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What is imagination? How an explanation of the imagination? Is it true that a person's imagination comes from experience and knowledge of one's own. Is it possible to imagine beyond the limits of our own thinking? If possible how? what are the limitations in our imagination? and how we can eliminate those restrictions in order to imagine freely and without limits?

October 18, 2012

Response from Charles Taliaferro on October 28, 2012
Interesting!! The old, classic definition of 'imagination' as the power to form images. We now use it more broadly as one might imagine something that involves no images, e.g. you might imagine becoming a world leader, but not thereby utilize any image whatever. I suggest that the imagination is our power to image, picture, think of some state of affairs that is not immediately present to your senses. In this vey broad definition, it may be argued (as some philosophers have done) that we routinely use our imagination whenever we perceive things. For example, technically, I may only sense the surface of a baseball, but because I can picture it as a solid, three dimensional object with a side that I am not immediately sensing, we naturally claim that I perceive the baseball.

On your second question, surely experience, knowledge, memories, past beliefs, stories you have heard, films, plays, and more may enter into what you imagine.

On your third question, about whether it is possible to imagine something beyond one's thinking, if imagination is a type of thinking or involves the exercise of thought, you cannot imagine what you cannot think about. Still, through imagination, you might well come to see the world from radically new perspectives. When you read about mountain climbing, you might well stretch your thinking and imagination, even if you have never seen a mountain, let alone climbed one.

On the limits and power of imagination, some philosophers (like John Locke) maintained that imagination was pivotal for the exercise of freedom. If you cannot or do not imagine doing something different from your habitual routines, chances are you will not freely undertake a different course of action. Some philosophers (like David Hume) have plausibly held that imagination was foundational to ethics (which involves trying to see situations from the points of view of the different parties involved). As for trying to remove some of the obstacles that limit our imagination, philosophers like Iris Murdoch and Martha Nussbaum suggest that reading can be an important tool. Another important tool is conversations with those very different from yourself, and I will end this long-ish (perhaps less than ideally imaginative) reply by noting what Charles Darwin recommended in the last paragraph of his memoir of his experiences on the HMS Beagle about learning new things and making friends; Darwin recommended TRAVEL! You can find the book online and check out the ending.:


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