I will be giving a talk on imaginative resistance at the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division meeting in San Diego, on March 29, Thursday @ 5pm. In this paper, I criticize some of the recent trends in imaginative resistance research and put forward a positive account.
The phenomenon of imaginative resistance refers to the inability or unwillingness to engage with the particular imaginative activities prompted by works of fiction. For instance, suppose that Crime and Punishment were modified so that the narrator told us that Raskolnikov’s crime was the morally right thing to do. Even though we would then have no problem imagining the rest of the story as it is and accepting the author’s authority in telling us what is true in the story, there seems to be a problem imagining that Raskolnikov would be morally justified.
In the first part of my paper, I criticize some of the recent positions on imaginative resistance (Shen-yi Liao, Nina Strohminger, and Chandra Sekhar Sripada (2014) and Shen-yi Liao (forthcoming)), which I believe are contributing to the trend of straying away from the original promise of imaginative resistance research. But also, I want to acknowledge some of their strengths as well, particularly a compelling diagnosis they make (i.e. genre makes a difference). In the second part, I provide my own interpretation of the phenomenon and show that my interpretation also provides the theoretical framework to account for this compelling diagnosis. I argue that the reason why we find it almost impossible to engage in the imaginative activity prompted by a fictional work is grounded not only in moral disapprobation it creates but also in the emotion of disgust that mingles with and amplifies the disapprobation.