imaginationimagination Imagination,
Mental Imagery,
Consciousness, and Cognition:
Scientific, Philosophical and Historical Approaches.

A resource for the study of imagination and mental images and their relevance to the understanding of consciousness and cognition, as approached primarily through the methods of analytical philosophy, experimental psychology, cognitive science, and the history of ideas/intellectual history.

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Imagination, Mental Images, Consciousness, Cognition: Science, Philosophy, History


Imagination is what makes our sensory experience meaningful, enabling us to interpret and make sense of it, whether from a conventional perspective or from a fresh, original, individual one. It is what makes perception more than the mere physical stimulation of sense organs. It also produces mental imagery, visual and otherwise, which is what makes it possible for us to think outside the confines of our present perceptual reality, to consider memories of the past and possibilities for the future, and to weigh alternatives against one another. Thus, imagination makes possible all our thinking about what is, what has been, and, perhaps most important, what might be.[Note]

Nigel J.T. Thomas
This "quote" was solicited from me by the editor of a "lifestyle" magazine called AfterFive that was supposed to begin publication in late 2002 or early 2003. It was going to be included in a brief feature on Imagination that was planned for the first issue, possibly along with a few words about me and my work (they even asked me for a photo!). However, AfterFive seems never actually to have appeared. I did not hear from them after late 2002, and their Website disappeared some time after that. Nevertheless, I am quite pleased with the "quote" I wrote for them. Of course, any fool can make magniloquent claims about the imagination, and many do, but I actually have arguments and evidence to back mine up.N.J.T.T.

Digital art by jarry85, incorporating and inspired by the above

Imagination, Mental Images, Consciousness, Cognition: Science, Philosophy, History

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Site created & maintained by
Nigel J.T. Thomas Ph.D.

I am a philosopher, cognitive scientist, and historian of science and psychology. I formerly taught at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), at California State University, Los Angeles, and, on-and-off, at other colleges in the Los Angeles area, but I have now returned to live in my native Great Britain. Click here for my Curriculum Vitae. I have a particular research interest in what I believe to be the closely related topics of imagination, mental imagery, consciousness, conscious thought, and intentionality. This page provides access to some of my writings (published and unpublished) on these topics (and on the history of science). I also provide several lists of commented links to other online resources that may be useful to students of these topics. Since consciousness and cognition are already so well served, this site will concentrate mainly on linking to material on imagination and mental images. (And if anyone wants to offer me a job...
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I would like to put in links to more sites dealing with related topics, particularly imagination and mental imagery approached from serious scientific, philosophical or historical perspectives (there is plenty of consciousness and cognition on the web already). If you have, or know of, any such sites, or if you have work that you think might be appropriate to have made available here, please email me.

Also please email me with any comments or questions you might have about this site or my work.I try to reply to most polite and relevant queries, at least if I have something useful to say, but I cannot promise replies. Please note that I am neither qualified nor willing to give medical or psychiatric advice. I am not going to do your homework or class assignments for you either!

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My Writings

Imagery, imagination & consciousness Other issues in the theory of mind and consciousness The history of biochemistry

Each of the links listed below leads to an article of mine, or sometimes to an abstract linked to the article itself. Items that have already been formally published in refereed journals, books, etc., or are accepted for publication and currently in press, are marked with an asterisk (*). Most of the other items were presentations at academic conferences.
Nigel J.T. Thomas Ph.D.

Mental imagery, imagination, and conscious thought:

Other issues in the theory of mind and consciousness:

Some material on the History of Biochemistry:

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Links Collections
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imagination Imagination Links.
Miscellaneous web sites that discuss the nature of imagination (and related concepts), or are otherwise relevant to understanding it.

mental images Mental Imagery - Theories and Experiments.
An extensive listing of web sites dealing with the psychology, cognitive science and philosophy of mental imagery.

applied mental imagery Applied Mental Imagery.
Imagery based techniques have been used quite extensively in clinical psychology and psychotherapy, psychological and even spiritual "self-help," sports training, pain control, etc. (Material on mnemonic applications of imagery, which may overlap with educational ones, can be found on the Mental Imagery - Theories and Experiments page.) I am not recommending or endorsing any of the techniques or services described on these sites.

imagination Journals.
Web sites of peer review journals that cover imagery, imagination, consciousness etc.

dreams Links on Dreaming.
Dreams are widely and plausibly believed to be products of the imagination, and to consist largely or entirely of imagery.

cognition and art Sites Dealing with the Relevance of Cognitive Science Concepts to the Arts and Humanities.
But with no explicit focus on imagination.

consciousness mind cognition Links on Consciousness, Cognition, and the Philosophy of Mind.
Here are some recommended sites for anyone who came looking for general material on consciousness, the philosophy of mind, and/or cognition, rather than specifically on mental imagery or imagination

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Imagination, mental image, consciousness, cognition