Imagination, Inference, and Apriority

In Amy Kind & Christopher Badura (eds.), The Epistemic Uses of Imagination. Routledge (2021)
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Is imagination a source of knowledge? Timothy Williamson has recently argued that our imaginative capacities can yield knowledge of a variety of matters, spanning from everyday practical matters to logic and set theory. Furthermore, imagination for Williamson plays a similar epistemic role in cognitive processes that we would traditionally classify as either a priori or a posteriori, which he takes to indicate that the distinction itself is shallow and epistemologically fruitless. In this chapter, I aim to defend the a priori-a posteriori distinction from Williamson’s challenge by questioning his account of imagination. I distinguish two notions of imagination at play in Williamson’s account – sensory vs. belief-like imagination – and show that both face empirical and normative issues. Sensory imagination seems neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge. Whereas, belief-like imagination isn’t adequately disentangled from inference. Additionally, Williamson’s examples are ad hoc and don’t generalize. I conclude that Williamson’s case against the a priori-a posteriori distinction is unconvincing, and so is the thesis that imagination is an epistemic source.
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First archival date: 2020-12-16
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