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Visual Imagery: Visual Format or Visual Content?


  • Many thanks to Rosanna Keefe for helpful discussion of the ideas in this paper; and many thanks to two anonymous referees for this journal for their sharp and helpful comments.

Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield, 45 Victoria Street, Sheffield, S3 7QB, UK.


It is clear that visual imagery is somehow significantly visual. Some theorists, like Kosslyn, claim that the visual nature of visualisations derives from features of the neural processes which underlie those episodes. Pylyshyn claims, however, that it may merely reflect special features of the contents which we grasp when we visualise things. This paper discusses and rejects Pylyshyn's own attempts to identify the respects in which the contents of visualisations are notably visual. It then offers a novel and very different account of what is distinctively sensory about the contents of sensory images. The paper's alternative account is used in explaining various pieces of phenomenological and behavioural data concerning visualisation. Finally, it is tentatively suggested that the proposed account of the contents of sensory images may also shed light upon some of the neurological data involving visualisation and sensory imagery more generally.