How do we think about situations and things do not exist but might, engage in pretense and fiction, and create new works of art? These are central cases in which we’re using our imaginations, but what is imagination, and how should it be explained? In Explaining Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2020), Peter Langland-Hassan distinguishes using mental imagery to think about things and thinking about imaginary things, and proceeds to give a reductive account of both. On his view, imagining isn’t a sui generis mental state, as the received view holds. Instead, it can be reduced to more basic states, in particular belief, desire, and intention. Langland-Hassan, who is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Cincinnati, uses his account to explain the central cases of imagination, defends his view against objections, and considers how recent advances in Deep Learning might help explain the creative process.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.