Scott & Heather Kleiner Lecture Series
Gilbert Ryle claims that perception involves both sensation and thought. Sensory imagining, he holds, though usually considered to involve something like the recreation of sensation, in fact involves only the deployment of perceptual thought. Ryle thus offers the most radical alternative to the account of imagining that has dominated thinking in both philosophy and psychology.
Ultimately, Ryle’s radical anti-sensationalism proves untenable. Nonetheless, in theorizing the imagination much can be learned from his emphasis on the role of thought or knowledge, and his de-emphasisising the role of anything like sensation. I try to say more about the kind of knowledge in play, and to use that to capture various important aspects of sensory imagining. I concede that perceptual thought alone cannot be all there is to such imaginative states. The residue can be distinguished sharply from perceptual sensation, and its role in imagining can be circumscribed, but its existence must be acknowledged.