Imaginative Resistance and Disgust
Emine Hande TUNA
Friday, 22 June 2018, 15–17:00, JF507
ABSTRACT: The phenomenon of imaginative resistance refers to the psychological difficulties we might have in engaging with the particular imaginative activities prompted by works of fiction. To get a grip on this, 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 narrator’s authority in telling us what is true in the story, we encounter a problem imagining that Raskolnikov is indeed morally justified. A related question immediately arises: Does this problem we experience in trying to imagine the modified parts of Crime and Punishment compromise the work aesthetically? This problem opens up an explanatory lacuna as well as a possibility for understanding the relationship between the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of our engagement with works of art. Unfortunately, although some valuable diagnoses have emerged in recent work on the phenomenon (genre and gender make a difference), on the whole the discussion has been straying away from this original research question. In this talk I will attempt to provide an alternative interpretation of the phenomenon, which not only furnishes a theoretical framework that can accommodate these compelling diagnoses but also helps to highlight a specific instance of imaginative resistance that might give us interesting insights with respect to the causes of aesthetic displeasure. 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 the moral disapprobation it generates but also in the emotion of disgust that mingles with and amplifies the disapprobation.