International Double Workshop

Ethics and Politics of Imagination

Two workshops related to the projects The Limits of Imagination: Animals, Empathy, Anthropomorphism (P35137-G; funded by the FWF) and Prefiguring Democratic Futures: Cultural and Theoretical Responses to the Crisis of Political Imagination (PREDEF 101055015; funded by the ERC)

  • First workshop session: Oct 13 and 14 2023, Innsbruck, Austria
  • Second workshop session: April 11 and 12 2024, Vienna, Austria

The concept of imagination plays a significant, yet sometimes underestimated or concealed role in the history of as well as in current debates in practical philosophy. Ethics problematizes whether or to what extent imagination forms a basis or at least an irreducible part of moral judgments and behavior. For instance, our treatment of people with non-normative embodiment (Garland-Thomson 2017) may depend on our capacity to empathize with them and to imagine their specific way of being in the world. While it is often claimed that this is easily possible, imaginative empathy is a complex phenomenon. An illustrative example is the case of epistemic injustice as analyzed by Fricker (2009). The tacit inability to imagine that, for example, people with cognitive disabilities can be capable knowers forms the basis of systematic exclusion and disrespect. In politics, imagination is considered in its relevance for forming political judgments as well as in regard to how imaginary dispositives stabilize or destabilize the status quo of a given political order. The neoliberal-capitalist hegemony forecloses the very possibility to imagine institutions and political relations substantially different from the status quo. As Margaret Thatcher’s notorious TINA dictum ‘There is No Alternative’ suggests, ‘radical imagination’ (Castoriadis 1975) and a lively political sense of possibility are repressed. Following this line of thought, it seems urgent to rethink the political’s imaginary dimensions both in its stabilizing (ideological) as well as in its possibility-disclosing and subversive capacities. This double workshop proceeds from the conviction that to thoroughly rethink imagination requires bridging and interweaving ethical and political perspectives. Exploring the possibilities and limits of imagination is crucial both for comprehending the ethical aporias as well as the political antagonisms of our times.


Organized by Martin Huth (Department of Philosophy, University of Innsbruck) & Sergej Seitz (Department of Political Science, University of Vienna)