David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (11):79-84 (2003)
The concepts of imagination and consciousness have, very arguably, been inextricably intertwined at least since Aristotle initiated the systematic study of human cognition (Thomas, 1998). To imagine something is ipso facto to be conscious of it (even if the wellsprings of imaginative creativity are in the unconscious), and many have held that our conscious thinking consists largely or entirely in a succession of mental images, the products of imagination (see, e.g., Damasio, 1994 -- or, come to that, see Aristotle, or Hume, or almost any pre-twentieth century cognitive theorist). A venerable tradition also regards perceptual experiences, the main focus of most recent work on consciousness, as products of the imagination, whose primary function is to integrate sensory inputs and render them meaningful (Thomas, 1998, 1999). As Coleridge (1817) famously put it, primary imagination is "the living power and prime agent of all human perception." A better understanding of imagination is likely to deepen our insight into the nature of consciousness (and, probably, vice-versa)
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