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Philosophy Workshop Series: “What is Philosophy?” (The Basics)

January 9, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 12:30 pm MST

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Workshop #1: The Basics

To celebrate the new year, we’ll kick off our 2021 workshop series by going back to the beginning.  What is philosophy?  What does it involve, what does it do, and why should we care?

For this first workshop, our discussion will start from some traditional definitions of philosophy that were popular in Alexandria in the 6th century CE, and then move forward and backward in time, and across continents in space.  Alexandria was a great center of learning: a place where for centuries, pagans, Christians, and travelers from all over the world came together to study and share their knowledge.  By the 6th century, scholars could look back over more than 1,000 years of Greek philosophy, taking stock of a rich and diverse intellectual legacy. 

Based on their final synthesis, we’ll survey several approaches to the question, “What is philosophy?”, each of which will raise its own further questions for reflection and discussion:

  • Philosophy is a way of life, with living, embodied practices that can in some way improve, complete, or fulfill our lives. How can the study, and the practice, of philosophy change our lives for the better?
  • Philosophy is preparation for death, through self-knowledge and understanding of our world. How does the practice of philosophy help us to face life, and death, with strength and courage?
  • Philosophy is cosmogony: a deliberate act of creating the world in which we live—crafting it, shaping it, and bringing our world into being at every moment. How can the philosophical act shape both our own private worlds, and the wider world that we share in common?
  • Philosophy is the art of arts, and the science of sciences, occupying a special place with respect to all other creative and intellectual endeavors (which is why top chemists, historians, economists, and physicists all have “Ph.D.”—“Doctor of Philosophy”—after their names). What special perspective does philosophy bring, which can support or enrich all these areas of human life and culture?

We’ll also take a quick tour of the major areas or divisions of philosophy, as they developed in Greece, India, and elsewhere, which will lay the groundwork for more detailed study of each of them, in the remaining parts of this workshop series, and beyond.

Workshop Synopsis

When & Where

This workshop represents the first of four workshops in our “What is Philosophy?” series.  Each workshop is structured to stand on its own and will take place via ZOOM every other Saturday through February 20th.  No prior background in philosophy is required to participate.

Workshop Details

Date: Saturday, January 9th
Time: 10am – 12:30pm MST

Registration Info

Zoom Registration: See Below…
Cost: Free (Donations Welcome)

Workshop Leader

David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives.  David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since.  A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014.  His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & WestAsian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy; as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere. 

After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.

Register Here

Once you register, you will receive an e-mail & personal log-in info to join the workshop.

For those who have not used Zoom before on your computer, click here to do a test run and ensure your system is working properly: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115002262083-Joining-a-test-meeting.  

Make a Donation Here

Our philosophy workshops are FREE.  That said, for those who still have the steady income to do so in these trying times, we could really use your financial support right now.  Donations help to cover workshop leader honorariums, implementation, and resource archiving, as well as community workshop scholarships for those in need.  You can make a donation by clicking here or on the button above.  For those facing more challenging financial circumstances, we ask that you please try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness for your neighbors and community. 


Marisa Diaz-Waian
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