Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts

Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts

Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts

Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts


Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts is the first comprehensive collection of papers by philosophers examining the nature of imagination and its role in understanding and making art.Imagination is a central concept in aesthetics with close ties to issues in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, yet it has not received the kind of sustained, critical attention it deserves. This collection of seventeen brand new essays critically examines just how and in what form the notion of imagination illuminates fundamental problems in the philosophy of art.


Much progress in aesthetics during the second half of the twentieth century may be ascribed to the assumption that an understanding of representation in art provides the key to many problems in aesthetics. A good part of the success of aesthetics during the past twenty years may be credited to attempts to work out how mental representation figures in the appreciation of art-where "mental representation", when it comes to appreciating art, has often meant "imagination". (True, the imagination has always formed part of the subject-matter of aesthetics, but its recent revival can be traced to recent advances in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.) The seventeen chapters that make up this volume attest to the richness of what might be called imagination theory. But if a rich body of philosophical work is often the child of skeptical impulses, this volume is no exception, for each chapter seeks to extend imagination theory in a new direction. The best introduction to proposals for a change of course makes clear where we are and why we must move forward.

Imagination in make-believe

Kendall Walton's Mimesis as Make-Believe revolutionized philosophical thinking about representational art, fiction, imagination, and appreciation. Despite the intense analytic scrutiny these concepts had already endured, the so-called paradoxes of fiction remained seemingly intractable, the concept of imagination had been banished from philosophy of art and philosophy of mind, and scant progress had been made toward understanding appreciation. In place of clarifications or refinements of the existing concepts Walton proposed an entirely new way to carve up the categories. Revolution can be disorienting. Thus, Walton holds that all art is representational, that all representational works are fictions, and that appreciation always involves a kind of fiction-making. Nevertheless, a theorist is right to reconceptualize what he wishes to explain provided that the explanation is illuminating.

What precipitates Walton's recarving is the insight that the categories of representational art, fiction, imagination, and appreciation all connect to make-believe. This notion appears first as part of the theory of representation that is the principal

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