The Epistemic Status of the Imagination

Philosophical Studies 178 (10):3251-3270 (2021)
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Imagination plays a rich epistemic role in our cognitive lives. For example, if I want to learn whether my luggage will fit into the overhead compartment on a plane, I might imagine trying to fit it into the overhead compartment and form a justified belief on the basis of this imagining. But what explains the fact that imagination has the power to justify beliefs, and what is the structure of imaginative justification? In this paper, I answer these questions by arguing that imaginings manifest an epistemic status: they are epistemically evaluable as justified or unjustified. This epistemic status grounds their ability to justify beliefs, and they accrue this status in virtue of being based on evidence. Thus, imaginings are best understood as justified justifiers. I argue for this view by way of showing how it offers a satisfying explanation of certain key features of imaginative justification that would otherwise be puzzling. I also argue that imaginings exhibit a number of markers of the basing relation, which further motivates the view that imaginings can be based on evidence. The arguments in this paper have theoretically fruitful implications not only for the epistemology of imagination, but for accounts of reasoning and epistemic normativity more generally.

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Joshua Myers
Universitat de Barcelona


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