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Kant on the epistemic role of the imagination

  • Tobias RosefeldtEmail author
S.I.: The Current Relevance of Kant's Method in Philosophy


In recent years, more and more people have become attracted by the idea that the imagination should play a central role in explaining our knowledge of what is possible and necessary and what would be the case if things were different from how they actually are. The biggest challenge for this account is to explain how the imagination can be restricted in such a way that it can play this epistemic role, for there are certainly also unrestricted uses of the imagination in which it fails to yield the requisite knowledge. In this paper, I inquire how Kant’s account of the imagination could inspire the contemporary debate at this point. I first give an overview about Kant’s account of the imagination and its different roles for our cognition of the real world. I then show that some recent attempts to separate the epistemically valuable uses of the imagination from the epistemically worthless ones bear some striking similarities to Kant’s ideas about how the imagination helps us to get insight into metaphysical possibility. By discussing what Kant says about the method of a priori imaginative construction in the case of concepts such as that of matter and that of disembodied minds, I also point to those aspects of his view which make his views really distinct from all contemporary accounts, but which he himself thought bear the greatest potential of making the imagination a source of modal knowledge.


Kant Imagination Modal epistemology Conceivability Metaphysical possibility 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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