Are We Free to Imagine What We Choose?

Synthese:1-18 (2021)
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It has long been recognized that we have a great deal of freedom to imagine what we choose. This paper explores a thesis—what we call “intentionalism (about the imagination)”—that provides a way of making this evident (if vague) truism precise. According to intentionalism, the contents of your imaginings are simply determined by whatever contents you intend to imagine. Thus, for example, when you visualize a building and intend it to be of King’s College rather than a replica of the college you have imagined the former rather than the latter because you intended to imagine King’s College. This is so even if the visual image you conjure up equally resembles either. This paper proposes two kinds of counterexamples to intentionalism and discusses their significance. In particular, it sketches a positive account of how many sensory imaginings get to be about what they are about, which explains how the causal history of our mental imagery can prevent us from succeeding in imagining what we intended.
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Archival date: 2021-07-23
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