'The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless' proclaimed Rousseau. We are inclined to agree, but doing so risks making the world appear more understandable and knowable than perhaps it is. Imagination operates within the ideas and concepts available to us. Once we thought it unimaginable that a thing was in two places at once, yet this is just such a reality described by quantum mechanics. While some make the case that imagination is not even sufficient to fully empathise with another, instead we need to have had similar experiences.  

Do we need to accept that imagination is limited and so also is our understanding of the world and the lives of others? Are scientists and novelists profoundly constrained in their ability to uncover reality or describe the world of those with radically different experiences? Or is this to severely hobble our capacity to make sense of the world and was Rousseau right that the power of the imagination is unlimited?  

Film-maker and Director Martha Fiennes, professor of developmental psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen, and award-winning novelist Joanna Kavenna, debate whether the imagination is limited.

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