Abstract. If nature is a laboratory in which new scenarios for survival are constantly being conceived, implemented or rejected, this can also be said about the activities of the human brain. Some of the evolutionary output in nature looks rather bizarre and, from a human perspective, even unreal. However, the “imaginary” beings created by the brain manifest parallels and may thus alert us to their evolutionary function for thinking and science. Imaginary beings seen as thought experiments can thus have heuristic functions. They can arise from language itself and in turn reflect and process scientific knowledge or even bring about discoveries. What this eventually implies is that science cannot do without the imagination. This essay tries to bridge a gap between science and the arts by comparing scientific demons (Kepler, Laplace, Maxwell) and cats (Schrödinger) with literary texts by Christian Morgenstern and Lewis Carroll.
Key words: thought experiment; evolution; fourth dimension; imagination; dream; nonsense

Schenkel E (2023) Calculating demons and grinning cats: the role of imaginary beings in science. Creativity 6(1): 43–59. doi:10.22381/C6120232

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University of Leipzig;
Leipzig, Germany

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