Madeleine Hyde

Academic dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy at Stockholm University to be publicly defended on Friday, February 26, 2021 at 05:00 PM Stockholm.

Online via Zoom.

Faculty opponent: Amy Kind (Clermont McKenna College)



My thesis centres on the question of whether imaginative states can give rise to knowledge - including whether, and the extent to which, imaginative states can justify beliefs. Across seven chapters, I answer that imaginative states can indeed give rise to knowledge. The first and final chapters introduce and summarise the thesis. In the second chapter, I ask both what different cases of imagining have in common and what sets them apart from other kinds of mental states. In the third chapter, I set out two key challenges that any theory of knowledge by imagination should respond to. The voluntarism challenge asks how imagination can play an evidential role since its content can be voluntarily controlled. The reliability challenge asks whether imaginative states are reliable enough to produce knowledge. I explain what these challenges involve and why they are distinctive, and assess how existing theories of knowledge by imagination could respond to them. I then evaluate the effectiveness of each response.  

In Chapter 4, I focus on a particular theory of justification - Phenomenal Conservatism, which says that what we are justified in believing is what seems to us to be the case. On the face of it, such a theory appears to exclude imagination as a source of justification. However, I will show how an advocate of Phenomenal Conservatism can include justification by imagination in their model after all. Thereafter in Chapter 5, I ask whether imaginative states can give rise to a particular kind of knowledge: self-knowledge. I look at inward-looking, outward-looking and expressivist theories of self-knowledge. I close Chapter 5 by concluding that all three of these theories can explain how imaginative states can help us acquire self-knowledge.

Then in Chapter 6, I turn to see how the Imagination Model of Dreams, which states that dreaming is a kind of imagining, faces a certain challenge if imagination can give rise to knowledge. However,  I will show how the imagination model of dreams can be made compatible with justification by imagination, such that we do not have to choose between giving up on justification by imagination or giving in to the sceptic, thus also rescuing the safety of our everyday knowledge.