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Stephen Asma, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Columbia College Chicago

The Evolution of Imagination

Dr. Stephen Asma, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia College Chicago, will speak on the topic, The Evolution of Imagination.  Imagination is a major part of our inner lives.  Indeed, it makes up a “second universe” inside our heads.  We invent animals and events that don’t exist, we rerun history with alternative outcomes, we envision social and moral utopias, revel in fantasy art, and meditate on what we could have been and what we might become.  Guided by neuroscience, animal behavior, evolution, philosophy, and psychology, Dr. Asma burrows deep into the human psyche to look right at the enigmatic but powerful engine that is our improvisational creativity—the source of our remarkable imaginational capacity.  Imagination is neither a miraculous muse, nor a mechanical circuit of the brain.  Instead, Asma argues, it is one of our earliest forms of cognition, and we can still access it today.

Asma is the author of ten books, including The Evolution of Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2017), The Evolution of Emotion: Affective Roots of Culture and Cognition with Rami Gabriel (Harvard University Press, forthcoming), On Monsters: an Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears (Oxford University Press), and The Gods Drink Whiskey (HarperOne).  He writes regularly for the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Skeptic magazine, and Aeon.   Asma has been an invited lecturer at Harvard University, Brown University, the Field Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Fudan University (Shanghai), University of Macau, Aarhus University Denmark, and many more.