HPS Seminar - Dr Mike Stuart (LSE)

A framework for doing epistemology of (scientific) imagination

Abstract: Scientists need imagination. They use it to generate hypotheses, create models, design experiments, interpret data and occasionally, invent demons, travel through time and ride on light waves. Some of these actions have epistemic import, which draws us toward the epistemology of (scientific) imagination. In this talk, I present a framework that can accommodate insights of cognitive science for investigating the epistemological uses of imagination. According to this framework, two kinds of imagination form the ends of a spectrum. On one side there is imagination that is unconscious, uncontrolled, and effortless. On the other is a kind of imagination that is conscious, controlled, and effortful. The two kinds of imagination have different epistemological strengths and weaknesses, and can be combined in ways that amplify their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. As a proof of concept, I show how this framework can dissolve two epistemological puzzles concerning imagination in science, profitably re-frame the epistemological literature concerning scientific thought experiments, and provide the beginnings of a more general epistemology of (scientific) imagination.

Location details

Baines Wing (G. 36)