Conceivability Errors and the Role of Imagination in Symbolization
n the years 1675-84, Leibniz sought to disprove Descartes’s account of clear and distinct perception by implementing a three-step argumentative strategy. The first part of the paper reconstructs the argument and highlights what aspects of Descartes’s epistemology it addresses. The reconstruction shows that the argument is based on conceivability errors. These are a kind of symbolic cognition that prove Descartes’s clear and distinct perception as introspectively indistinguishable from Leibniz’s symbolic cognition. The second part of the paper explores the epistemic implication of the indistinguishability between clear and distinct perception and symbolic cognition: the mind constitutively depends on products of the imagination. My conclusion addresses the role of the imagination in symbolization. Symbolization does not exceed imagination; it rather is an idealized use of cognitive surrogates, like characters, to submit to the imagination what is not subject to it.