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Philosophy Workshop Series: “What is Philosophy?” (Making Sense of the World)

February 6 @ 10:00 am - 12:30 pm MST

Virtual Event

Workshop #3: Making Sense of the World

For thousands of years, one major preoccupation of philosophers has been “giving an account” of our inner and outer worlds: providing a rigorous explanation of ourselves as human beings, of the world in which we find ourselves, and of anything else that’s part of that world, from the concrete (like tables, rabbits, or gallbladders) to the abstract (like nations, religions, or virtues) to the imaginary (like unicorns, square circles, or the square root of -1). 

We can think of this project in two parts.  First, taking an inventory of what exists:

  • What are the basic components, of whatever we’re trying to study? Atoms?  Strings?  Thoughts and desires?  Actions?  Human individuals? 
  • What about abstract things? Can we say that a nation or a religion exists?  Justice?  Beauty? The number 3?
  • What about non-existent or imaginary things? Unicorns?  Sherlock Holmes?

Second, showing how these things fit together:

  • Which things cause or explain other things?
  • In what different ways can we have a cause or explanation? A chemist and a historian will each give very different kinds of explanations, but they’re both looking to explain the world.
  • What features of the world are more important? What features matter less, or not at all?
  • What makes for a good explanation—one that is full, complete, accurate, and informative?

These questions stand at the root of all the human sciences.  They are at the foundation of each of the particular  sciences—from mathematics to chemistry, from ecology to sociology, and beyond.  And the way that we choose to answer these foundational questions can have profound implications for all of the more particular work that each science does, determining what other questions are even worth asking, and what kinds of answers are acceptable.

In this workshop, we’ll step back and survey this entire terrain.  We’ll explore what it means to explain anything at all:  We’ll look at radically different ways of answering the question “Why?”  And radically different notions of “Because…”

We’ll investigate:

  • The canonical account of “six causes,” started by Aristotle, and completed by later Platonic philosophers.
  • A few additional kinds of “cause” that were developed by Hindu and Buddhist philosophers in India.
  • Where the scientific method fits, within these larger schemes of exploring and explaining the world itself, and our experience of the world.
  • Some of the ways in which different kinds of explanation can be complementary, and not necessarily in competition with each other.

Through all of this, we’ll come away with a richer toolkit, with an ability to bring a variety of different approaches to bear on diverse topics and problems.

When & Where

This workshop represents the third 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, February 6th
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. 

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