Philosophy Workshop: Thinking Ecologically About Virtue & Value
September 15 @ 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
In this 3.5-hour “philosophy as a way of life”-inspired workshop led by special guest scholar & Philosophical Advisor for Merlin CCC, David Nowakowski, PhD, we’ll look at what it might mean to live a life of virtue from the lens of ecology. Select readings and activities inspired by numerous ancient (and some contemporary) thinkers will be examined and applied with the aim of introducing participants to a variety of philosophical perspectives on virtuous living and practical tools for living well.
For many philosophers, scientists, and ordinary people, “species” are not only descriptive categories of how things are, but ideal models for how things should be. When we really stop to think about it, that’s a very loaded suggestion!
We will begin with a whirlwind tour of “species” from antiquity to the present, in order to better understand the hidden assumptions behind our own thinking today, asking:
How did we get here? Where did our idea of “species” come from?
What other options/possibilities have we missed, or left behind on the way?
How do different ways of thinking about species give us different guidance for what is valuable, excellent, praiseworthy, or virtuous?
Stops on our tour will include Plato, Aristotle, the Medieval “Ladder of Nature,” Charles Darwin, and John Dewey, as well as 20th-century environmental philosopher Aldo Leopold and 21st-century philosopher David Abram, whose work on animism has informed other recent events at Merlin.
We will then step back and apply our newfound historical perspective to questions in our own lives:
Who/what has moral value and worth?
In what ways do we humans fit into, or stand apart from, the rest of nature?
How does this impact our ideas about the best possible human life?
What hidden assumptions are at the roots of the ways we think and talk about nature, health, excellence, beauty, and purpose?
Answering these questions will begin in history and ecology, and take us well beyond!