What Good Is An Imagination?


We know our kids have it (in alarmingly huge quantities sometimes). We know they enjoy it. One might even say they live in it, but sometimes grown-ups question the place and value of imagination in our everyday lives. Sometimes it seems like a luxury to let our minds wander into the fantastical and unreal.

But maybe our kids have the right idea. Being imaginative can actually help in the development of real (and important) thinking skills. Musing on unicorns, dragons, and castles made of candy is far more productive than one would think.

From a philosopher’s perspective, imagination actually helps us to:

  • Reason. With imagination, we come up with all kinds of different scenarios with which to test our theories. It’s pretty difficult to play “what if” without being able to come up with hypotheticals, even ones that don’t actually exist.
  • Fell empathy. A big part of philosophy is examining our relationships to other beings, and this requires us to imagine what other people are thinking and feeling.
  • Innovate! So much of our growth and progress as thinkers (and makers and doers) calls for us to go beyond what’s already there.
  • Communicate. Because imagination is so closely linked to who we are as humans, a whole lot of what we say to each other is tied to it.
  • Understand what’s around us. The universe isn’t always immediately accessible, but our imaginations allow us to go beyond the parts of it that we see in front of us.

On a very practical level, imagination helps in our personal, academic and professional lives. Allowing your child’s imagination (and your own as well) to run wild on a regular basis isn’t a matter of killing time, but an investment in them as big thinkers.

Here’s a fascinating video about how imagination actually works, from a neurological perspective: