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Ryle-ing the Irreal: sensory imagining as knowing about sensing

robert hopkins
Tuesday, February 25, 2020, 3:30 pm – 5:10 pm

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
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.