Philosophies of Imagination module (PI51026)

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Module code


  • What is 'imagination'?
  • What key concepts, thinkers and themes can be used to explore it?
  • How can philosophical theories be translated into, or exert an influence upon, creative practices?
  • In what sense is philosophy a 'creative practice'?
  • Is life itself a creative practice?

Such are the questions tackled by this module. The key theme is inspiration – how can philosophical theories better inspire us to be imaginative and creative?

The first part of the module is structured around key concepts. The aim here is to gain key concepts from the history of philosophy that can subsequently be refined, applied and developed as the module unfolds.

Each week, we cover new themes and thinkers related to the overarching themes of imagination and creativity. These may vary depending on staff availability, but we aim to include themes such as:

  • the faculties of imagination
  • the image
  • the importance of ‘place’ for imagination
  • the zoological imagination
  • the temporal-political imagination
  • the unconscious 


2 x essay 3,000 words each (50% each) 


1 x 1,500 word art project description (30%) and 1 x applied art project (70%) for MFA students

Intended learning outcomes

  • Students will become acquainted with major developments in both the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy.   
  • Students will appreciate how theories covered fit into our contemporary cultural, political, and socio-economic context.
  • Students will gain an ability to critically assess key concepts, and to apply them to creative work in Philosophy and, where relevant, other fields.
  • Students will acquire enhanced skills in the reading of philosophical texts.
  • Students’ capacities for critical thinking will be significantly enhanced.
  • Students will develop their skills in analysing and engaging with complex positions and arguments


  • To provide an in-depth understanding of imagination and creativity as important themes throughout the history of philosophy.
  • To demonstrate the practical applications of philosophical theory as a source of inspiration for creative practices.
  • To introduce key philosophical concepts related to imagination and creativity, including, but not limited to: ‘the unconscious’, ‘method’, ‘solitude’, ‘madness’, ‘play’ and ‘dreaming’.  
  • To use a wide repertoire of cultural sources to provoke and focus imaginative and creative philosophical thinking: from artworks and films to literary extracts and adverts.
  • To understand contemporary developments in diverse philosophical fields, including, but not limited to: analytic philosophy, literary theory, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and post-structuralism.
  • To complement the extant Philosophy postgraduate programme, and postgraduate programmes across the University more broadly, including those in Humanities and at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College (DJCAD).


Dr Dominic Smith


Teaching and learning is by seminar, tutorial and individual study. Across the semester, there are 22 hours of seminars plus individual tutorial contact.