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What is imagination?

  1. Nov 8, 2008 #1
    Can imagination be reduced to simple physical processes? Like neurons firing and carrying information that's collected, stored and processed. It appears that in imagination all known laws of nature/physics can be broken, down to the last one. Imagination seems to be limitless, almost like a trait of an omnipowerful entity, a human being can picture anything - even that which defies all logic and common sense. In terms of physics, the whole universe is supposed to make sense and be governed by laws. What laws would govern a limitless human imagination? And most importantly, since we have found that everything in the universe is made of something, be it zero-dimensional point particles or 1-dimensional strings, what is imagination(or an imaginary concept) made out of? If it's made of one of those listed particles, then that raises very serious philosophical questions concerning reality. And if you deny the existence of imagination/thoughts in our physical realm of existence, what kind of realm do they occupy and how do we define it in terms of physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2008 #2
  4. Nov 12, 2008 #3
    I think the brain has amazing capabilities (within the physical realm of course), and that it can juggle memorized stimuli input around into new things.
    I dunno about you but when I dream, I don't feel like I'm seeing something /entirely/ new, it's all just a mixed stuff of what my brain has already memorized.

    You still see colors, forms, and you have emotions attached to them.
    Have you ever had a colorless, formless dream, that was still a dream?
    The brain seems to be able to create new feelings, and new images, but this does not mean they break logic or reality's rules.
    Not on the lower levels anyway, a dream is nothing but forms and colors, so I don't see why there is any implication with reality, since it is presumably only in our heads.

    An artist can draw something on a piece of paper, something which doesn't exist in reality, similarly the brain can draw images in the head. No questions are needed imo.
  5. Nov 12, 2008 #4

    I am not questioning the illusory nature of dreams. I am seeking to find if anyone has any remote idea or suggestion what those illusions might be made of. The only components of reality we know of are electrons, quarks, waves and possibly strings. Obviously dreams do not have a material nature and so aren't made of particles. There must be something else to account for their immaterial existense. Science calls this an emergent property but it just goes to show how hopelessly limited our understanding is. We are still like taliban coming across a deserted space ship.

    What can we say for sure exists in reality? A mental picture?
  6. Nov 13, 2008 #5
    Regarding this stuff we can't say almost anything for sure.
    I understand your question now, and I would say that the fundamental problem would be "how does the brain function?"

    While that is a very simplistic view, it kind of narrows it down and opens it up at the same time.
    The brain can do a lot of things, among them are memories, dreams, consciousness, emotions, intuition, language and abstraction.

    I feel all these things are very closely related, and your dream question would certainly come into the equation.
    And I can say right now that nobody has any idea what these illusions are made of.
    Nobody knows the brain system yet.

    But what I can say is that you make an assumption in your post
    1. they might not be immaterial

    While intuitively one might think dreams and memories and general brain activity is immaterial, but it might not be the case.
    I'm not saying it's not, but we certainly can't rule it out completely eh!

    On that note, I feel only science is capable of really digging in and finding out how the brain works. Philosophers have been going at it for centuries with no real results, but on the other hand, scientists have too and are not much closer.
    I'm not sure about the cutting edge developments in neuroscience and other such areas, but I'm sure nobody's really found anything substantial yet.
  7. Nov 13, 2008 #6
    Poor talibs, even though they still can kill and outsmart those ufo's in an Apache.
    "Obviously dreams do not have a material nature and so aren't made of particles. There must be something else to account for their immaterial existence. Science calls this an emergent property but it just goes to show how hopelessly limited our understanding is. We are still like taliban coming across a deserted space ship."
    As long as science still doesn't know the question posed in the OP, then we can't make such a statement... Anyone can still belive in monism, dualism, any any other ism for that matter.
  8. Nov 13, 2008 #7

    I know there is no clear cut answer to the question in the OP but would you rather believe that dreams are illusiory but are made of the particles we know about?
  9. Nov 14, 2008 #8
    Since the topic is Imagination and we are looking for the substance that causes it, i suggest anyone interested in the nature of imagination to research a substance DMT(Dimethyltryptamine) that's produced by the pineal glands. The same substance can be extracted and inhaled by smoking a strand of weed called ayahuasca. It's also dubbed religious weed as it's said to open up the mind to a new reality, with details as real as your real world experience. Neuroscientists believe dreams and imagination are caused by DMT when one falls asleep. Here is a link with a short description of DMT and user accounts of their experiences.


    "A biochemical mechanism for this was proposed by the medical researcher J. C. Callaway, who suggested in 1988 that DMT might be connected with visual dream phenomena, where brain DMT levels are periodically elevated to induce visual dreaming and possibly other natural states of mind."


    "DMT - the spirit molecule", the book by psychiatrist Rick Strassman on his 5 years research on the chemistry of the mind:

    A summary of the closing chapter:

    "Finally, I address the evolutionary significance of endogenous human DMT, and conclude that DMT exists in our brains in order to provide consciousness a necessary mechanism: as a spirit molecule allowing us to gain access to non-material realms."
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2008
  10. Nov 14, 2008 #9
    Where are we? something inside the brains to receive information from the world through nerve ???
  11. Nov 14, 2008 #10
    It'd be tough to answer your question and pinpoint our exact location but it's safe to say we are located in our minds.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2008
  12. Nov 15, 2008 #11
    I hope we can still stick with the physics in this question. I will try to lay out some foundations for physicists to build on, or at least discuss... BTW I still don't have much background in physics, so sorry if this sounds bolonii:
    Now let's for a moment belive this:
    Now speaking about imagination which comes from the mind, could we say that it's because of electrons(?...) in some Quantum entanglement?
  13. Nov 15, 2008 #12

    Since your guess is as good as mine, i'll propose that consciousness/imagination cannot be described through the elementary particles found in the Stanbdard model. One hundred and fifty years ago we were unaware of the quantum world and we had no idea matter was a form of condensed energy, ruled by subatomic forces. IMO consciousness doesn't make sense with the current understanding of the structure of the world and new discoveries are needed to account for consciouness arising from inanimate matter. We may never know though, and that's my nightmare.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2008
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