Philosophy Shorts

Tight schedules don’t have to mean sacrificed depth.  That’s why we developed Merlin Shorts — a series of shorter “hoot-worthy!” gatherings ranging from Philosophy Drive-Ins and Read-In’s, to our newest series in the bunch “How Did We Get Here?”  Ranging from 1 hour 15 minutes in length to 2 hours, each of our shorts offers you a chance to dive deep and explore ideas together…no matter how much time you have to spread your wings.

Fall 2022 Shorts

Connecting the ideas of today to yesterday

An examination of the evolution of ideas

How Did We Get Here?: Species

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 13th
Time: 6:30pm-7:45pm
TopicThe Idea of Species
Facilitated By: David Nowakowski
Location: 101 Reeder’s Alley (Conference Center)
Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation)
Other: Snacks provided.  BYOB. 

In this installment of “How Did We Get Here?”, we’ll consider the idea of “species,” from Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages, to Charles Darwin (of course!), and down to the present. Along the way, we’ll gain some useful insights into the role of ideas and abstraction in western scientific thought, reflect on the search for stability in a changing world, as a unifying thread from Plato to Darwin, and beyond, and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the ways that we, and our predecessors, strive to classify and categorize — both in the natural world, and in human society and culture.

In addition to the intrinsic worth — and pleasure — of exploring the twisted history of our ideas, there’s a lot of be gained by asking “How did we get here?”  Consider:

  • Uncovering missed opportunities.  Sometimes the “road not taken” is still open to us, as a path to take now, even if it’s overgrown with weeds from neglect.  A wide view of history can help us (re)discover the forgotten paths.
  • Finding the hidden premises and assumptions, that lurk unquestioned behind our habits of thought.  This can give rise both to a deeper understanding of where we are now, and to some interesting points of leverage, if we want to make deep and lasting changes.
  • Gaining a sense of perspective on ourselves, our culture, and our historical moment.  It’s a commonplace that traveling or interacting with folks from another class, culture, or background — whether abroad or right here with our neighbors — can deepen our understanding of ourselves and our own place in the world.  The same thing can be said of the past: The past is like a foreign country, which, when visited, can have many of the same benefits!

This new series will take us on a tour of some neglected and forgotten paths of intellectual history, asking “How Did We Get Here?” for important philosophical, scientific, and cultural concepts like dignity, free will, science, and the nation.

Bringing ideas to life through film.

A night of short films & philosophical discussion for all ages.

"Why Are We Here?" Series: Spring 2023

Date(s): Spring 2023 (Dates TBD)
Time: Doors @6:15pm/Film Shorts Start @6:30pm
Topic:  Meaning & the Nature of the Universe
Location: 101 Reeder’s Alley (Conference Center)
Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation)
Facilitated by: Thomas Baumeister, PhD
Other: Snacks provided.  BYOB.

In this four-part documentary Oxford physicist Ard Louis & film-maker David Malone meet scientists, philosophers and writers to discuss questions about meaning and the nature of the universe.  At each ‘Merlin Drive-In’ gathering in the series we’ll watch one episode, followed by a group discussion led by Thomas Baumeister, PhD.  Watch the introductory videos for each below.

Meaning-Seeking Beings

If our universe is made up of nothing but atoms and particles, is any search for real meaning a delusion?

The Reality of Ideas

Are the only truths those that can be proven by scientific experiment, or are there other truths, perhaps like those of mathematics, that are not part of the material universe?

The Animal Within

How do we decide what’s good and bad? Can science help us decide? 

The Moral Compass

Where do our moral values come from? In a world of atoms and molecules what authority can our moral ideas really have?  introduction.

Our take on written word and great conversation.

Exploring classic & contemporary ideas by reading together

Philosophy Read-In: Text Selection TBD

Date: TBD
Location: 101 Reeder’s Alley (Conference Center)
Time:  TBD
Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation)
Other: Light snacks provided.  BYOB.

Visit our Merlin Shorts Archive page to access resources & photos from previous gatherings.

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