Imaginative culture “consists of “the subjects traditionally studied in the humanities—…that part of culture that consists in shared and transmissible mental experiences that are aesthetically and emotionally modulated. Such experiences include religion, ideology, and the arts. Evolutionary cultural theory has heretofore concerned itself mostly with technology and social organization. Imaginative culture is the last major piece in the puzzle of human nature.” (Carroll et al 2020)[i]

Imaginative culture is where the fundamental cognitive function of envisioning possible futures (that can allow anticipation of potential errors) has come to fruition.  Looking at the DEEP determinants and boundaries of imaginative culture can, in this way, reveal ordinarily resistant aspects of each other. 

the evolved cognitive dispositions that make cumulative culture possible” are discussed In a recent collection of articles in the on-line journal, Frontiers in Psychology brought together by Joseph Carroll et al (2022)[ii]  Evolutionary perspectives on the arts, religion, and ideology[iii] are brought to the foreground.  






  • Default Mode Network.  One essay in Joseph Carroll et al (2022) gives serious attention to the Default Mode Network (DMN) (Newberg et al., “Orgasmic Meditation”). Over the past two decades, a rapidly expanding body of research has revealed that the DMN makes it possible to abstract away from the immediate present, to think about past and future, to enter into other minds, and to construct fictional worlds (Buckner and DiNicola, 2019; Carroll, 2020; van Mulukom, 2020).”




The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; And, as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name. (Midsummer Night`s Dream V.i.7)



IMAGINATION, the FOUNTAINHEAD?  “What if imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience? What if our logic and science derive from art forms and are fundamentally dependent on them rather than art being merely a decoration for our work when science and logic have produced it?”  (Rollo May, Courage to Create)


GIFT of the GODS.  Plato was notoriously suspicious of art and artists partly because they could not (of course) be subordinated to social purpose (e.g. Laws Book II 654ff., Book VII). 

Possibly because creativity, the God-given madness, cannot be reduced to human rule (Ion, Symposium, Phaedrus):  “…there is a form of possession or madness, of which the Muses are the source…” (Book VII 245) The poet becomes a ‘light winged holy creature who cannot compose until he becomes possessed and . . . reason no longer dwells within him.’[i]  “There is no great genius,” said Seneca, “without a touch of Madness”[ii]


CREATIVITY and RESPONSIBILITY.  “If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.” (Rollo May, Courage to Create)   (but then there is Cassandra)



[i]. Plato is probably borrowing from Democritus, who said that ‘all that a poet writes when possessed and divinely inspired is truly excellent.’)  (see Hacklworth’s commentaries on Plato’s Phaedrus 1952:56‑62)

[ii]. Seneca: De Tranquillitate Animi XVII.x; (but Seneca says he is quoting Aristotle and the idea is also in Plato=s Phaedrus.

[i]Carroll, J., Clasen, M., Jonsson, E. (2020). Introduction. In: Carroll, J., Clasen, M., Jonsson, E. (eds) Evolutionary Perspectives on Imaginative Culture. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46190-4_1


[ii] Carroll J, Johnson JA, Jonsson E, Jung RE and van Mulukom V (2022) Editorial: Imaginative culture and human nature: Evolutionary perspectives on the arts, religion, and ideology. Front. Psychol. 13:999057. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.999057


[iii] C:\Users\Greenberg\Dropbox\A&O\A&O – IMAGINATION (Carroll etc).docx