August 2019 Philosophy Think & Drink (Helena)

Our August Think & Drink was great fun!  After welcoming two new Think & Drinkers….our group of 7 threw down a handful of questions — all of which (in their own way) stemmed from a concern about our current political & social climate.  Some of the initial questions posed:

  • Mass shootings are on the rise.  What are these a symptom of?  What does this say about “us” as a people?  Is it true that the outer world is really a reflection of our inner world?  
  • It seems that things are very polarized and extreme right now.  Is this the case?  And do we need extremes in order to come to a middle ground?  
  • The words liberal and conservative are thrown around regularly and when used in political discussions are often seen (or referred to) as “sides.”  But is this accurate?  Is it more accurate to suggest that all of us, to some degree, have some liberal and conservative tendencies?  And, if this is the case, are we better off not thinking of them as “sides” but, instead as elements of ourselves that we ought to “lean into”, examine, and embrace (versus reject and ignore)?
  • What is literacy?  More specifically, what does it mean to be a literate being? (which oddly has some serious cross-over with the questions raised above).

The Question We Started Off With…

  • What is literacy?  What does it mean to be a literate being?

Some thoughts that arose:  That that being reflects the skills necessary to survive in a particular environment; being able to make sense of something (be that a piece of art or literature, technology, an environment, etc.); involves analytic and synthesis-related skills; fine-tuned perspective; and requires receptivity.

Some Questions Raised Along the Way (About Literacy)

  • How might we distinguish between literacy and intelligence?  is the former more a skill of being able to “establish, identify, and make a connection” and the latter something more in line with being able to “root the information” (i.e. give the concept a home)? 
  • What if we were to think about literacy in terms of emotions…what is the difference between emotional literacy and emotional intelligence?  Is there a difference?  How do you teach either? (For example, how do you teach the language of compassion and loveHow do we “measure” or “test” that?)
  • What about “embodied literacy”?  Does moving through the world in a literate way mean that you always know what to do or how to do it?  Or just that you are capable of putting the pieces together…and do so.  (For example, if an artist creates a sculpture…but can’t tell you how he did it or why he did it in a particular way, does this mean that they are “illiterate” in some way?)

The Question We Transitioned into…

  • Can our discussion about literacy be meaningfully applied to our other questions about our outer & inner worlds, polarization and sides? 

Some Fun Quotes from the Night…


“I am an extreme liberal.  But on the inside, I am also a screaming conservative televangelist.  What sort of literacy is required in order for me to make sense of these “aspects of self” and do something with them? ” 


Self-understanding is hard enough.  Who am I to say what someone else does or doesn’t know?”


(Inspired by a discussion about mathematical literacy) “I dig trig!”, “Whoa…, I’m about to go off on a tangent!”,  “Oh crap…what about a hypotenuse…what clever shirt saying can I come up with for that?…I got nothing!”


(With respect to literacy of self extending to literacy for other) “If I was on an island, wouldn’t I get bored or unsatisfied just thinking about me?  Wouldn’t I be compelled to extend it to others?  Doesn’t literacy in its more robust sense require this?”



Thank you to the Philosophy Learning & Teaching Organization (PLATO) and Montana Internet for supporting philosophy in the community and helping us bring activities like these to the Helena community! 

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