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Knowledge Through Imagination$
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Amy Kind and Peter Kung

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198716808

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716808.001.0001

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Knowing by Imagining

Knowing by Imagining

Chapter:
(p.113) 4 Knowing by Imagining
Source:
Knowledge Through Imagination
Author(s):

Timothy Williamson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716808.003.0005

This chapter argues that the common picture which paints imagining and knowing as opposites is misguided. Rather, imagination plays a key role in knowledge acquisition. Reflection on our ancestors reveals various ways in which they would have found imagination useful. When voluntarily solving problems—can I leap across this river, or do I need to take the long walk around?—or when preparing for dangers—are there wolves in the forest?—imagination would have played a key role. These reflections also suggest that imagination is both selective and reality-oriented; in the right conditions, imagination can thus confer knowledge. Denying this claim comes at a higher cost than we might have realized. Since there are important cognitive similarities between reasoning hypothetically with imagining and reasoning actually with new information, skepticism about the former would imply skepticism about the latter.

Keywords:   imagination, knowledge, evolution, conditionals, hypothetical reasoning

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