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Dilip Ninan

Associate Professor
Tufts University
Imagination and the Self
01 September 2020 -
30 June 2021

Dilip Ninan is an associate Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University in Medford, MA, USA. He holds a PhD in philosophy from MIT, and a BPhil in philosophy from Oxford University where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He specializes in the philosophy of language, and has additional research interests in linguistic semantics, epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and philosophical logic. He has published articles in these areas in leading journals in both philosophy and linguistics. His article Quantification and Epistemic Modality was selected by the Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles published in philosophy in 2018. He currently serves as an Editor-in-Chief of the journal Linguistics and Philosophy.

Research Interests

Imagination and the first-person point of view; Knowledge, Assertion, and Future discourse.

Imagination and the Self

Consider two ways that you could imagine yourself skiing down a steep mountain. First, you could imagine the scenario from the point of view of you-qua-skier: in that case, you would see the tips of your skis and the white snow in front of you.  Alternatively, you could instead imagine things from an outside observer’s point of view, and “see” yourself skiing from the outside, as if you were watching a film of yourself skiing. Philosophers call the first type of imagining “imagining from the inside.” This sort of imagining plays an important role in several domains: in the experience of empathy; in our ability to simulate the mental lives of others in the course of predicting what they are going to do; and in the process of making decisions, as when we try to imagine how things will be for us if we undertake a certain course of action. My research project focuses on a particular form of “imagining from the inside”: imagining being someone else, as when I imagine (e.g.) being Napoleon. What is it that I imagine when I imagine being Napoleon? This research project is divided in  three parts: the first argues against extant answers to this question; the second argues for a novel answer to it (what I call the “two-dimensional” theory); and the third explores what such imaginings tell us about the nature of possibility. The relationship between imagination and belief, and the way we talk about imagination underlie the project.

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