On Picturing a Candle: The Prehistory of Imagery Science.
Frontiers in Psychology
This is the final version of the article. Available from Frontiers Media via the DOI in this record.
The past 25 years have seen a rapid growth of knowledge about brain mechanisms involved in visual mental imagery. These advances have largely been made independently of the long history of philosophical - and even psychological - reckoning with imagery and its parent concept 'imagination'. We suggest that the view from these empirical findings can be widened by an appreciation of imagination's intellectual history, and we seek to show how that history both created the conditions for - and presents challenges to - the scientific endeavor. We focus on the neuroscientific literature's most commonly used task - imagining a concrete object - and, after sketching what is known of the neurobiological mechanisms involved, we examine the same basic act of imagining from the perspective of several key positions in the history of philosophy and psychology. We present positions that, firstly, contextualize and inform the neuroscientific account, and secondly, pose conceptual and methodological challenges to the scientific analysis of imagery. We conclude by reflecting on the intellectual history of visualization in the light of contemporary science, and the extent to which such science may resolve long-standing theoretical debates.
This research was conducted under the auspices of ‘The Eye’s Mind: a study of the neural basis of visual imagination and its role in culture’, which is supported by an Art and Humanities Research Council Innovation Award (AH/M002756/1). The funding source is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The funder had no role in the preparation of the manuscript or the decision to publish.
Vol. 7, pp. 515 -
Place of publication