Institut Jean Nicod

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Imagination : Roots and Reasons

Abstract

IMAGINATION : ROOTS AND REASONS

Radu Bogdan

The human mind is able consciously, deliberately and reflectivey to vault itself cognitively out of the enclosure of current perception, motivation, emotion and action, and leap over to future or past or possible or even impossible facts, situations or scenarios. This is what imagination (in a strong, suppositional, propositional sense) does.

The central argument is that imagination is uniquely human, with no apparent precursors in the animal world. This is one evolutionary puzzle. Furthermore, the capacities to imagine do not seem to have dedicated genetic bases or specialized brain sites, do not operate as modules, and are domain versatile. It is also not obvious what specific pressures in what specific domains may have selected for imagining, which is why the standard explanation by gradual natural selection is unlikely to work. The way out of these puzzles is to reorient the evolutionary analysis toward human ontogeny, regarded as a genuine space of evolution, with its specific and often dated pressures and its adaptive responses. Imagination results from ontogenetic responses to the mostly sociocultural and sociopolitical pressures of later childhood.


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