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Episode Info: PODCAST: Hans-Georg Gadamer once remarked that when in his student days he first met Martin Heidegger, he could tell from Heidegger’s eyes that he had a great imagination. Coming from Gadamer, this was high praise. Great philosophers, including Gadamer, all have this along with a set of intangible sensibilities—a sense of life, a sense of due measure, a sense of what makes sense and of what matters—that far transcend an ability to formulate and critique arguments. When a philosopher assesses another philosopher’s ideas, sometimes they are inspecting the logic of an argument but often they are doing something rather different from this: seeing how an idea sits with them, whether it makes sense to them, or rings true. That idea needs not only to convince your reason but to be tested against your existing knowledge and also your experience, the things that you have seen and lived through, and there’s no method for it. A philosopher isn’t a computer but a particular, embodied human being. That individual has lived a particular life, and the life they’ve lived does more than a little to inform their philosophical position. It informs their philosophical instincts—and don’t imagine that philosophers don’t have instincts. We have them and we tend to trust them, also our sense of life, our sense of justice, and our other sensibilities. When I read a philosopher’s work, one question that’s always foremost in my mind is whether they have an imagination. If they don’t, I’m not interested. Philosophers are many things—disinterested reasoners yes, but also storytellers, rhetoricians, observers, and writers of a certain kind. Where does an imaginative sensibility come from, and how does one go about developing or feeding it? There are many ways to feed the imagination. In my own case, I’ve always found certain kinds of physical activity to be conducive to this. I spent the better part of the last few days in my vegetable garden, mostly picking weeds. Between the rows you can use a hoe, but within the rows you really need to get down on your hands and knees, carefully separating a thousand fragile seedlings from the weeds that surround them. Weeds always grow faster than anything else in your garden, so you need to do this correctly. Many thoughts flow through your mind when doing this sort of thing; one thing I was reminded of is something my doctoral advisor once said to me. His name was Gary Madison. Gary was a very hardworking individual, and I can remember him talking about opportunity costs. I could hear him whispering in my ear, you should be working on your book. Why are you picking weeds? You can buy vegetables. If you insist on growing your own, you can pay someone to pick the weeds. (Actually, you probably can’t; this is the kind of work that Canadians and Americans won’t do.) I can’t disagree with Gary about opportunity costs...
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