No Bounds to the Sympathetic Imagination

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From Elizabeth Costello, by J.M. Coetzee

[referring to a fictional character in a novel]

There are no bounds to the sympathetic imagination…

If I can think my way into the existence of a being who has never existed, then I can think my way into the existence of a bat or a chimpanzee or an oyster, any being with whom I share the substrate of life.

Why, when we are capable of so much imagination in art and literature, do we so often refuse to imagine what it’s like to be in another creature’s mind or world?

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