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Micro-workshop on the Imagination in Science and Religion

Baldwin Hall, Room 114A

The Department of Philosophy hosts a Micro-workshop on the Imagination in Science and Religion on Friday Sept 20 from 12:30-5pm Baldwin Hall, Room 114A. Lunch will be served from 12:30-1:30pm. The workshop features talks from Neil Van Leeuwen of Georgia State University and Alice Murphy of University of Leeds and is supported by the Scott and Heather Kleiner fund.

1:30-3:00 Neil Van Leeuwen (Georgia State University) “Props in the Clouds: Religious Imagination and Personal Belief”

This paper illustrates structural parallels between (1) how people in general use objects in their environments as props in imaginative games of make-believe (in Walton’s 1990 sense) and (2) how religious people use objects in their environments to form personal “beliefs” of a religious nature. These parallels are supported by research in the anthropology and psychology of religion, as well as common sense observation. The emerging picture coheres with the general idea that religious credences are, like fictional imaginings, secondary cognitive attitudes—they are not factual beliefs with supernatural contents.

3:15-4:45 Alice Murphy (University of Leeds)    “Beauty and the Scientific Imagination”

It is common for scientists to make (what appear to be) aesthetic judgements or evaluations. The philosophical discussion of aesthetic value in science has primarily focused on theories and mathematical proofs, and thought experiments have been overlooked. I argue that thought experiments should be part of the discussion as they are also referred to as, for example, beautiful or elegant. After raising some worries for an aesthetics of science project, I set out a different way of thinking about the aesthetics of science. This is in terms of how aesthetic content is expressed. I end by linking this view to accounts of understanding in science, particularly those that emphasise the role of visualisation.

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