The epistemic imagination revisited

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 107 (2):319-336 (2023)
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Recently, various philosophers have argued that we can obtain knowledge via the imagination. In particular, it has been suggested that we can come to know concrete, empirical matters of everyday significance by appropriately imagining relevant scenarios. Arguments for this thesis come in two main varieties: black box reliability arguments and constraints-based arguments. We suggest that both strategies are unsuccessful. Against black-box arguments, we point to evidence from empirical psychology, question a central case-study, and raise concerns about a (claimed) evolutionary rationale for the imagination's reliability. Against the constraints-based account, we argue that to the extent that it works, this does not give rise to knowledge that is distinctively from the imagination. We conclude by suggesting that the imagination's role in raising possibilities, traditionally seen as part of the context of discovery, can in fact play a role in justification, including as a bulwark against certain sorts of skepticism.

Author's Profile

Arnon Levy
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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