May 2019 Philosophy Walk: “KNOW THY CITY”

After almost a solid week of late Winter in May, the rain gods took some pity on us, offering up 40+ degree weather, rolling clouds, and even a few sun rays!  Titled “KNOW THY CITY” (in homage to the Delphic maxim to “KNOW THYSELF”), our May walk was an invitation to explore a bit ourselves and the city.
“‘Knowing thyself’ is an important part of philosophy. And knowing thy city can tell us a lot about who we are, what sorts of things we value, and how we experience our daily lives. What is more, we rarely think about our cities with their buildings and roads, as a means by which to know ourselves. But we can learn a lot from our experiences in built environments.”
Featuring guest speaker, historian, artist, & urban designer, Dennis McCahon, our group roamed the city of Helena and observed the ways in which design contributes to experiences, how we “move through” our built environments…and, equally, how they move through us.

What We Explored

Our group enjoyed a leisurely walk around the beautiful Helena and explored a variety of things, including:

  • What sorts of things contribute to a “sense of place” in urban environments?
  • What impacts do things like walkability, engagement with things that spark curiosity and wonder, and accident and contradiction have on our experience of freedom and “being or feeling present” in our environment?
  • Does architecture/design have cognitive/neuroscientific content?  What does this mean and why does it matter?
  • Should buildings (and spaces) be considered “public goods”?
  • And more…


A fourth-generation Helenan, self-taught artist, and former Helena city planner, Dennis has been fascinated by Helena’s architecture for decades.  His interests are wide-ranging and deep.  Dennis can often be seen walking the trails and streets of Helena, contemplating big ideas about our natural and built environments, history, and art.  A self-described urban design geek, Dennis offers a unique “urban environmentalist” perspective — which he defines as a perspective informed by an interest in “walkability” and the “preservation of habitat for curious pedestrians.”  


“What Makes a Building Beautiful?” (A Why? Radio Podcast)

~Philosopher & jazz musician Jack Russell Weinstein explores beauty, design, and more with Sarah Williams Goldhagen~



Thank You’s

Thank you to P.L.A.T.O. (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization) for helping support our philosophy in the community programs and making events like this possible!  Thank you to our Guest Speaker/Co-Philosopher-on-Trail: Dennis McCahon (Historian, Artist & Urban Designer) and to Michael Chapman for capturing photos of the day.

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