Visualise an apple. There is something inherently sensory about it – it might appear as red or green before the mind’s eye; it might be of a circular shape. It may well be a reflection of the last apple you ate. But what actually is this ‘mental image’ – how does it fit in with our taxonomies of the mind, and of imagination? And how do imagery states compare and contrast with perception, hallucination, dreaming, and other sensory states of the mind? What is it like to have an imagery experience? My project attempts to answer all of these questions.
To do so, I want to look at various extremes of these types of states. For instance, there has been a recent explosion of interest in two imagery-related neurodivergences: aphantasia, characterised by a lack of visual imagery, and hyperphantasia, characterised by imagery that is as vivid as perception. These two neurodivergences – particularly the more underexplored hyperphantasia – are highly likely to contribute to ideas of what it is like to be in an imagery state, what phenomenal qualities it is that imagery states possess, and how precisely they might differ from perception. I aim to explore these states further and try to give a better characterisation of what it is to undergo a hyperphantasic imagery experience than has previously been given. I am also interested in what other conditions, such as derealisation, or blindsight, may be able to say about imagery states – and the mind more generally – as well.