Nick Wiltsher

Nick Wiltsher is a philosopher, working as an associate senior lecturer at Uppsala University in Sweden.

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Previously, he was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow in the Centre for Philosophical Psychology at the University of Antwerp. Before that, Nick was an instructor in the department of philosophy at Auburn University, AL, USA; a post-doctoral fellow at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil; a lecturer at the University of Leeds, UK; and, briefly, a research ethics training officer there.

Nick works on imagination, philosophy of mind, aesthetics, phenomenology, and feminist philosophy. He is developing a comprehensive way of thinking about imaginative experiences, taking phenomenological descriptions and thoughts about their capacities as explananda. Since he is interested in imagination, he is interested in philosophy of mind, particularly questions of content, representation, and intentionality.

In aesthetics, Nick works on issues where imagination and aesthetics overlap; for example, the ontology of artworks and the role of imagination in literature. He also works in natural and environmental aesthetics, and on a range of topics including dance music, film, and aesthetic experience.

Two Ways to Imagine the Future

Given the unavailability of actual time machines, imagination remains one of our best methods of accessing the future. In fact, philosophers sometimes refer to an imaginative capacity for “mental time travel”. But there are two kinds of futures that we can imagine: possible futures, and fictional futures. These two kinds correspond to a distinction between possible worlds and fictional worlds. Possible worlds are complete and consistent; fictional worlds need not be either. Imagination bears a different relation to each kind of world. In particular, the conditions of success on imagining a possible world differ from those on imagining a fictional world. What we might reasonably hope to achieve by imagining each kind of world differs accordingly. If imagining fictional and possible worlds are our two modes of access to the future, successful imagining of the future depends on choosing the right kind of world to imagine relative to our goals. I’ll examine in this talk the modes of mental time travel provided by imagining each kind of world, with special attention to their different conditions of success.