Imagination in perception and art

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The phenomenon of imagination plays an important though ambiguous role in philosophy and psychology. In this article, we describe its prereflective aspects, elucidating a form of imagination with defining consequences for our every experience. We lean on the epistemological framework developed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his book, Phenomenology of Perception (1945/2012), and argue that prereflective imagination can affect perceptual experiences in specific ways: it signifies an awareness of potential variations of our phenomenological field. This variability affects how we experience our perceptual field as meaningful. By discussing both perception of ordinary objects and experiences of art, we show how the latter involve prereflective imagination to a greater extent than ordinary perception. Our awareness of the difference between imaginary engagement in these experiences both enhances the theoretical clarity of the phenomenon of imagination and is a necessity if we wish to understand the psychological meanings arising from experiences of imagination.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)99-117
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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