Imagination, Inference, and Apriority

In Amy Kind & Christopher Badura (eds.), The Epistemic Uses of Imagination. Routledge (2021)
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Abstract

Is imagination a source of knowledge? Timothy Williamson has recently argued that our imaginative capacities can yield knowledge of a variety of matters, spanning from everyday practical matters to logic and set theory. Furthermore, imagination for Williamson plays a similar epistemic role in cognitive processes that we would traditionally classify as either a priori or a posteriori, which he takes to indicate that the distinction itself is shallow and epistemologically fruitless. In this chapter, I aim to defend the a priori-a posteriori distinction from Williamson’s challenge by questioning his account of imagination. I distinguish two notions of imagination at play in Williamson’s account – sensory vs. belief-like imagination – and show that both face empirical and normative issues. Sensory imagination seems neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge. Whereas, belief-like imagination isn’t adequately disentangled from inference. Additionally, Williamson’s examples are ad hoc and don’t generalize. I conclude that Williamson’s case against the a priori-a posteriori distinction is unconvincing, and so is the thesis that imagination is an epistemic source.

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Antonella Mallozzi
Providence College

Citations of this work

The epistemic imagination revisited.Arnon Levy & Ori Kinberg - 2023 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 107 (2):319-336.
Imagination as a source of empirical justification.Joshua Myers - 2024 - Philosophy Compass 19 (3):e12969.
Imagination and the A Priori.Jared Warren - 2022 - Synthese 201 (1):1-16.

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References found in this work

Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. Quine - 1951 - [Longmans, Green].
Does conceivability entail possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. V. O. Quine - 2011 - In Robert B. Talisse & Scott F. Aikin (eds.), The Pragmatism Reader: From Peirce Through the Present. Princeton University Press. pp. 202-220.
What is inference?Paul Boghossian - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 169 (1):1-18.

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