We can imagine a chair and build it,

We can imagine the Starship Enterprise And given the neccessary technological knowledge build it.

We can imagine a living flying elephant and it seems given the neccessary technological knowledge it maybe possible to create it one day in the distanced future,

We can imagine a wormhole in space that take us from one galaxy to another in seconds, does it mean a wormhole is a real possibility for a physical existence?

What about imagining god?

Is the imagination a sufficient condition for something to exist


5 Answers 5


I think you are far over-stretching the limits of technological wishful thinking. There is no guarantee that any technological knowledge will ever allow making a space ship like the enterprise or a flying elephant.

It is in fact perfectly possible to imagine impossible things. For example, it is easy to imagine a solar powered commercial car. Picture a Ford Mustang, but it uses no gas: all its energy comes from the solar panels on its surface, and it goes just as fast as a normal Ford. Have it in your mind ? But yet, it is never gonna happen, because there is simply not enough surface on a car to yield from the sun the kind of energy you can get from a few litters of gasoline. Better technology, like better solar panel, won't do, because we can at most yield 100% of what sun light falls on the car, which is something we can compute and it's not enough by several orders of magnitude. Yet, we had it firmly imagined in our mind, if we close our eyes we can almost see it.

So what happened here? Spinoza would say we had an incomplete idea of a solar car. An incomplete idea is an idea which, by lack of analysis does not match reality. We can have a vague idea of something unreal, but as soon as we try to detail it, to figure how it could happen we reach a contradiction.

The same would happen with a flying elephant, or Pegasus the famous flying horse: as soon as we analyse what kind of wing span, what kind of muscles would be necessary to fly those hundreds of kilos, what kind of lungs, heart and diet would be required to feed those muscles, we have to recognize that the end result would look nothing like the flying elephant we had in our mind.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of things that exist and yet nobody has a complete, adequate idea of. Just think of a very complex system like the space shuttle: no one has a complete idea of the whole shuttle from the general concepts to the gritty details like the length and diameter of each pipe in the engines, or how those pipes are made.

So we can see that ideas and things are disjointed: there are things nobody has a proper idea of, and there are ideas related to no existing thing. An idea of a flying elephant might exist, but a flying elephant does not.

  • A lot of imagined concepts have a certain level of vagueness that makes it difficult to say whether they are possible or impossible. For example does a flying elephant need to have the body mass of a regular elephant, or could it look and act like an elephant on the outside but be constructed of much lighter materials and more internal empty space? A lot of imagined things are just amalgams of known things, so whether they are possible can depend on how strictly each component of the amalgam must resemble its known counterpart.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 19:39
  • @hypnosifl thats the whole point of the answer: a vague idea is an inadequate idea. In order to realize it we need to make it adequate enough, I.e. move from concept design to blueprints. As soon as we make it adequate by removing the vagueness, problems arise that force us to solve them or reconsider the possibility. Maybe a flying machine looking like an elephant is possible (is it still an elephant though?) idk. A solar car is definitely impossible. An elephant that flies by flapping its ears like Dumbo looks very unbalanced and probably impossible, etc...
    – armand
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 20:46
  • My point is that there could be different notions of "inadequate"--either something we can imagine may turn out to be definitely impossible (what you were talking about), or our concept may be too vague to be judged either possible or impossible. I'm not sure the solar car falls into the former rather than the latter category, for example it could be far less massive than a regular car and thus require less energy to accelerate or fight road resistance at constant speed, might have batteries that can store a great deal of the energy soaked up when it's sunny but the car isn't in use, etc.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 21:12
  • @hypnosifl it does not matter. Sure we can imagine stuff that are in fact possible. It is trivial because every single thing that was ever built by a human started this way. But there are things we can imagine that are impossible. Therefore imagination is not a sufficient condition for somethings to exist. You also totally missed the point about the solar car: the point is not if you can make a solar vehicle or use batteries. You can. The point is we can picture in our mind a commercial, family friendly, solar only, no battery car, and it's in fact impossible.
    – armand
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 22:35
  • I wasn't disagreeing that imagination isn't a sufficient condition for existence, just making an additional point about some concepts being too vague for definite judgments about whether they can exist. Most ideas expressed in the English language (as opposed to some precise mathematical description) probably fall into that category, though one can try to make "reasonable" guesses how someone would elaborate on a vague phrase (maybe I should have guessed that "all its energy comes from the solar panels on its surface" implied no storing of solar energy for ex., but it wasn't obvious to me)
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 22:53

In layman's terms, Imagination is a sufficient condition for something to exist, but it does not mean we should act on what are imagination creates.

ex: I can imagine in my head that I fall down a well and land on the fluffiest cloud like pillows and it feels amazing. So when I go to act in the real world on what I imagined, I fall down the well and break my shoulder landing the fall.

To go into more detail, imagination is classified as Absistence, which is different that existence. the following question/answer goes more in depth into the answer. What have philosophers had to say about something being ‘real’ vs ‘imaginary’?

Hopefully this helps! You can search up Meinong's ontology which can probably lead you towards more on what you are wondering


Yes, given the statistics of Russophobia. You may not believe in God, but you must believe in the interference of "aliens" in your life. During McCarthyism, the American establishment literally crawled under the tables in search of a Russian trace. On May 2, 1949, James Forrestal opened the hospital window on the 16th floor and with a frightened cry: "Russians, Russians are coming! They are everywhere! I saw Russian soldiers! " - flew down to meet his death. This idea lives on to this day despite the fact that it includes fascism, racism and nazism.


In the first two examples, you include clauses that are, effectively, "if it were technologically feasible". In the third and fourth you dropped that clause -- tack it back in, viola the statements become much less astounding (up to the need to actually define what you mean by God...).

I see the sentiment expressed in this question as related to the position of David Deustch, who holds an idea that entities should be able to do anything (logically?) possible given enough knowledge.


If one accepts imagination as a sufficient condition for something to exist, some counter-examples are needed to disprove it and if these examples can be formulated in such a way that they violate the laws of the universe, then we can say that imagination may involve physically impossible situation because of a contradiction.

A Counter-example may be:

(1) I can imagine that my clone approaching me and walking through me.

Well, maybe having my clone is not physically impossible but the clone walking through me violates the laws of the universe, specifically the Pauli exclusion principle. Therefore, one can say that imagination is possible but content of the imagination is not possible in the real sense. However, it can be objected that quantum tunnelling may allow (1) in a probabilistic sense but it would require to accept the burden of extremely low unlikeliness. Nevertheless, it does not say that it is impossible to have (1). So, we may continue to search for other possible counter-examples or be satisfied with (1).

I think one of the best ways to approach to answer your question is to try to find such counter-examples.

Here is a link for walking through walls and Pauli exclusion principle: https://www.sciencealert.com/why-we-can-t-walk-through-walls-pauli-exclusion-principle-video

Another link for the case about quantum tunnelling: https://whatifshow.com/what-if-you-could-walk-through-walls/

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