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 deemed impractical, inaccessible, and irrelevant to our everyday lives.   It is also frequently characterized as an activity that only specialists can do.  This program is an attempt to uproot these characterizations and reveal an alternate representation of philosophy as a practical endeavor, a way of life, and a public good.  Interactive and dynamic, this program is geared for community members of all ages interested in learning more about philosophy as a way of life, why it is (and should be) a resource for everyone, and how it can inspire, transform and enrich our lives.

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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