Timothy Williamson
University of Oxford

Collective Imagining


Interest has increased in ascribing mental states like knowledge, belief, and intention to collectives: societies, institutions, scientific communities, groups of friends. The talk will show how to extend this idea to imagination. Although it includes collective fictions, the main focus will be on the cognitive function of imagination, e.g. in answering conditional questions like ‘If we do that, what will happen?’ As examples show, imagining serves this cognitive function collectively as well as individually. Nor should collective imagination be understood as an externalization of individual imagination; individual imagination can be understood as an internalization of collective imagination. Connections between imagination and experience also hold at the collective as well as the individual level.

Keywords: imagination, images, collectives, institutions, scientific communities, conditionals, experience