Flint and stone

“I get the same charge from the juxtaposition of colors as I do from the juxtaposition of chords.”Joni Mitchell
“The creative is always an act of recombination…as making a spark requires two things struck together.” Jane Hirschfield
“…two separate shots … [spliced] together resembles not so much a simple sum of one shot plus another shot as it does a creation.” Sergei Eisenstein
“What we’re trying to do is find two or more shots the juxtaposition of which will give us the idea.” David Mamet
Songwriter, poet, film director, playwright: What they mutually recognise is the creativity inherent in combining disparate elements in novel ways, and the powerful impact this can have on an audience.

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Combustible philosophy

Throwing a philosophical question out cold to a group of kids in hopes of sparking a lively discussion is as unpromising as igniting a bundle of damp wood. This is where philosophical stimuli come in. Stories and other kinds of stimuli serve as tinder to get things started, and as kindling to keep it all going. A good philosophical stimulus has the virtues, as Peter Worley says, of engaging attention, helping students to grasp otherwise arcane concepts, activating students’ moral agency, and helping them rehearse for life.

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Unveiling and packaging

Early one summer morning, a young Australian philosophy graduate was awoken by a phone call. It was the eminent professor David Lewis, calling from Princeton University’s philosophy department. “You’ve been admitted to our graduate program,” Lewis said. “Do you have any questions?” Still in the fog of sleep and desperate to think of something to ask, the student blurted out: “How many Australians are in the department?” After an uncomfortably long pause, Lewis replied: ‘Depends how you count Australians.’ This anecdote, recounted by the erstwhile student Alan Hayek, shows that even the most commonplace concepts can turn out to be polyvalent. Especially if you let a philosopher loose on them.

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