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Saturday, September 23, 2017
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Alarms and diversions for the thinking person

Saturday, September 09, 2017 12:01 am

The reading list

“When I think of all the wondrous things we can do with the imagination, I'm inclined toward a different way of unraveling its enigmatic duality. Rather than slicing up the imagination into distinct kinds, we might think about its distinct uses. I like to call these the transcendent and the instructive functions of the imagination. On the one hand, when we pretend, or fantasize, or escape into an engrossing work of literary fiction, imagination can take us beyond the here and now. But when we imagine in an attempt to make sense of what other people are thinking, or to problem-solve or to make decisions, our speculations are used to help us understand the here and now. Whereas our transcendent uses of the imagination tend towards whimsy and fancy, its instructive functions point towards the practical and the concrete.

“In both these modes, the secret to success seems to lie in the application of a kind of imaginative constraint ... Perhaps the reason why philosophers have been conflicted about the imagination is that they haven't grasped how limitations need to be tailored to circumstances. When we are writing fiction, or playing games of pretend, or making art, arguably we do our best imagining by setting the boundaries widely or removing the shackles entirely. In contrast, when we employ imagination in the context of scientific or technological discovery, or any other real-world problem-solving, we must allow imagination to be framed by the situation at hand.”

— From “Imagination is a powerful tool: why is philosophy afraid of it?” at aeon.co

A quiz

What are the top three stressful cities in America?

Wisdom of the ages

“Anger is the feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind.” — Evan Esar

Current wisdom

“(Raising the debt limit) could be discussed. For many years, people have been talking about getting rid of (it) altogether.” — President Trump.

Quiz answer

You guessed it — Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

Today in history

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress renamed the “United Colonies” the “United States” ; good choice, eh?

Snob words

whoosis (HOO-zis). n. — an object or person whose name is not known or cannot be recalled, as in: “The politician asked the editorial writer if he could borrow that whoosis that listed all the word definitions.”

Now you know

Based on the average life of a G2 star, the present age of the sun is estimated to be 4.6 billion years, halfway through its lifetime.


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