Imagining cinema

'cinempathy' and the embodied imagination

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Imagination has been the focus of much philosophical inquiry in recent decades. Although it plays an essential role in linking emotional engagement with ethical experience, imagination has received comparatively little attention in film-philosophy. In this article, I argue that imagination plays an essential role in linking emotional engagement with moral-ethical experience. Drawing on phenomenological, cognitive, and aesthetic perspectives, I focus on perceptual imagining, and suggest that an account of embodied cinematic imagination – encompassing both perceptual/sensory and propositional/cognitive imagining – is especially relevant to theorising cinematic experience. The interplay of first person empathic and third person sympathetic perspectives (‘cinempathy’) is another essential feature of our emotional and ethical engagement with cinema. By synthesizing ‘bottom-up’ sensory, affective responses to audiovisual images, with ‘top-down’ cognitive processes associated with mental simulation, an account of embodied cinematic imagination can explain how emotional engagement and ethical responsiveness work together in our experience of audiovisual narratives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Pages (from-to)281-297
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • imagination
  • aesthetics
  • empathy
  • emotion
  • embodiment
  • ethics
  • film-philosophy

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