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The Poetic Imagination & Education

The Continuing Influence of Louise Cowan


Date
: March 22-23, 2007
Author: Louise S. Cowan
Download: mp3

Alumni of the IPS gather along with its founder, Dr. Louise S. Cowan, to articulate the centrality of imagination to their various disciplines in the pursuit and expression of wisdom. Includes a major address by Dr. Cowan.

Louise S. Cowan once spoke of the sort of education in which "our intellects could in some manner be instructed, our hearts transformed, and culture thereby preserved. But our minds would have to conceive of whole new patterns of being, would have to turn a corner, so to speak, and survey an entirely different terrain." If culture is to survive, she continued, "we cannot separate the imagination from love." Contemporary phenomenological philosopher Jean-Luc Marion deepens Cowan's idea, saying: "Love knows....[O]nly love opens up knowledge of the other as such..., a knowledge that surpasses our ordinary knowledge."

Cowan thought this knowledge the proper end of Philosophic study. As Dean of the Graduate School of the fledgling University of Dallas, Cowan had the unique opportunity to establish a doctoral program in which such a "different terrain" might be systematically explored. Counter-cultural, in that it required its students to cross intellectual and disciplinary boundaries rather than stake out narrowly defined areas of expertise, and to seek wisdom rather than demonstrate mastery, the Institute of Philosophic Studies attracted minds ready to explore the profound matters of culture—poetry, psychology, philosophy, politics—through the central human capacity that fostered them all: imagination. They, in turn, created new spaces and vistas for creativity and imagination in traditional and non-traditional academia, in journalism and civic life, in pastoral and psychological work.

The University of Dallas is honored to have several of these pioneering minds in our company for a few rare hours to reflect on the imaginative trajectories that happily intersected for a life-changing time. The terrain is different because they have walked it, and they are here to tell us, like Odysseus, where they have been and where they are going.

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