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The moral imagination is the mental capacity to create or to use ideas, images, and metaphors, not derived from moral principles or immediate observation, to discern moral truths or develop moral responses. Some defenders of the idea also argue that ethical concepts, embedded in history, narrative, and circumstance, are apprehended best through metaphorical or literary frameworks. A variety of thinkers have invoked conceptions of the moral imagination, including 18th-century writers and philosophers, as well as contemporary philosophers and business ethicists.

In his Theory of the Moral Sentiments, first published in 1759, Adam Smith described an imaginative process essential not only to understanding the sentiments of others but also to moral judgment. Through an imaginative act one represents to oneself the situation, interests, and values of ...

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