Flexing the imagination

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 61 (3):247–258 (2003)
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Abstract
I explore the claim that “fictive imagining” – imagining what it is like to be a character – can be morally dangerous. In particular, I consider the controversy over William Styron’s imagining the revolutionary protagonist in his Confessions of Nat Turner. I employ Ted Cohen’s model of fictive imagining to argue, following a generally Kantian line of thought, that fictive imagining can be dangerous if one has the wrong motives. After considering several possible motives, I argue that only internally directed motives can satisfy the moral concern. Finally, I suggest that when one has the right motives, fictive imagining is morally praiseworthy since it improves one’s ability to imagine the lives of others.
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