About this topic
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 1994/2015Moran 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 Gendler & Liao 2016 provides a useful overview of the debate.
Related categories

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  1. Deeply Imaginative Scepticism.Leonard Angel - 2010 - Dialogue 49 (3):489-496.
  2. The Island Has Its Reasons: Moral Subjectivism in Fiction.Kasandra Barker - 2016 - Dialogue 55 (2):121-124.
    Tamar Gendler takes on “explaining our comparative difficulty in imagining fictional worlds that we take to be morally deviant” (56), otherwise known as the puzzle of imaginative resistance. Generally speaking, readers have no trouble believing untrue factual claims such as in Alice in Wonderland or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but we resist claims which advocate praise or approval of immoral acts such as murder. Gendler submits that the implied author aims to persuade the reader to change his or her (...)
  3. Art and Morality.José Luis Bermúdez & Sebastian Gardner (eds.) - 2003 - 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 distinguished contributors tackle the important questions 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 philosophical literature, opening up unexplored questions and shedding new light on more traditional debates in aesthetics. The topics explored include: the relation of (...)
  4. The Imaginative Basis of Thought and Culture.Nancy du Bois - 1995 - New Vico Studies 13:75-79.
  5. "SJ"'I Say More': Sacrament and Hopkins's Imaginative Realism.".John D. Boyd - 1989 - Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 42:51-64.
  6. The Puzzle of Imaginative Failure.Stuart Brock - 2012 - 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 (...)
  7. Not Moderately Moral: Why Hume Is Not a "Moderate Moralist".E. M. Dadlez & Jeanette Bicknell - 2013 - 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 (...)
  8. Emotions, Morals, Modals.Daniel Dohrn - manuscript
    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 (...)
  9. Hume.Fabian Dorsch - 2016 - In Amy Kind (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Imagination. Routledge. pp. 40-54.
    This chapter overviews Hume’s thoughts on the nature and role of imagining and focusses primarily on three important distinctions that Hume draws among our conscious mental episodes: (i) between impressions and ideas; (ii) between ideas of the memory and ideas of the imagination; and (iii), among the ideas of the imagination, between ideas of the judgement and ideas of the fancy. In addition, the chapter considers Hume’s views on the imagination as a faculty of producing ideas, as well as on (...)
  10. Hume on the Imagination.Fabian Dorsch - 2015 - Rero Doc Digital Library:1-28.
    This is the original, longer draft for my entry on Hume in the 'The Routledge Hand- book of Philosophy of Imagination', edited by Amy Kind and published by Routledge in 2016 (see the separate entry). — Please always cite the Routledge version, unless there are passages concerned that did not make it into the Handbook for reasons of length. — -/- This chapter overviews Hume’s thoughts on the nature and the role of imagining, with an almost exclusive focus on the (...)
  11. Imaginative Resistance and Psychological Necessity.Julia Driver - 2008 - 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 (...)
  12. Is Art the Imaginative Expression of a Wish?C. J. Ducasse - 1928 - Philosophical Review 37 (4):360-372.
  13. Review: The Architecture of the Imagination: New Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction. [REVIEW]A. Everett - 2007 - Mind 116 (464):1151-1154.
  14. 1 Imaginative Resistance and the White Gaze in Machete and The Help.Dan Flory - 2013 - In Dan Flory & Mary Bloodsworth-Lugo (eds.), Race, Philosophy, and Film. Routledge. pp. 50--17.
  15. Intuition, Imagination, and Philosophical Methodology.Tamar Gendler - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    In this volume, Tamar Gendler draws together fourteen essays that together illuminate this topic. Three intertwined themes connect the essays.
  16. Imaginative Resistance.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2009 - In Stephen Davies, Kathleen Marie Higgins, Robert Hopkins, Robert Stecker, David Cooper & E. (eds.), A Companion to Aesthetics: Second Edition. Blackwell.
  17. Imaginative Resistance Revisited.Tamar Szabo Gendler - 2006 - In Shaun Nichols (ed.), The Architecture of the Imagination. Oxford University Press. pp. 149-173.
  18. The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):55-81.
  19. The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.Tamar Szabo Gendler - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):55.
  20. The Problem of Imaginative Resistance.Tamar Szabó Gendler & Shen-yi Liao - 2016 - In John Gibson & Noël Carroll (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature. Routledge. pp. 405-418.
    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.
  21. Alfarabi's Imaginative Critique: Overflowing Materialism inVirtuous Community.Joshua M. Hall - 2015 - South African Journal of Philosophy 34 (2):175-192.
  22. Unrealistic Fictions.Allan Hazlett & Christy Mag Uidhir - 2011 - 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 (...)
  23. Being There: On the Imaginative Aspects of Understanding Others and Being Understood.Douglas Hollan - 2008 - Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 36 (4):475-489.
  24. Being There: On the Imaginative Aspects of Understanding Others and Being Understood.Douglas Hollan - 2008 - Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 36 (4):475-489.
  25. Imagining as a Guide to Possibility.Peter Kung - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (3):620-663.
    I lay out the framework for my theory of sensory imagination in “Imagining as a guide to possibility.” Sensory imagining involves mental imagery , and crucially, in describing the content of imagining, I distinguish between qualitative content and assigned content. Qualitative content derives from the mental image itself; for visual imaginings, it is what is “pictured.” For example, visually imagine the Philadelphia Eagles defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers to win their first Super Bowl. You picture the greenness of the field and (...)
  26. An Experimental Philosophy Approach to Imaginative Resistance.Sydney Levine - 2009 - Dissertation, Yale University
  27. Imaginative Resistance and the Moral/Conventional Distinction.Neil Levy - 2005 - 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 (...)
  28. Imaginative Resistance, Narrative Engagement, Genre.Shen-yi Liao - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (2):461-482.
    Imaginative resistance refers to a phenomenon in which people resist engaging in particular prompted imaginative activities. On one influential diagnosis of imaginative resistance, the systematic difficulties are due to these particular propositions’ discordance with real-world norms. This essay argues that this influential diagnosis is too simple. While imagination is indeed by default constrained by real-world norms during narrative engagement, it can be freed with the power of genre conventions and expectations.
  29. Pretense and Imagination.Shen-yi Liao & Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2011 - 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 (...)
  30. Empirically Investigating Imaginative Resistance.Shen-yi Liao, Nina Strohminger & Chandra Sekhar Sripada - 2014 - 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 (...)
  31. The Aesthetics of Actor-Character Race Matching in Film Fictions.Christy Mag Uidhir - 2012 - Philosophers' Imprint 12.
    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 (...)
  32. Imaginative Resistance Without Conflict.Anna Mahtani - 2012 - 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.
  33. Fictional Assent and the (so-Called) `Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance'.Derek Matravers - 2003 - In Matthew Kieran & Dominic McIver Lopes (eds.), Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts. Routledge. pp. 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 (...)
  34. 1. The Puzzle (s) of Imaginative Resistance.Aaron Meskin & Jonathan M. Weinberg - 2011 - In Elisabeth Schellekens & Peter Goldie (eds.), The Aesthetic Mind: Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford University Press. pp. 239.
  35. The Cognitive Architecture of Imaginative Resistance.Kengo Miyazono & Shen-yi Liao - 2016 - In Amy Kind (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Imagination. pp. 233-246.
    Where is imagination in imaginative resistance? We seek to answer this question by connecting two ongoing lines of inquiry in different subfields of philosophy. In philosophy of mind, philosophers have been trying to understand imaginative attitudes’ place in cognitive architecture. In aesthetics, philosophers have been trying to understand the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. By connecting these two lines of inquiry, we hope to find mutual illumination of an attitude (or cluster of attitudes) and a phenomenon that have vexed philosophers. Our (...)
  36. Make-Believe Morality and Fictional Worlds.Mary Mothersill - 2006 - In José Luis Bermúdez & Sebastian Gardner (eds.), Arts and Morality. Routledge. pp. 74-94.
  37. Counterfactual Examples in Philosophy: The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.Brad Murray - forthcoming - Prolegomena.
  38. Imaginative Resistance and Conversational Implicature.Bence Nanay - 2010 - 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’.
  39. The Architecture of the Imagination: New Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction.Shaun Nichols (ed.) - 2006 - Oxford University Press UK.
    This volume presents new essays on the propositional imagination by leading researchers. The propositional imagination---the mental capacity we exploit when we imagine that everyone is colour-blind or that Hamlet is a procrastinator---plays an essential role in philosophical theorizing, engaging with fiction, and indeed in everyday life. Yet only recently has there been a systematic attempt to give a cognitive account of the propositional imagination. These thirteen essays, specially written for the volume, capitalize on this recent work, extending the theoretical picture (...)
  40. Education for Imaginative Knowledge.A. T. Nuyen - 1997 - Journal of Thought 32:37-48.
  41. Imaginative Resistance and Variation.Eric Peterson - forthcoming - British Journal of Aesthetics.
  42. Neuroscientific Prediction and the Intrusion of Intuitive Metaphysics.David Rose, Wesley Buckwalter & Shaun Nichols - 2015 - Cognitive Science 39 (7).
    How might advanced neuroscience—in which perfect neuro-predictions are possible—interact with ordinary judgments of free will? We propose that peoples' intuitive ideas about indeterminist free will are both imported into and intrude into their representation of neuroscientific scenarios and present six experiments demonstrating intrusion and importing effects in the context of scenarios depicting perfect neuro-prediction. In light of our findings, we suggest that the intuitive commitment to indeterminist free will may be resilient in the face of scientific evidence against such free (...)
  43. Poetic License: Learning Morality From Fiction in Light of Imaginative Resistance.John W. Rosenbaum - 2016 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 35 (3):165-183.
    Imaginative resistance (IR) is rejecting a claim that is true within a fictional world. Accounts that describe IR hold that readers exit a fiction at points of resistance. But if resistance entails exiting a fiction, then learning morality from fiction doesn’t occur. But moral learning from fiction does occur; some such cases are instances of accepting a norm one first denied. I amend current solutions to IR with poetic license. The more poetic license granted a work, the more flexible one (...)
  44. Imaginative Origins of Modernity: Life as Daydream and Nightmare.Claes G. Ryn - 1997 - Humanitas 10 (2):42.
  45. On the Study of Imaginative Resistance.Andrea Sauchelli - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    I argue that the current methodology employed to study imaginative resistance should not be used to draw general conclusions about the influence of genre on episodes of imaginative resistance caused by complex works of art. One of the main problems is that the mini stories upon which the current methodology relies are inadequate—mostly because they are artless and ‘flat’. Mini stories cannot generate imaginative experiences structurally similar to the experiences elicited by complex and interesting works of fictional art.
  46. Gendler on the Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.Andrea Sauchelli - 2016 - Acta Analytica 31 (1):1-9.
    Gendler reformulated the so-called imaginability puzzle in terms of authorial breakdown. The main idea behind this move was to isolate the essential features displayed by the alleged problematic cases and to specify a puzzle general enough to be applied to a variety of different types of imaginative resistance. I offer various criticisms of Gendler’s approach to imaginative resistance that also raise some more general points on the recent literature on the topic.
  47. Imaginative Writing.Wilbur Schramm - 1941 - In Norman Foerster, John Calvin McGalliard, René Wellek, Austin Warren & Wilbur Schramm (eds.), Literary Scholarship. Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina Press. pp. 177--213.
  48. Evidence Marshaling for Imaginative Fact Investigation.David A. Schum - 2001 - Artificial Intelligence and Law 9 (2-3):165-188.
  49. V. F. Perkins' Functional Credibility and the Problem of Imaginative Resistance.Aaron Smuts - 2006 - 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 (...)
  50. Imaginative and Fictionality Failure: A Normative Approach.Nils-Hennes Stear - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15.
    If a work of literary fiction prescribes us to imagine that the Devil made a bet with God and transformed into a poodle, then that claim is true in the fiction and we imagine accordingly. Generally, we cooperate imaginatively with literary fictions, however bizarre, and the things authors write into their stories become true in the fiction. But for some claims, such as moral falsehoods, this seems not to be straightforwardly the case, which raises the question: Why not? The puzzles (...)
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