Imagination permeates all the areas of knowledge, even the ones which are traditionally seen as being based purely on logic and reason, such as mathematics. It can mean something different to different people, so any definition is limited. However, the OED says…




1. the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses: she’d never been blessed with a vivid imagination
her story captured the public’s imagination
; 2. the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful: she was set in her ways and lacked imagination
; 3. the part of the mind that imagines things: a girl who existed only in my imagination

In other words, there are different elements to imagination: first, a way of developing knowledge without the help of our senses; second, something that allows us extra scope in understanding concepts, ideas, or phenomena. Both definitions are associated with creativity, and the ability to make a leap of understanding without necessarily knowing how and why. This ability to ‘think laterally’ is hard to predict and fully measure, which is why imagination is often regarded as something a little unpredictable, and in some cultures, mistrusted.
Knowledge questions that are linked to imagination include: Can we imagine something that isn’t possible? How does imagination relate to empathy? How does the role and reliability of imagination in providing us with knowledge differ according to the different areas of knowledge?

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