CFP: The Science and Philosophy of Imagination

Submission deadline: June 28, 2021

Conference date(s):
September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol
Bristol, United Kingdom

Topic areas


Recent years have seen a proliferation of research in the philosophy of the imagination. On one hand, researchers have been interested in understanding the role of the imagination in creativity, in both the arts and the sciences. On the other hand, researchers have been interested in its role in knowledge acquisition in everyday circumstances, in science, in philosophy. Given that the content of imaginative episodes usually diverges from reality, there is a puzzle as to how it can provide us with knowledge that is applicable in everyday circumstances or knowledge of scientific principles. Furthermore, the imagination is often seen as particularly important for philosophical reasoning, which tends to focus on what’s possible or necessary as well as the way the world happens to be.

Despite this newfound focus on the imagination, more attention needs to be paid to recent findings from psychology and neuroscience that have the potential to shed light on the nature of the imagination and the mechanisms that give rise to it. One of the reasons behind the relative neglect of the science of the imagination may be the fact that the imagination is a notoriously difficult subject to study from a scientific perspective, owing to imaginative episodes often lacking clear behavioural effects. As such, the conference will also aim to address methodological issues with the scientific study of the imagination from the perspective of the philosophy of science. The conference aims to address these issues by providing a forum for interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, with the hope that philosophers of imagination can develop more empirically-informed practice, and scientists involved in studying the imagination can develop an understanding of some of the philosophical implications of their research

We invite submissions from philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and others working on issues related to the scientific study of the imagination. Submissions should be in the form of a 500-1,000 word extended abstract, suitable for a 30-minute presentation, and should be sent to [email protected] with the subject line "Science-Philosophy-Imagination Submission" by the deadline of Monday 28th June 2021.

The conference aims to address a broad range of research questions including (but certainly not limited to):

§What is the link between mental imagery and imagination?

§How do people imagine counterfactual scenarios, and how does this relate to philosophical thought?

§Is imagination embodied?

§What are the methodological issues with the scientific study of the imagination?

§Is the imagination rational?

§How can 4E approaches to the mind impact on our understanding of imagination?

§How can the predictive processing / active inference framework impact on our understanding of the imagination?

§What are the underlying mechanisms of imagination?

§Is imagining a natural capacity or a culturally-mediated practice?

§How can the imagination provide one with knowledge?

§Is there a unified capacity of imagination or are there many distinct capacities?

§How did a mind that evolved to act in the here and now develop the capacity to creatively imagine radical departures from reality?

We plan to run the conference as an in-person event. However, we will take steps to ensure that accepted talks can be presented remotely if required due to pandemic-related restrictions. In the event that there are stricter restrictions in place in the UK in September that prevent the event from going ahead in person, the evnt will be moved online.

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