Imagination, Non-existence, Impossibility

  • Graham Priest
Part of the Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 22)


Imagination is one of the most important human abilities. It is deployed in the most mundane parts of human life, such as deciding what to have for breakfast. But it is also at the core of all creative acts, of the kind performed by scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, novelists, musicians, political reformers, visionaries. And it does not take long to see that it is puzzling. I can clearly imagine things that do not exist, and never will exist, such as Anna Karenina, and the Taj Mahal in London. But if I kick something, it has to be there to be kicked. How can I imagine something if it is not there to be imagined? Even worse, the things I imagine may even be impossible. A mathematician imagines that a certain equation has a solution, and then proves that there can be no such thing: it is a mathematical impossibility. How can I imagine something when it is impossible for it to exist?


  1. Aristotle. (1984). In J. Barnes (Ed.), The complete works of Aristotle. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Berto, F. (2013). Impossible worlds. In E. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.
  3. Buridan, J. (2001). In J. Klima (Ed.), Summulae de Dialectica. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  4. De Rijk, L. M. (1982). The origins of the theory of properties of terms. In N. Kretzmann, et al. (Eds.), The Cambridge history of later medieval philosophy (pp. 161–173). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ebbesen, S. (1986). The chimera’s diary. In S. Knuuttila & J. Hintikka (Eds.), The logic of being (pp. 115–143). Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fine, G. (1993). On ideas: Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s theory of forms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Marsilius of Inghen. (1972). In A. Maierù (Ed.), Terminoliga Logica della Tarda Scolastica. Rome: Editzioni dell’Ateno.Google Scholar
  8. Paul of Venice. (1978). In F. del Punta & M. Adams (Eds.), Logica Magna: Secunda Pars, Tractatus de Veritate et Falsitate Propositionis et Tractatus de Significatio Propositionis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Priest, G. (2005). Towards non-being. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2nd (extended) edition, 2016.Google Scholar
  10. Priest, G. (2008). Introduction to non-classical logic: From if to is. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Read, S. (2015). Medieval theories: Properties of terms. In E. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.
  12. Silva, J. F. (2020). Stop making sense(s): Some late medieval and very late medieval views on faculty psychology. Chap. 4 of this volume.Google Scholar
  13. Suárez, F. (1978). In S. Castellote (Ed.), Commentaria una cum questionibus in libros Aristoteles de anima (Vol. 1). Madrid: Sociedad de Estudios y Publicaciones.Google Scholar
  14. Wyatt, N. (2000). Did Duns Scotus invent possible worlds semantics? Australiasian Journal of Philosophy, 78, 196–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Priest
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departments of PhilosophyCUNY Graduate CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.The University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations