August 2019 Philosophy Walk (Helena): Reconnecting with Nature

WOW!  We were blown away by how amazing our August Philosophy Walk was…beautiful weather, wonderful people, great questions, and thought-provoking discussion led by 2019 Merlin Student Scholar Fellow & Philosopher, Henry Kramer,  and Grants Manager & Humanitarian, Ryan Aikin. Our group of 17 — including 3 delightful young philosophers who joined us for the journey — enjoyed a lovely hike on the Waterline & Rodney Ridge Trails and explored “reconnecting with nature” through the lens of phenomenology, pragmatism, and animism. 

Some of the questions we explored included:

  • Why reconnect with nature?  Is this a good thing?  What does it do for us?  What does it do for nature? 
  • What insights can we draw from phenomenology and pragmatism to help us answer these questions?
  • Does technology (and the world of mass-produced things) disconnect us from nature?  If so, how?
  • How do animism and language factor into the ways in which we see and experience the world?
  • How does wonder factor into the ways in which we relate to the natural world?
  • What are some of the ethical implications of reconnecting (or not) with nature?

Other Resources


  • David Abram, Becoming Animal (available at Lewis & Clark library) and The Spell of the Sensuous
    • READING SUGGESTIONS: Try starting with Becoming Animal; it’s much more experiential and directly accessible.  In Spell of the Sensuous, chapter 2 gets a bit technical, but you can skip it and still do just fine with the rest of the book.
  • Robert Bringhurst, Everywhere Being is Dancing  
    • READING SUGGESTIONS:  This is a collection of essays, each of which can be read separately.  The two which are the most relevant to our philosophy walk discussion are “Everywhere Being is Dancing, Knowing is Known” and “The Meaning of Mythology.”
  • John Vaillant, The Golden Spruce (available at Lewis & Clark library)
    • GRATITUDE NOTE: Thanks for the recommendation, Brooklyn Willett!
    •  GENERAL NOTE:  If you enjoyed the discussion about play and wonder, this book offers some nice insights.
  • Henry Kramer, “A Phenomenology of Mass-Produced Things and Our Relation with the More-than-Human World”
    • AUTHOR’S NOTE: Upon speaking with a friend after the Missoula walk, I’m finding myself disagreeing with some major parts of that paper now!  Stay tuned for possible new iterations….


About Our Walk Guides

Henry Kramer, MA (In Progress) is a Masters student at the University of Montana in both the Environmental Philosophy and Environmental Literature programs.  He is also the 2019 Merlin Student Scholar Fellow.

As an undergrad, Henry studied comparative religion and philosophy, with a particular focus on indigenous perspectives and phenomenology.  He has traveled extensively, including spending several months in New Zealand studying Maori culture and society.

After graduating, Henry was involved in the creation of Storyeon, a think-tank based out of the Jung Institute in Manhattan, and with them, presented on a panel at the United Nations on the wisdom of myth and story. 

Henry is currently writing a thesis on wonder, and the role of wonder in fostering our connection with and ethical treatment of the natural world.  In his spare time, Henry enjoys eating vegan food that other people have cooked. 

Ryan Aikin, JD has been an integral part of the Merlin volunteer and strategy team since 2017.  He graduated in 2005 from Purdue University with a BA in philosophy and minors in political science, management, and German…and in 2011, with a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School. 

He was a lieutenant in the Navy serving as an appellate defense counsel with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as well as a former assistant attorney general in the Appellate Services Bureau of the Montana Department of Justice.  Amidst all of this, he also served on the Peace Corps for several years.

Ryan lives in Missoula and currently serves as grant manager for Youth Homes.  An avid learner and philosopher of heart and mind, he is also working on another degree – a Master’s in Education – at University of Montana…and runs our Missoula-based Philosophy Think & Drinks each month (alongside Henry Kramer).

Thank You’s

Thank you to P.L.A.T.O. (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), Montana Internet, BWP Helena Great Northern Hotel, and the American Philosophical Association for helping support our philosophy in the community programs and making events like this possible!  Thank you to our Guest Speakers/Co-Philosophers-on-Trail Henry Kramer & Ryan Aikin.

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