Are theories of imagery theories of imagination? An active perception approach to conscious mental content

Cognitive Science 23 (2):207-245 (1999)
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Abstract

Can theories of mental imagery, conscious mental contents, developed within cognitive science throw light on the obscure (but culturally very significant) concept of imagination? Three extant views of mental imagery are considered: quasi‐pictorial, description, and perceptual activity theories. The first two face serious theoretical and empirical difficulties. The third is (for historically contingent reasons) little known, theoretically underdeveloped, and empirically untried, but has real explanatory potential. It rejects the “traditional” symbolic computational view of mental contents, but is compatible with recentsituated cognition and active visionapproaches in robotics. This theory is developed and elucidated. Three related key aspects of imagination (non‐discursiveness, creativity, and seeing as) raise difficulties for the other theories. Perceptual activity theory presents imagery as non‐discursive and relates it closely to seeing as. It is thus well placed to be the basis for a general theory of imagination and its role in creative thought.

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Nigel Thomas
California State University, Los Angeles

Citations of this work

A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness.J. Kevin O’Regan & Alva Noë - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (5):883-917.
Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access.Ned Block - 2011 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (12):567-575.
The unreliability of naive introspection.Eric Schwitzgebel - 2006 - Philosophical Review 117 (2):245-273.
Imagination: A Sine Qua Non of Science.Michael T. Stuart - 2017 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy (49):9-32.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.

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