Meta-Imagination and the Language Game of Visualizing [Ad-Free][Member Exclusive]

Discover how individuals with aphantasia engage in imaginative processes using language and how this experience differs from visualizers.

Unlocks on September 26, 2023

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Meta-imagination with Christian Scholz

Imagine pretending to be a daring pirate while playing with a 4-year-old, seeing a tranquil beach during a relaxation exercise or conjuring a morally ambiguous detective roaming the streets of Vienna while crafting a noir novel. People with aphantasia cannot imagine scenarios visually but can engage in the language game of visualizing through a process of meta-imagination.

Research on aphantasia shows that aphantasics, despite their inability to visualize, perform successfully on a range of visual mental imagery tasks. Taking this initially puzzling result as its starting point, this presentation draws on the writings of the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein to question our understanding of mental images and their role in our overall cognition.

A new theoretical concept, called meta-imagination is introduced, and it is argued that a range of visual imagery tasks do not actually require the ability to visualize but only the ability to meta-imagine (i.e., to act as if one is visualizing), which aphantasics can do.

About the Researcher

Christian Scholz is currently working as a PhD student at the Institute for Philosophy II at the Ruhr-University of Bochum. Previously, he obtained master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and Logic from the University of Groningen and the University of Amsterdam. His work focuses on the philosophy of mind, where he is especially interested in mental imagery and the phenomenon of aphantasia. He strongly believes that a neuroscientific approach to mental phenomena should be combined with philosophical conceptual analysis and that theoretical conceptualizations, in turn, greatly benefit from an empathetic approach toward the subject. 

Scholz, C. (2023). Imaginability as Representability: A Wittgensteinian Approach to Aphantasia. MSc in Logic – Universiteit van Amsterdam.