. see the entry on film. Suppose. When we resist imagining something. On Walton's view. it is now widely agreed that this initial characterization was too restrictive (for partial dissent. what is fictional is what is “to be imagined” given the conventions governing the game of make-believe or the world of the story.2). Influential accounts by Kendall Walton (1990) and Gregory Currie (1990). Viola says and does. 5. One way to understand this is to explain what is fictional in terms of what we imagine or are directed or supposed or intended to imagine. then we will have established a convention by which what I say and do is what. or creator) intends the audience to make-believe or imagine. see the writings of Ed Tan passim (under Other Internet Resources). and what you say and do is what Sebastian says and does. by the conventions of our production. Brian Weatherson (2004) . In more recent literature. While early discussions of imaginative resistance tended to focus on examples (like the one above) involving ‘morally deviant’ worlds. On Walton's account. or to accept such a claim as being true in the story. the term is typically applied to any sort of case where subjects find it unexpectedly difficult to (bring themselves to) imagine what an author describes. then you would be experiencing imaginative resistance. to be imagined that what I say is what Viola says. for instance. which is similar to Walton's. what we imagine is often (particularly in the context of art and games of make-believe) what we take to be fictional.2 Imaginative Resistance Imaginative resistance occurs when a subject finds it difficult or problematic to engage in some sort of prompted imaginative activity. or true in that fiction. for example. that you were confronted with a variation of Macbeth where “the facts of [Duncan's] murder remain as they are in fact presented in the play. in the fiction. Related discussion in the context of literature can be found in Lamarque and Olson (1996). what is important is that it is prescribed. For empirical work in this area. this will be the case regardless of whether the members of our audience do in fact imagine that what I'm saying is what Viola says. And conversely. If you found it difficult to imagine this. for example. we also tend to resist accepting it as fictional. see Gendler 2006). So. but it is prescribed in this alternate fiction that this was unfortunate only for having interfered with Macbeth's sleep” (Moran 1994).

attributions of content. in certain cases. (See. but also for attributions of mental states. this puzzle is typically discussed specifically in the context of morality. (See also Yablo 2002. and claims involving constitution or ontological status. see Gendler 2000. Bermúdez & Gardner 2003.) . Gaut 2003. in certain cases. and epistemic evaluations). 2006). readers display a reluctance or inability to engage in some mandated act of imagining. (For discussion and criticism. Indeed. suggesting that resistance puzzles arise in the face of a certain type of impossibility: they arise in cases where the lower-level facts of the story and the higher-level claims of the author exhibit a particular kind of incoherence. suggesting that propositions that evoke imaginative resistance are impossible in the context of the stories where they appear. And the imaginability puzzle is the puzzle of why. the aesthetic value puzzle is the puzzle of why texts that evoke imaginative resistance are often aesthetically compromised thereby. the default position of authorial authority appears to break down. Stokes 2006. it has been argued (Weatherson 2004) that there are at least four such puzzles: those of aesthetic value. Walton 2006.) Brian Weatherson (2004) offers a more sophisticated version of a can't theory. fictionality. described by Gendler as ‘doubling of the narrator’ or ‘pop-out’ (Gendler 2000. focusing on ways that imagination may implicate the subject's actual beliefs and desires. Nichols 2006. (For discussions see Currie 2002. phenomenology. aesthetic judgments. 2006). The bulk of philosophical discussion has been devoted—often without distinguishing between them—to the puzzles of fictionality and imaginability. As Kendall Walton (2006) notes. Stock 2005. The first group—sometimes called can't theories (Gendler 2006)—trace the puzzles to features of the fictional world: they maintain that readers are unable to follow the author's lead because of some problem with the world the author has tried to describe. for example.) The phenomenological puzzle is the puzzle of why passages that evoke resistance tend to involve a particular phenomenology.) The second group—sometimes called won't theories—trace the puzzles to features of the actual world: they maintain that readers are unwilling to follow the author's lead because doing so might lead them to look at the (actual) world in a way that they prefer to avoid (Gendler 2000. and imaginability. so that typical invitations to make-believe are insufficient to bring about the requisite response on the part of the reader. The fictionality puzzle is the puzzle of why. and that this explains why readers fail to imagine them as true in the fiction. with accounts of the phenomena falling into two main categories. Simple can't theories often embrace some sort of impossibility hypothesis. the questions addressed under the rubric of imaginative resistance turn out to be a ‘tangled nest of importantly distinct but easily confused puzzles’. so that mere authorial say-so is insufficient to make it the case that something is true in a story. In its most general form. Doggett & Egan 2007. Walton 1994.has argued that resistance puzzles arise not only for normative concepts (including thick and thin moral concepts. Advocates of such views tend to stress the distinctive role of imagination in imaginative resistance. Matravers 2003.

pity. Gendler & Kovakovich 2006). pleasure. Quasiemotions differ from their actual counterparts both in their source (they are generated by beliefs about what is fictionally rather than actually true). (Cf. Coordination Condition: In order to have genuine emotional responses towards a character (or situation). in their behavioral consequences (though we may pity Ophelia. in that subjects regularly exhibit apparently genuine emotional responses to characters and situations that they explicitly represent as being merely imaginary.A number of recent discussions of resistance-related phenomena draw on work in cognitive and social psychology. typically. or by denying that the targets of these responses are imaginary characters and situations. The paradox is typically formulated using something like the following three conditions (cf. They do so either by denying that the responses in question are genuine emotions. imaginative resistance emerges because imagination and belief make use of the same cognitive structures. Belief Condition: Subjects believe that F is purely fictional or merely imaginary c. Todd 2009).1 above).) . according to which what appear to be genuine emotions are.) Other recent work has explored the connections between imaginative resistance. Nichols (2004). and. According to architectural accounts. Stokes 2006. The most prominent view in the first subgroup is Walton's (1990) quasi-emotion theory. Levy 2005. Radford 1975. moral evaluation. The first family of solutions rejects the Response Condition (a) by denying that subjects have emotional responses towards imaginary characters and situations. and are typically classified into three families on the basis of which condition they reject. moral psychology and moral realism (Driver 2008. 5. naturalizing the puzzle in ways that partially finesse the can't/won't distinction. so resistance to imagining P is to be expected in certain of the cases where we would be resistant to believing P. nothing more than ‘quasi’ ‘pretend’ or ‘fictional’ emotions. fear.3 The Paradox of Fictional Emotions The paradox of fictional emotions arises because certain reactions to fictional scenarios seem to systematically violate the norm of quarantining (see section 3. sadness) towards F b. it appears to be simultaneously true that: a. Response Condition: Subjects experience genuine emotional responses (e. Weinberg and Meskin (2006). Regarding certain fictional characters (and situations) F. in the context of engagement with imagined content. one must not believe that the character (or situation) is purely fictional or merely imaginary Solutions to the paradox generally deny one of the three claims while maintaining the other two. we make no effort to console her in her sorrow.g.

our emotional responses are directed not towards the characters or events within the imaginary context. see section 3. Such non-coordination theories take a number of different forms.Views in the second subgroup maintain that when we engage with fiction. or an illusion.) Finally. A recent version of this sort of account makes appeal to the notion of alief (Gendler 2008a. Versions of this sort of theory have been advanced by. Radford 1975). while (tacitly) holding that they should have genuine emotional reactions only to characters and events that they believe to be real. So. if we could not have genuine emotional responses to imagined scenarios—and by extension fully developed fiction—we would not be able to engage in practical reasoning. (Related views are explored in Weinberg and Meskin 2006. denying that the situations and characters to which subjects have emotional responses are situations and characters that they believe to be fictional or merely imaginary. Thus. allowing that it is possible or permissible to have emotional responses towards a character (or situation) that one believes to be purely fictional or merely imaginary.3 above). (b) and (c) as normative constraints. (Cf. following Harris 2000 suggest that work done by cognitive neuroscientists (Damasio 1997. objections to the thought theory are explored in Walton 1990. Charlton 1984) A second family of response rejects the Belief Condition (b). we temporarily cease to represent them as imaginary. A second family of anti-coordination views rejects (c) on empirical grounds. Walton 1978. Such views have few adherents among contemporary philosophers (a possible historical advocate is Coleridge 1817) and are generally discussed only to be subsequently dismissed (cf. 1996). 2008b. and Richard Moran (1994). Peter Lamarque (1981. although subjects tacitly endorse all three of (a). Potential decisions are ‘tested out’ in the imagination. but rather towards appropriate real-world surrogates for or counterparts of those characters and events. Currie 1990. they violate (c): they have genuine emotional reactions to fictional characters and events that they believe to be purely imaginary. 1999) has shown that emotional engagement with imagined scenarios is integral to human practical reasoning. Gendler and Kovakovich 2005. see McGinn 2004). or a ‘suspension of disbelief’) to be real and mind-independent. Susan Feagin (1996). Radford 1975. we don't feel sadness for Romeo and Juliet. according to irrationalist accounts. among others. and are accepted or rejected partly on the basis of emotional reactions to imagined outcomes. Advocates of so-called thought theories argue that it is false to think that. Noël Carroll (1990). for example. as a descriptive matter. it is argued. but rather for people in the actual world who have led relevantly similar lives. (cf. . according to which emotional responses to fictional characters are the result of cognitive mechanisms that are indifferent between content that is represented as real or as merely imaginary. These reactions are thus irrational. Advocates of such confusionist or illusionist or belief-suspension views maintain that when we engage emotionally with fictional characters and situations. instead representing them (as the result of some confusion. our emotional responses are directed only towards things that we take to be real. The most popular family to responses rejects the Coordination Condition (c). Currie 1997. in general. for partial exception in the case of dreaming.

the latter focuses. collections of essays include Currie 2004. There seem to be few grounds for the rejection of the Non-Avoidance Condition (f). the paradox of tragedy can be formulated as a conflict among three mutually inconsistent propositions: d. 1995a. Negative Avoidance Condition: If something evokes negative emotion in a subject. Kieran & Lopes. But whereas the former focuses on an unexpected similarity between our reactions to fiction and reality. see also Brann 1991. Scruton 1974. 5. Like the paradox of fiction. Walton 1990. we tend to avoid it. eds. Book-length treatments include Carroll 1990. according to which artistic representations do not give rise to genuine emotions. in additional. people seek out tragedy. Deflationary explanations deny that we in fact have negative emotional responses to art. as well as in Levinson 1997 and Schneider 2006. Non-Avoidance Condition: Subjects do not tend to avoid tragedy. Anti-Negative Avoidance Condition responses deny that if something evokes negative emotion in us. Hjort & Laver. The paradox of tragedy takes notice not only of the fact that we seem to experience negative emotions in response to tragedy in fiction. f. Anti-Negative Emotion Condition responses deny that—properly understood—the emotion that tragedy evokes in us is negative. So we will restrict our discussion to solutions that reject the Negative Emotion (d) or Negative Avoidance (e) Condition. Conversionary explanations suggest that in the context of an engagement with art. Such revisionary explanations argue that. but also that. at least in some cases. 2003. it is undeniable that. The most blunt form simply denies (e) outright. although engagement with tragedy may bring unpleasantness. Robinson 2005. negative emotional responses are converted—as a matter of fact about how human psychological mechanisms operate—into something positive and pleasant. Levinson 1998. Nichols. we do not tend to avoid fictional tragedies. 1997. This sort of view can be found in Hume's ‘Of Tragedy’. Walton 1990. ed. then the subject tends to avoid it. Feagin 1996.3 above). the reward gleaned from that . One version of such an account is Walton's (1990) theory of quasi-emotions (see section 5. on an unexpected difference between them. Discussion in this section is indebted to the thorough review found in Neill 2005. 2006. eds. Currie 1990. eds.4 The Paradox of Tragedy The paradox of tragedy is closely related to the paradox of fiction.) Compensatory explanations stress that.Influential anthologies on the fictional paradoxes include Bermúdez & Gardner. while we tend in general to avoid things that evoke negative emotions in us. Negative Emotion Condition: Tragedy evokes negative emotion in subjects. it is simply not true that in general we tend to avoid things that induce negative emotional responses in us (cf. in fact. e. 2003. These responses take a number of forms.

Aristotle's Poetics. you need to pretend to be a character in A Midsummer Night's Dream pretending to be a character in Pyramus and Thisbe—without your pretense “collapsing” into your simply pretending to be a character in Pyramus and Thisbe. who brought the puzzle to the attention of the Anglo-American philosophical community (with the story of a singer who pretends to be a lying stockman pretending to tell the truth) offers no solution to it. our mental architecture contains not only a “belief box” in which believed content is “stored”— it also contains a “pretense box” for holding imagined or pretended content. David Lewis (1983a). Shaun Nichols (2003) contends that this solution is insufficiently general. Carroll 1990. the puzzle of preserved iteration (also known as the ‘Flash Stockman’ puzzle (Lewis 1983a)) and the puzzle of collapsed iteration (Currie 1995c). Suppose. (Cf. see Yanal 1999. for example. The Puzzle of Preserved Iteration The puzzle of preserved iteration is the puzzle of how it is possible for pretending to pretend (or imagining that one is imagining) to differ from merely pretending (or imagining).experience outweighs the cost of the negative emotional experience. Following Nichols (2003). Nichols suggests instead that the phenomenon can be accounted for by appeal to the “cognitive theory of pretense” advanced in Nichols and Stich (2000). Nichols .5 The Puzzles of Iteration An iterated fiction (or pretense) is one that has a fiction (or pretense) embedded within it. which are mimicked in cases of pretending to pretend. according to which art that is ultimately painful may nevertheless be valuable because of the richness of experience that it provides (Smuts 2007). since there are parallel cases of iteration that do not involve pretense: I might imagine imagining that I see a dagger. it is common to speak of two puzzles of iterated fiction. see Smuts 2009. and this is different from imagining that I see a dagger. that you are playing one of the ‘rude mechanicals’ in A Midsummer Night's Dream. (For criticism. On this account. 5. A successful theory of pretense or imagination must simultaneously account for both puzzles.) For a comprehensive recent overview of responses to the paradox of tragedy.’ In order to do so. A view that can be understood either as an anti-avoidance view or an anti-negative emotion view is the control theory explanation (Morreall 1985. who themselves stage a performance of Pyramus and Thisbe as a ‘play within a play.) Advocates of such views argue what explains our relative desire to engage with fictional tragedies is that we have more control over our experience of fictions—we can get up and leave any time we want—than we do over real life.) Closely related are rich experience explanations. Peter Lamarque (1987) has suggested that a solution can be found in the nature of pretense itself: pretense has particular features.

or a house. but as having ‘one level of pretense’. in some cases of imagining we ‘relocate’ ourselves into the position of another person. Currie 1995c. as Winkler (1989) suggests. I will not come to believe what you believe simply by coming to believe that you believe it. iteration is preserved. not pretending to be actors pretending to be Bianca and Katherina. Nichols (2003) counters that such an account makes it difficult to explain how. or a mountain. that all I can do is to frame ideas in my own mind. suggests that collapsed iteration may result from limitations in our cognitive resources. imagining what they imagine (resulting in collapsed iteration). is found in both Berkeley's Principles (sect. he suggests. challenged by Philonous to conceive of the unperceived. The original puzzle. Instead. finds that he is unable to do so: Hylas: […] As I was thinking of a tree in a solitary place. not considering that I myself conceived it all the while. namely. often referred to as the ‘Master Argument’. in some cases (as above). In the context of imagination. Greg Currie (1995c) who raises the puzzle. But now I plainly see. While in imagining that you imagine something I might end up thereby imagining what you imagine. not as a play within a play. while in others. as a puzzle of how it could be that an idea in the mind represents the mind-independence of what is represented. (Cf. and those playing Bianca and Katherina will (typically) be pretending to be Bianca and Katherina. audiences will typically watch the play. is ‘framed’ as a performance for a drunkard. Consider The Taming of the Shrew which. 161) 5.6 Visualizing the Unseen (Berkeley's Puzzle) In its original form. Berkeley's Puzzle is presented as a puzzle about the possibility of conceiving of something neither perceived nor thought of. attention has been given to a special case of the puzzle. I may indeed conceive in my own thoughts the idea of a tree. To imagine about imaginings is to have a representation in one's pretence box that attributes imagining” (Nichols 2003).) The puzzle of collapsed iteration provides a useful foil for thinking about the relation between imagination and belief. In the Dialogues Hylas. Here. imagining imagining requires a simulation of a simulation—a capacity that human beings may simply lack. And this is far from proving. 23) and his Three Dialogues. on his account.maintains that “the pretence box account provides a general solution to the puzzle of preserved iteration. but that is all. The Puzzle of Collapsed Iteration The puzzle of collapsed iteration is the puzzle of how it is possible for pretending to pretend to collapse into merely pretending. methought that was to conceive a tree as existing unperceived or unthought of. for almost the entirety of the main plot. where no one was present to see it. that I can . we do not engage in such ‘relocation’ (resulting in preserved iteration. whether it is possible to visualize the unseen. or.

thereby rendering it conceived.1). say. the more interesting challenge raised by Berkeley's puzzle concerns whether one can visualize the unseen. they differ in S-imagined content. contra Williams.conceive them existing out of the minds of all spirits. with the ‘S’ standing for ‘supposition’ (25). that the tree is seen will inescapably be part of what is Simagined. Williams argues. say. for instance. he argues. a briefcase.2. and I can hardly think of myself as seeing a tree that is unseen. cf. Empirical Work on Imagination 6. John Campbell points out that one can. and visually imagining a cat that is wholly obscured by a briefcase. typically developing children are capable of engaging in primitive games of make-believe—acting. describe in writing an unseen tree (Campbell 2002. Against Williams' arguments.1 Developmental Work on the Origins of Pretense By the age of 15 months. on the grounds that the content of what one imagines may contain more than what is ‘depicted’ in the image (Peacocke 1985). S-imagined content is supposed to account for the difference between visually imagining. Further discussion of Berkeley's master argument and its role in his philosophical program can be found in the entry on Berkeley (sect. Campbell argues that there is something importantly correct in Berkeley's challenge with respect to conceivability). 6. Peacocke acknowledges that in visually imagining a tree it may not be part of what is visualized that it is being seen. (Note that Peacocke's use of the term “S-imagine” differs from Goldman's notion of the same name (see Section 2. but. one cannot visualize an unseen object. in so doing. Christopher Peacocke has defended the view that one cannot visually imagine the unperceived. In cinema and theater. nevertheless I need not include my seeing in what is visualized. A number of philosophers. so too. including Bernard Williams (1973). 2. 128. for example. have dismissed the argument as incapable of achieving its stated goal on the grounds that it fails to distinguish between conceiving of something and visually imagining it. also Szabó 2005. a tree is to think of oneself as seeing a tree. see Walton 1990. it need not be true in the fiction that the camera or audience sees what the scene contains.4 above. he constructs a visual image of a tree. To make this point Peacocke introduces the notion of ‘S-imagination’. even though I can visualize my seeing a tree such that my seeing is part of what is visualized. as if a piece of cloth or coat collar were their . 237—9. It might seem that. and therefore can visualize an unseen tree (Williams 1973). According to Williams. (First Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous) The notion of conception assumed here seems tied closely to mental imagery: it appears that what Hylas sets out to do is to visually imagine an unperceived tree. Against this view Williams argues that even if to visualize a tree is to think of myself as seeing a tree. in virtue of the apparent fact that to visualize.)) For additional discussions of Berkeley's puzzle. almost trivially. though they share imagistic content. I can also visualize a tree without doing so.

Harris 2000. 96 and chapters 6 and 7. Around this same age (24–28 months). By the age of 3. They show themselves readily able to suspend such stipulations as soon as a new episode of pretense begins—the bricks that represent bananas or sandwiches in one game can without difficulty come to represent bars of soap or pillows in the next game. These capacities are accompanied by a parallel conscious capacity to keep track of what is pretend. and what is not. that a particular yellow block represents a banana and a particular red block represents a cookie. that if you pretend the pebbles are pears and I pretend the pebbles are cherries. During the year that follows. these skills become quite widespread (Harris 2000. Even children as young as 15 months show few signs of what Alan Leslie has termed ‘representational abuse. Harris 2000. and by 24–28 months. By 22 months. 264). they require no further prompting to engage in a pretense where yellow blocks in general represent bananas. most children are able to participate fully in such games—for example. 2006b) They show themselves ready to credit imaginary objects with causal powers much like those of their real-world analogues—if Teddy eats one of the (wooden brick) bananas.) By 18 months. 264). (Instances of unconscious symbolic representation may occur much earlier—see Piaget 1945/1962. Walton 1990). there is little indication that the child comes overtly to believe that actual-world objects have or will come to have features of the pretend objects that they serve to represent (Leslie 1987). chapter 2 reporting Harris & Kavanaugh 1993. Harris 2000). feeding a toy pig some ‘cereal’ from an empty bowl. (Skolnick and Bloom 2006a. And well before the age of four. whereas a child with a pretend dog will not (Estes. he will emerge wet (Harris 2000). many children show signs of tracking rather elaborate games of pretense initiated by others—for instance.’ that is. and so on (Harris 1994. that a child with a real dog will be able to see and pet the dog. they have figured out how to keep track of different individuals simultaneously engaging in different games of pretense—recognizing. giving a toy monkey a ‘banana’ when there are no (real) bananas in sight. children are happy to report the event as: ‘Teddy poured tea on Monkey's head’ or ‘Monkey's all wet—he's got tea on his head’ (cf. children are able to articulate explicitly a number of the differences between real and pretend— noting. . for instance. he will no longer be hungry. if he is bathed in a (cardboard-box) bathtub. Walker-Andrews and Kahana-Kelman 1997). And they are ready to describe situations from the perspective of the imaginary world— when asked to express what happened after (literally) an experimenter holds a stuffed animal in such a way that the animal's paws grip an empty plastic teapot and hold the teapot above the head of some other stuffed animal. pouring ‘tea’ for a stuffed cow from an empty plastic teapot. for instance. chapter 2. you will be baking a pear cake while I bake a cherry cake (Perner at al 1994. children show themselves readily able to generalize on the basis of others's pretend stipulations—if they are told.special bedtime pillow. and red blocks in general represent cookies (Harris 2000. most children develop the capacity to engage in complex coordinated games of joint pretense with others (Perner et al 1994. Wellman and Wooley 1989. chapter 2. being able to identify which of two dolls that have been ‘washed’ by an adult experimenter is ‘still wet’ and engaging in the requisite ‘drying’ activity (Walker-Andrews and KahanaKelman 1997). for instance. Harris and Kavanaugh 1993).

and (c) generally willing to attribute the behavior ‘pretending to be an X’ to an individual unaware of the existence of Xs. Communication: Autism is often characterized by a delay or lack of development in speech. In recent years. Wing and Gould 1979). a tendency towards pronoun reversal (“I” for “you”). 1985) and in collaborating with others on shared intentions and goals (Tomasello et al.1.) More radically. and Striano 2005. Cook. (b) fairly limited in their capacity to distinguish apparent from real identity in the case of visually deceptive objects.g. and to recognize affect (Happé 1994).3 Imagination and Delusions . Wellman and Estes 1986. communication. arguing that an inability to engage in imaginative activities could uniformly explain the constellation of Wing's deficits. see Harris 2000. there has been intense debate among psychologists concerning exactly what this capacity for pretense amounts to. For these reasons. Goldman 2006. in light of the fact that children of this age are (a) generally incapable of solving standard (‘Smarties-box’) false-belief tasks (though see Onishi and Baillargeon 2005).2 Imagination and Autism Individuals with autism typically display a trio of impairments often referred to as ‘Wing's triad’: problems in social competence. Rogers. 2005). (Carpenter. for dissent see Carruthers 2009 and discussion therein. and Meryl 2005. Tomasello. Lewis and Mitchell ed. some have suggested that autism's characteristic deficits might provide evidence for the simulation theory of mind reading (e. and abnormalities in prosody and nonverbal communication. above). see also Bouldin and Pratt 2001 and references therein). 2003.chapters 2 and 4. 6. Wing and Gould 1979). to engage in imitation.(Happé 1994). Autistic individuals often display difficulty in understanding and interpreting the mental states of others (BaronCohen et al. 2002. autism is often understood as involving a deficit in subjects' ‘theory of mind’ or ‘mindreading’ skill. Social Competence: Children with autism often display an inability to share and direct attention. and imagination (Happé 1994. Currie and Ravenscroft (2002) have suggested that autism is itself a disorder of the imagination. a failure to respond to the speech of others and to initiate or sustain normal conversation. 1994. engaging instead in repetitive and sometimes obsessional activities. (See section 4. as is the matter of what autistic spectrum disorders can tell us about that debate. 6. For further discussion. chapter 3 and the papers collected in Goswami ed. Imagination: Children with autism do not engage in spontaneous pretend play in the ways that typically-developing children do. Adults with autism often show little interest in fiction. Happé 1994. While the degree to which theory of mind enlists imaginative faculties is a matter of considerable debate. Mitchell ed.

2000). when all evidence points to the contrary. A different theory. like beliefs. in certain cases. has been offered by Gendler (2007). (For a representative collection of papers that present and criticize this perspective. Specifically. A natural way to characterize delusions is as beliefs that are in some way dysfunctional. Schizophrenia is a complex pathology that may involve. also Frith 1992. imaginings can come to play a role in one's cognitive economy similar to that typically played by beliefs. Although the nature and causes of the disorder are a matter of controversy (see Harrison 2005 for a review of the neurological data. their range is circumscribed. as belief-like mental representations that manifest an unusual degree of disconnectedness from reality. with particular attention to the topic of “false memory”. have argued that delusions are often disorders of the imagination. among its many signs and symptoms. (Cf. on this view. see Campbell 1999. Egan focuses on the fact that delusions are similar in certain ways to both imaginings and to beliefs. see Coltheart and Davies ed. as something in between belief and imagination. roughly. they argue that delusions are imaginings that are misidentified by the subject as the result of an inability to keep track of the sources of one's thoughts. but that. In contrast to Currie and Ravenscroft. the sufferer takes her friends and family to have been replaced by imposters. Gendler argues not that the self-deceived subject misidentifies imaginings as beliefs. the sufferer takes himself to be dead. Like Currie and Ravenscroft and Gendler. Currie and Ravenscroft (2002: 170–175).4 Recent Cognitive and Social Psychological Work on Imagination Recent empirical work on imagination and mental simulation has been focused in four main areas: (1) the relation between imagination and memory. (2) the role of imagination in the mental simulation of action and . Andy Egan (2008) likewise argues that delusions should be understood as ‘bimaginations’. in that.2). Particularly striking examples would include Capgras and Cotard delusions. Davies and Coltheart 2002. section 2. like imaginings. but also one on which delusions and self-deceptions are the result of imagination or pretense. Zahavi ed. however. but. is an imagined representation that is misidentified by the subject as a belief.Delusions can be characterized. More mundane examples might include cases that are closer to what would typically be called self-deceit—thinking of oneself as a great friend or a great beauty. 170) that schizophrenia and its attendant hallucinations might be understood as fundamentally involving a deficit in the subject's ability to distinguish between what is real and what is merely imagined. they guide certain aspects of a person's behavior and inferences. cf. Langdon. It has been suggested by Currie (2000) and Currie and Ravenscroft (2002. severe delusions and hallucinations. In the former. 2000). A delusion. Carruthers 2009. 6. Gallagher 2004. for representative philosophical discussion. in the latter. either in their content or formation. This view emphasizes the ways in which the line between imagination and belief may be difficult to discern in some cases. and cover a range of phenomena. that is.

Regarding the first (the relation between imagination and memory). 1985. 21: 37–46. 1997). Regarding the fourth (the role of imagination in counterfactual reasoning and planning for the future). and references therein. 2002).. in addition to the work just mentioned. see the essays collected in Markman 2009. Regarding the second (the role of imagination in the mental simulation of action and behavior). J. a sizable research program has been devoted to exploring the general issue of the role played by imagination in empathy. problem-solving and motivation. among others. “Does the Autistic Child Have a ‘Theory of Mind’?” Cognition. . Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. the influence of past-directed counterfactual thinking on creativity.. Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia 2008). Frith. A.behavior. A. and in planning for the future. Goldman 2006. S. Meltzoff and Prinz. and the theory of mind. S. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1996.) Bibliography  Aristotle. 2009.  Baron-Cohen. a sizable literature has been devoted to the phenomenon of “imagination inflation” (Garry et al. Regarding the third (the role of imagination in enabling empathy and perspective taking). 2005. eds.). implicit memory and learning (Kosslyn and Moulton 2009). sections III and VI. perspective taking. eds. viii). 1984. section V. emotion. Leslie. Goff and Roediger 1998). and (4) the role of imagination in counterfactual reasoning. and social understanding (Decety and Stevens 2009. (3) the role of imagination in enabling empathy and perspective taking. see Loftus 1979 and Fiedler et al. Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. 1996).  Baron-Cohen. and U. Cambridge: MIT Press. work by Jean Decety (Decety and Stevens 2009).. 1993. An overview of some of this work can be found in the essays that appear in Markman 2009. The implications of this overlap have been a central topic in discussions of. Volumes I and II. Poetics. and the role of simulation in planning and preparing for future contingencies. and others suggests that simulated or imagined action “activates the same cortical structures that are responsible for motor execution” (Markman et al. (For a more general discussion of intrusion errors of this kind.  Beck. 1997. systematic treatments have been offered of the general structures that appear to govern human counterfactual thinking. New York: Penguin. (For an overview of these issues. whereby imagining an event can cause a subject to “remember” having experienced it. Marc Jeannerod (Jeannerod 2006. in The Complete Works of Aristotle. An overview of recent discussions of this topic can be found in Bernstein et al 2009. imitation (Hurley and Chater. Barnes (ed.

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