Philosophy Humanities Montana Programs

Montana Conversations Programs

How do we relate to nature? Preservation-based philosophies – associated with author and wanderer John Muir – celebrate the spiritual benefits of holistic, unimpaired natural systems.   Conservation-based philosophies – associated with US Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot – highlight management and sustainability of natural resources for all.  In 1896, Muir and Pinchot met in what is now Glacier National Park and discussed these philosophies.  What happened next changed the course of history.

In this program, biographer John Clayton and philosopher Marisa Diaz-Waian co-lead a discussion about the unique lives of Muir and Pinchot and the questions their contrasting philosophies raise about “the wild” and our place in it.  Some of the questions we’ll explore include:

  • Are people part of nature, or separate (and inferior)?
  • How do we balance holistic spiritual benefits with specific resource-based ones?
  • What’s more important, individualism or fairness and sustainability?
  • Can contrasting philosophies come together for a common good?

While this program can be held indoors, we prefer to conduct it outdoors — ideally on a walk-about — going into the wild with Muir and Pinchot.

Philosophy is often characterized as impractical and irrelevant to our daily lives. It is also seen as an activity that only specialists can do or as something that we can only apprehend or engage in by way of solitary contemplation or through books.

This program is an attempt to uproot these characterizations and reveal a more colorful and robust picture of philosophy as a way of life – one that is alive, shaped by, and grounded in community, and one that thrives in the “spaces in between.”

In this interactive program, we’ll explore together: what it might mean to learn from and with one another as philosophers, how philosophy can transform and enrich our lives, and what we can do to make philosophy a “live option” for ourselves and others every day.

Philosophy is everywhere. Films are no exception. Within each frame lie ideas, questions, and values – all of which offer unique opportunities for reflection and discussion. Designed as a collaborative pre-film or post-film conversation that takes place in a theater or similar setting, this program offers community
members a chance to watch a film and explore its philosophical ideas together.

LOGISTICS: Contracting parties select and show the film; I design and facilitate the in-person discussion around that. Specific content explored is flexible as it is uniquely adapted to and inspired by both the film itself and the community members.

NOTE: If there are specific themes/topics within a film that you would like to highlight, I will work with you ahead of time to identify these as your desired focal points, and structure the conversation in such a way so as to keep these at the core.

Speakers in the Schools Programs

In an era where the universe of misinformation seems to be expanding more rapidly than the real one, we are in desperate need of tools that can help us sort good argument from bad.  

In this on-line synchronous learning program for teens and tweens, we’ll dive into the fun world of informal logical fallacies by exploring some of the most ubiquitous and egregious errors in thinking.  Students will become acquainted with these fallacies through a combination of group activities and discussion, mixed-media, and instruction.  

The program can be adapted as either a 3-part series, 4-part series, or 5-part series for junior high and high school aged students – with each class focusing on and playfully exploring one informal logical fallacy per meeting.

Aims of the program include:  Learning about what constitutes good reasoning from bad reasoning, identifying fallacious reasoning in everyday use, cultivating critical-creative thinking skills, enhancing general reasoning capabilities, and promoting cooperative learning, diverse perspectives and civil, engaged and reasoned discourse and decision-making. 

While critical, creative thinking is certainly relevant for all fields of study, the skills cultivated in this program cross over most naturally with Philosophy, Behavioral Sciences, Social Studies, Political Science/Civics, and Language Arts & Literacy.

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