, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 31–38 | Cite as

Is Imagination Introspective?

  • Kevin ReuterEmail author


The literature suggests that in sensory imagination we focus on the imagined objects, not on the imaginative states themselves, and that therefore imagination is not introspective. It is claimed that the introspection of imaginative states is an additional cognitive ability. However, there seem to be counterexamples to this claim. In many cases in which we sensorily imagine a certain object in front of us, we are aware that this object is not really where we imagine it to be. So it looks as if in these cases of imagination, we are aware of the mere appearance of the imagined object, and hence introspection is a constitutive part of imagination. In this article, I address this contradictory state of affairs and argue that we should classify at least some forms of sensory imagination as introspective. For this purpose I use the appearance-reality distinction as a central notion for introspection. I also defend the thesis of introspective imagination against the objection that young children imagine without yet understanding the concept of experience.


Imagination Introspection Appearance-reality distinction Consciousness Sartre McGinn 



I thank the participants of the Summer Graduate Conference (London) and the BPPA Conference (Durham) for their helpful comments and discussion. Special thanks to Sarah Patterson, Michael O’Sullivan and an anonymous referee of Philosophia for detailed comments on previous versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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