Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 42, 2008

Philosophy of Mind

Markus Kneer
Pages 97-102

Imagining Being Napoleon

If I want to imagine myself to be someone else, say, Napoleon, a problem arises concerning the protagonist of the imagined scenario: One has to attribute two conflicting personal identities to this protagonist, my own (the imaginer’s) and Napoleon’s (the target subject) – hence, a metaphysical impossibility arises. The metaphysically impossible is generally deemed inconceivable and hence unimaginable – however, we generally take ourselves capable of imagining being someone else. Williams (1966), who first raised the issue, proposes a way to overcome the philosophical obstacle posed by such so‐called transference imagination, namely one in which only Napoleon (the target subject) figures in the content of the imaginer. Over the years, a number of arguments have been proposed in support of this approach. My contribution disputes Williams’ approach by (1) refuting the arguments in its favour, (2) advancing some independent considerations against its plausibility, and (3) proposing a new and more intuitively appealing way of thinking about transference imagination.