Imagination Given Free Reign during Three-day Conference

Imagine this: a conference that investigates the many and varied domains of knowledge that come to us expressly through the imagination.
Well, that conference (Knowledge Through Imagination) held April 19-21 through the auspices of the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, attracted a panel of first-rate speakers from around the world, dozens of attendees and has been judged an outstanding success.

“One of the wonderful aspects was the penetrating yet congenial discussion that took place in every single session,” says Amy Kind, Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair at CMC and conference co-organizer with Peter Kung, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pomona College. “People were really working together to achieve a deeper understanding of the issues before us, and you could feel throughout the conference that real progress was being made.”

The conference investigated many different domains in which we come to know by imagining including emotional knowledge, aesthetic knowledge, knowledge of other minds and modal knowledge.

On average, most sessions attracted about 35 attendees with perhaps 60 people attending all or part of the conference which was held in the Kravis Center. “This was exactly the size we were aiming for,” Kind says, “we didn’t want to be in a cavernous lecture hall, but rather to have each session at a size in which real discussion and conversation could take place among the participants.”

According to Nathan Pensler ’13, a Philosophy major at Pitzer College who attended most of the sessions, the intimate size and setting was a winning formula.
“It was a great opportunity to get acquainted with questions having to do with the imagination, an area that I knew little about,” he says. “Though I had fun throughout and came away with a better understanding of issues in this area, I especially enjoyed meeting some of the younger philosophers in attendance. It was interesting to hear about their experiences in philosophy, given that life after college is looming larger as my junior year comes to a close.”
Kind says that she and the other conference organizers hoped to bring together a critical mass of people who work on the imagination, in an effort to learn more about its uses in a wide range of domains engaging with art and fiction, moral reasoning, empathy, perception, counter factual reasoning, epistemology of modality, etc. Towards that end, she says, they engaged nine speakers plus 6 additional speakers, all who had done considerable work on the imagination across various areas of inquiry.

Janet Levin, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at USC, attended the conference and was excited to discover so many people working on pertinent questions.

“The individual talks were not only interesting, but their juxtaposition suggested new ways of thinking about the relationship between imagination and knowledge, and pointed the way to further interdisciplinary work on these topics,” she says. “The conference was well-attended by philosophy faculty and students from around the Claremont area and also from Los Angeles, Riverside, Fullerton, and beyond and the discussion of the papers was unusually focused and fruitful.”

Kind says that research interests including various philosophical issues surrounding the imagination dovetailed nicely with her current position as interim director of the Gould Center. “Doing something related to the imagination seemed to be an obvious choice,” she says, “given the important uses to which the imagination is put.”

Although current plans don’t exist to duplicate the conference next year, Kind says they are contemplating an edited volume that would include many of the papers presented at the conference.

“We received excellent support from CMC throughout this process,” Kind says, “particularly the amazing work of Celina Rosas who works in faculty support, Kevin Bostwick who created our poster and Tim Geaghan who created our conference website.”