Impossible worlds and the logic of imagination

Francesco Berto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


I want to model a finite, fallible cognitive agent who imagines that p in the sense of mentally representing a scenario—a configuration of objects and properties—correctly described by p. I propose to capture imagination, so understood, via variably strict world quantifiers, in a modal framework including both possible and so-called impossible worlds. The latter secure lack of classical logical closure for the relevant mental states, while the variability of strictness captures how the agent imports information from actuality in the imagined non-actual scenarios. Imagination turns out to be highly hyperintensional, but not logically anarchic. Section 1 sets the stage and impossible worlds are quickly introduced in Sect. 2. Section 3 proposes to model imagination via variably strict world quantifiers. Section 4 introduces the formal semantics. Section 5 argues that imagination has a minimal mereological structure validating some logical inferences. Section 6 deals with how imagination under-determines the represented contents. Section 7 proposes additional constraints on the semantics, validating further inferences. Section 8 describes some welcome invalidities. Section 9 examines the effects of importing false beliefs into the imagined scenarios. Finally, Sect. 10 hints at possible developments of the theory in the direction of two-dimensional semantics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1277-1297
Number of pages21
Issue number6
Early online date31 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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