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Summary When engaging with a work of fiction we readily imagine all sorts of things, many of which depart from the world as we know it.  Moreover, we tend have no trouble imagining such factually deviant propositions; our knowledge that, e.g., there are no such things as hobbits does not get in the way of our imagining the world described by Tolkien.  Matters are different, however, when we are asked to imagine morally deviant propositions. If told: "Giselda gave birth to her fourth child," we go along with the author.  But if told, "In killing her baby, Giselda did the right thing; after all, it was a girl," we tend to resist.  How to explain this asymmetry has come to be known as the puzzle of imaginative resistance.
Key works This puzzle dates back at least to Hume 1757.  It was reintroduced into contemporary discussion by Walton in his 1990 and 1994Moran 1994 first uses the term "resistance" to describe the phenomenon;Gendler 2000 coins the name for the puzzle.  Other important discussions occur in Gendler 2006, Walton 2006, and Weatherson 2004.
Introductions Liao & Gendler forthcoming provides a useful overview of the debate.
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  1. José Luis Bermúdez & Sebastian Gardner (eds.) (2003). Art and Morality. Routledge.
    Art and Morality is a collection of groundbreaking new papers on the theme of aesthetics and ethics, and the link between the two subjects. A group of world-class contributors tackle the important question that arise when one thinks about the moral dimensions of art and the aesthetic dimension of moral life. The volume is a significant contribution to the philosophical literature, opening up unexplored questions and shedding new light on more traditional debates in aesthetics. The topics explored include the relation (...)
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  2. Stuart Brock (2012). The Puzzle of Imaginative Failure. Philosophical Quarterly 62 (248):443-463.
    The Puzzle of Imaginative Failure asks why, when readers are invited to do so, they so often fall short of imagining worlds where the moral facts are different. This is puzzling because we have no difficulty imagining worlds where the descriptive facts are different. Much of the philosophical controversy revolves around the question of whether the reader's lack of imagination in such cases is a result of psychological barriers (an inability or a difficulty on the reader's part to imagine what (...)
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  3. E. M. Dadlez & Jeanette Bicknell (2013). Not Moderately Moral: Why Hume Is Not a "Moderate Moralist&Quot;. Philosophy and Literature 37 (2):330-342.
    If philosophers held popularity contests, David Hume would be a perennial winner. Witty, a bon vivant, and champion of reason over bigotry and superstition, it is not surprising that many contemporary thinkers want to recruit him as an ally or claim his views as precursors to their own. In the debate over the moral content of artworks and its possible relevance for artistic and aesthetic value, the group whose views are known variously as “ethicism,” “moralism,” or “moderate moralism” has claimed (...)
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  4. Daniel Dohrn, Emotions, Morals, Modals.
    I scrutinize the relationship between the way emotions give rise to modal judgement and the metaphysical necessity we ascribe to the latter. While moral concepts are often described as response-dependent, I propose to analyse them as response-enabled or grokking. I discuss how grokkingness is embedded in the emotional mechanisms that provoke imaginative resistance; how it shapes our manifest image of the world and the place of morality in it; the latter’s deep contingency as contrasted to its metaphysical necessity; and what (...)
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  5. Julia Driver (2008). Imaginative Resistance and Psychological Necessity. Social Philosophy and Policy 25 (1):301-313.
    Some of our moral commitments strike us as necessary, and this feature of moral phenomenology is sometimes viewed as incompatible with sentimentalism, since sentimentalism holds that our commitments depend, in some way, on sentiment. His dependence, or contingency, is what seems incompatible with necessity. In response to this sentimentalists hold that the commitments are psychologically necessary. However, little has been done to explore this kind of necessity. In this essay I discuss psychological necessity, and how the phenomenon of imaginative resistance (...)
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  6. A. Everett (2007). Review: The Architecture of the Imagination: New Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction. [REVIEW] Mind 116 (464):1151-1154.
  7. Tamar Gendler (2010). Intuition, Imagination, and Philosophical Methodology. Oxford University Press.
    In this volume, Tamar Gendler draws together fourteen essays that together illuminate this topic. Three intertwined themes connect the essays.
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  8. Tamar Szabó Gendler (2009). Imaginative Resistance. In Stephen Davies, Kathleen Marie Higgins, Robert Hopkins, Robert Stecker, David Cooper & E. (eds.), A Companion to Aesthetics: Second Edition. Blackwell.
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  9. Tamar Szabo Gendler (2006). Imaginative Resistance Revisited. In Shaun Nichols (ed.), The Architecture of the Imagination. Oxford University Press. 149-173.
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  10. Tamar Szabó Gendler (2000). The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance. Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):55-81.
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  11. Allan Hazlett & Christy Mag Uidhir (2011). Unrealistic Fictions. American Philosophical Quarterly 48 (1):33--46.
    In this paper, we develop an analysis of unrealistic fiction that captures the everyday sense of ‘unrealistic’. On our view, unrealistic fictions are a species of inconsistent fictions, but fictions for which such inconsistency, given the supporting role we claim played by genre, needn’t be a critical defect. We first consider and reject an analysis of unrealistic fiction as fiction that depicts or describes unlikely events; we then develop our own account and make an initial statement of it: unrealistic fictions (...)
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  12. Matthew Kieran & Dominic Lopes (eds.) (2003). Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts. Routledge.
    Imagination is a central concept in aesthetics with close ties to issues in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, yet it has not received the kind of sustained, critical attention it deserves. Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts represents the work of fifteen young yet distinguished philosophers of art, who critically examine just how and in what form the notion of imagination illuminates fundamental problems in the philosophy of art. All new papers, a strong collection on the imagination (...)
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  13. Peter Kung (2010). Imagining as a Guide to Possibility. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (3):620-663.
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  14. Neil Levy (2005). Imaginative Resistance and the Moral/Conventional Distinction. Philosophical Psychology 18 (2):231 – 241.
    Children, even very young children, distinguish moral from conventional transgressions, inasmuch as they hold that the former, but not the latter, would still be wrong if there was no rule prohibiting them. Many people have taken this finding as evidence that morality is objective, and therefore universal. I argue that reflection on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance will lead us to question these claims. If a concept applies in virtue of the obtaining of a set of more basic facts, then (...)
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  15. Shen-yi Liao & Tamar Szabó Gendler (forthcoming). The Problem of Imaginative Resistance: An Overview. In John Gibson & Nöel Carroll (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature. Routledge.
    The problem of imaginative resistance holds interest for aestheticians, literary theorists, ethicists, philosophers of mind, and epistemologists. We present a somewhat opinionated overview of the philosophical discussion to date. We begin by introducing the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. We then review existing responses to the problem, giving special attention to recent research directions. Finally, we consider the philosophical significance that imaginative resistance has—or, at least, is alleged to have—for issues in moral psychology, theories of cognitive architecture, and modal epistemology.
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  16. Shen-yi Liao & Tamar Szabó Gendler (2011). Pretense and Imagination. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews 2 (1):79-94.
    Issues of pretense and imagination are of central interest to philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in allied fields. In this entry, we provide a roadmap of some of the central themes around which discussion has been focused. We begin with an overview of pretense, imagination, and the relationship between them. We then shift our attention to the four specific topics where the disciplines' research programs have intersected or where additional interactions could prove mutually beneficial: the psychological underpinnings of performing pretense and (...)
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  17. Shen-yi Liao, Nina Strohminger & Chandra Sekhar Sripada (2014). Empirically Investigating Imaginative Resistance. British Journal of Aesthetics 54 (3):339-355.
    Imaginative resistance refers to a phenomenon in which people resist engaging in particular prompted imaginative activities. Philosophers have primarily theorized about this phenomenon from the armchair. In this paper, we demonstrate the utility of empirical methods for investigating imaginative resistance. We present two studies that help to establish the psychological reality of imaginative resistance, and to uncover one factor that is significant for explaining this phenomenon but low in psychological salience: genre. Furthermore, our studies have the methodological upshot of showing (...)
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  18. Christy Mag Uidhir (2012). The Aesthetics of Actor-Character Race Matching in Film Fictions. Philosophers' Imprint 12 (3).
    Marguerite Clark as Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1918). Charlton Heston as Ramon Miguel Vargas in Touch of Evil (1958). Mizuo Peck as Sacagawea in Night at the Museum (2006). From the early days of cinema to its classic-era through to the contemporary Hollywood age, the history of cinema is replete with films in which the racial (or ethnic) background of a principal character does not match the background of the actor or actress portraying that character. I call this actor-character (...)
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  19. Anna Mahtani (2012). Imaginative Resistance Without Conflict. Philosophical Studies 158 (3):415-429.
    I examine a range of popular solutions to the puzzle of imaginative resistance. According to each solution in this range, imaginative resistance occurs only when we are asked to imagine something that conflicts with what we believe. I show that imaginative resistance can occur without this sort of conflict, and so that every solution in the range under consideration fails. I end by suggesting a new explanation for imaginative resistance—the Import Solution—which succeeds where the other solutions considered fail.
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  20. Derek Matravers (2003). Fictional Assent and the (so-Called) `Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance'. In Matthew Kieran & Dominic McIver Lopes (eds.), Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts. Routledge. 91-106.
    This article criticises existing solutions to the 'puzzle of imaginative resistance', reconstrues it, and offers a solution of its own. About the Book : Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts is the first comprehensive collection of papers by philosophers examining the nature of imagination and its role in understanding and making art. Imagination is a central concept in aesthetics with close ties to issues in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, yet it has not received the kind of (...)
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  21. Mary Mothersill (2006). Make-Believe Morality and Fictional Worlds. In José Luis Bermúdez & Sebastian Gardner (eds.), Arts and Morality. Routledge. 74-94.
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  22. Bence Nanay (2010). Imaginative Resistance and Conversational Implicature. Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):586-600.
    We experience resistance when we are engaging with fictional works which present certain (for example, morally objectionable) claims. But in virtue of what properties do sentences trigger this ‘imaginative resistance’? I argue that while most accounts of imaginative resistance have looked for semantic properties in virtue of which sentences trigger it, this is unlikely to give us a coherent account, because imaginative resistance is a pragmatic phenomenon. It works in a way very similar to Paul Grice's widely analysed ‘conversational implicature’.
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  23. Shaun Nichols (ed.) (2006). The Architecture of the Imagination: New Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction. Oxford University Press.
    This volume brings together specially written essays by leading researchers on the propositional imagination. This is the mental capacity we exploit when we imagine that Holmes has a bad habit or that there are zombies. It plays an essential role in philosophical theorizing, engaging with fiction, and indeed in everyday life. The Architecture of the Imagination capitalizes on recent attempts to give a cognitive account of this capacity, extending the theoretical picture and exploring the philosophical implications.
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  24. Aaron Smuts (2006). V. F. Perkins' Functional Credibility and the Problem of Imaginative Resistance. Film and Philosophy 10 (1):85-99.
    Echoing Beardsley's trinity of unity, complexity, and intensity, Perkins develops three interrelated criteria on which to base an evaluation of film: credibility, coherence, and significance. I assess whether Perkins criteria of credibility serves as a useful standard for film criticism. Most of the effort will be devoted to charitably reconstructing the notion of credibility by bringing together some of Perkins' particular comments. Then I will briefly examine whether Perkins has successfully achieved his goal of developing standards of judgment by holding (...)
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  25. Kathleen Stock (2005). Resisting Imaginative Resistance. Philosophical Quarterly 55 (221):607–624.
    Recently, philosophers have identified certain fictional propositions with which one does not imaginatively engage, even where one is transparently intended by their authors to do so. One approach to explaining this categorizes it as 'resistance', that is, as deliberate failure to imagine that the relevant propositions are true; the phenomenon has become generally known (misleadingly) as 'the puzzle of imaginative resistance'. I argue that this identification is incorrect, and I dismiss several other explanations. I then propose a better one, that (...)
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  26. Kathleen Stock (2003). The Tower of Goldbach and Other Impossible Tales. In Matthew Kieran & Dominic McIver Lopes (eds.), Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts. Routledge. 107-124.
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  27. Dustin R. Stokes (2006). The Evaluative Character of Imaginative Resistance. British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (4):287-405.
    A fiction may prescribe imagining that a pig can talk or tell the future. A fiction may prescribe imagining that torturing innocent persons is a good thing. We generally comply with imaginative prescriptions like the former, but not always with prescriptions like the latter: we imagine non-evaluative fictions without difficulty but sometimes resist imagining value-rich fictions. Thus arises the puzzle of imaginative resistance. Most analyses of the phenomenon focus on the content of the relevant imaginings. The present analysis focuses instead (...)
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  28. Michael Tanner (1994). Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality (II). Supplement to the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 68:51-66.
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  29. Cain Samuel Todd (2009). Imaginability, Morality, and Fictional Truth: Dissolving the Puzzle of 'Imaginative Resistance'. Philosophical Studies 143 (2):187-211.
    This paper argues that there is no genuine puzzle of ‘imaginative resistance’. In part 1 of the paper I argue that the imaginability of fictional propositions is relative to a range of different factors including the ‘thickness’ of certain concepts, and certain pre-theoretical and theoretical commitments. I suggest that those holding realist moral commitments may be more susceptible to resistance and inability than those holding non-realist commitments, and that it is such realist commitments that ultimately motivate the problem. However, I (...)
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  30. Neil Van Leeuwen (forthcoming). The Imaginative Agent. In Amy Kind & Peter Kung (ed.), Knowledge through Imagination. Oxford University Press.
    Imagination contributes to human agency in ways that haven't been well understood. I argue here that pathways from imagistic imagining to emotional engagement support three important agential capacities: 1. bodily preparedness for potential events in one's nearby environment; 2. evaluation of potential future action; and 3. empathy-based moral appraisal. Importantly, however, the kind of pathway in question (I-C-E-C: imagining-categorization-emotion-conceptualization) also enables engagement with fiction. So human enchantment with fiction is a consequence of imaginative pathways that make us the kind of (...)
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  31. Brian Weatherson (2004). Morality, Fiction, and Possibility. Philosophers' Imprint 4 (3):1-27.
    Authors have a lot of leeway with regard to what they can make true in their story. In general, if the author says that p is true in the fiction we’re reading, we believe that p is true in that fiction. And if we’re playing along with the fictional game, we imagine that, along with everything else in the story, p is true. But there are exceptions to these general principles. Many authors, most notably Kendall Walton and Tamar Szabó Gendler, (...)
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  32. Jonathan M. Weinberg (2008). Configuring the Cognitive Imagination. In Kathleen Stock & Katherine Thomsen-Jones (eds.), New Waves in Aesthetics. Palgrave Macmillan. 203-223.
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