Tag Archives: imagination

R. M. Hare

Objection might be taken to the claim that there could be a ‘bare sensation’ of pain which was not disliked. What, it might be asked, would such an experience be like? Can we imagine such an experience? I think that I can not only imagine it, but have had it; but I shall return to this question later. Here I shall just make the obvious point that we cannot conclude, from the fact that something surpasses our imagination, that it cannot happen. I cannot myself imagine what the electric torture would be like; but that does not take away the possibility that it might be inflicted on me. It would be more relevant if it could be established that no sense could be given to the expression ‘experience which is like pain except for not being disliked.’ But that is precisely the question at issue, and this whole paper is an attempt to see what sense can be given to such an expression.

R. M. Hare, ‘Pain and Evil’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. 38 (1964), p. 95

Colin McGinn

[M]orality is founded in a sense of the contingency of the world, and it is powered by the ability to envisage alternatives. Imagination is central to its operations. The morally complacent person is the person who cannot conceive how things could have been different; he or she fails to appreciate the role of luck—itself a concept that relies on imagining alternatives. There is no point in seeking change if this is the way things have to be. Morality is thus based on modality: that is, on a mastery of the concepts of necessity and possibility. To be able to think morally is to be able to think modally. Specifically, it depends upon seeing other possibilities—not taking the actual as the necessary.

Colin McGinn, ‘Apes, Humans, Aliens, Vampires and Robots’, in Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer (eds.), The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity, New York, 1993, p. 147