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One-day workshop on Imagination

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One-day Workshop on Imagination


3 May 2010, 1pm - 6pm
Ecole Normale Supérieure- Pavillon Jardin, 29 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris

Aim :This one-day workshop on imagination will bring together researchers and graduate students working on imagination and related topics, and will initiate a series of similar encounters (or so we hope).

 Margherita Arcangeli (IJN)
Markus Kneer (IJN)
D.S. Neil Van Leeuwen (Tufts)


D.S. Neil Van Leeuwen (University of Johannesburg)
"Imagination is where the Action is"

Imaginative representations are crucial to the generation of action--both pretense and plain action. But well-known theories of imagination on offer in the literature [1] fail to describe how perceptually-formatted imaginings (mental images) and motor imaginings function in the generation of action and [2] fail to recognize the important fact that spatially rich imagining can be integrated into one's perceptual manifold. In this paper, I present a theory of imagining that shows how spatially rich imagining functions in the generation of action. I also describe the imaginative structures behind two under-explored forms of action: semi-pretense and pretense layering. In addition, I suggest that my theory of imagining meshes better than the competitors with current work in cognitive and affective neuroscience.

Markus Kneer (IJN)
"The Good, the Bad and the Imagination"

Scenarios involving speculative errors (those which go against descriptive fact) can easily be imagined, those which breach with accepted codes of morality and decency (i.e. those which violate certain “evaluative” facts) cannot. For instance, imagining a flying pig taking over world power isn’t very difficult; Imagining that Sally, who just killed her infant for gender reasons, has done the right thing is hard, if not impossible. This so-called “Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance” has recently attracted a great deal of attention and its implications for a systematic account of the imagination are considerable. I will advance some thoughts regarding two fundamental aspects of this phenomenon, namely the scope and nature of imaginative resistance. As regards the former, it is instructive to determine whether the puzzle extends beyond the moral, and even the evaluative domain. Concerning the latter we need to specify whether “resistance” is to be understood as our inability, refusal or a mere difficulty to imagine certain scenarios. Finally, I will propose a critique of the major “solutions” to the puzzle and suggest a new approach to account for imaginative resistance.

Margherita Arcangeli (IJN)
"Is there a place for Supposition in Imagination?"

Nowadays imagination is defined by the cognitive literature as a re-creative faculty. In imagination one is able to simulate “self-standing” mental states such as percepts (e.g. I imagine a tree) and beliefs (e.g. I imagine that there is a cat wholly behind this tree). The strongest thesis, advanced by Kevin Mulligan, claims that imagination is able to re-create all “self-standing” mental states. Nevertheless there is unanimity only in thinking that there are percept-like and belief-like imaginings. Hence, two kinds of imagination are at the heart of heated debates among cognitive scientists and philosophers: sensory and cognitive imagination. In this talk, I will begin by analysing the relationship between sensory and cognitive imagination and their counterparts (i.e. perception and belief), and I will look more closely at what it is that makes a mental state an imaginative one. In the second part I will move to supposition. In the debate on imagination supposition emerges on the one hand as a synonym of cognitive imagination, and on the other hand as a label for a “self-standing” mental state not to be confused with imagination. I will disagree with both these views and I will claim that supposition is a specific imaginative state, which re-creates acceptance. My goal is to show that the distinction introduced by Jonathan Cohen between belief and acceptance allows to separate supposition from cognitive imagination, without thereby banning it from the imaginative realm. Moreover this framework paves the way to a better understanding of the relationships between the different kinds of imagination.

Contact : Isidora.Stojanovic AT ens.fr