Philosophy Night School

These community night courses are designed to inspire rigorous and careful thinking about a variety of philosophical topics.  We offer appetizer and full course menus on topics ranging from Indian Philosophy (our first night class course in 2021!) to Virtue Ethics, Stoicism, and more.

Our courses are opportunities for community members of all ages interested in deep-diving into philosophical topics over a series of weeks in a manner similar to “auditing” a college class. They are intended to be a place for community learning and growth and are led by professional philosophers who specialize in the course topic.

No background or prior experience in philosophy is required or expected. All ages welcome.


Wednesdays (6:15-8:15pm MST)

Jan. 20th & 27th

Feb. 3rd & 10th

Human Nature and the World:  An Extended Intro to Early Hindu Philosophies

This 4-week ZOOM “Night School” class is an extended introduction to some of the main views and arguments in early Hindu philosophies, focusing on questions of cosmology and philosophical anthropology: roughly, “How is the universe put together?” and “How is the human being put together, in relation to that wider world?”  We’ll begin by setting up some general context:

  • What problems were these early Hindu thinkers trying to solve?
  • What beliefs and assumptions shaped their shared worldview?

From there we’ll present the standard classification of “six systems” of Hindu philosophy, which are traditionally grouped into three pairs.  Read more here…

Registration ends at 2pm on January 20th.

About the Course 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.  A lover of philosophy and the great outdoors, David moved to Helena (originally from Pennsylvania) in 2019 to build his consulting practice and serve as a Community Educator, Philosophical Advisor and Consultant for Merlin CCC & Senior Mentor for scholars in the Merlin Fellowship Program.

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.  We are elated to be collaborating with David on our philosophy in the community activities, fellowships, and other Merlin projects.  David can be reached at [email protected] or via his personal website.

Participants will receive…

  • A brief syllabus (available in early January), with suggestions for supplementary readings. In this pilot course, there will be no required readings.  Some future courses will involve assigned texts for reading and discussion.
  • Weekly handouts to accompany each class session, with key names, terms, etc.
  • A weekly PDF of the slides used in each session, including important diagrams, to help organize and visualize the different schools’ conceptual schemes.
  • Access to video recordings of each session, exclusively for registered participants in the course, so that you can catch up if you miss a session, and to review afterwards, when the course is over.


You will need…

  • Access to Zoom (by computer, telephone, or other device) during each weekly meeting.
  • Access to the slides (mentioned above) for each session. These slides will be shown on-screen during the live weekly session, and will be available as a downloadable PDF, the Monday before each class.  If you will be calling in by phone or using a device with a small screen, we highly recommend downloading or printing them in advance.  These images and diagrams will be essential, for following along with the material.
  • A willingness to stretch your intellectual horizons, as we explore potentially unfamiliar ways of seeing the world. You certainly don’t need to agree with any or all of them at the end of the course.  But together, we will “try on” each of these three worldviews, and ask the question, “What if we were to adopt this perspective?” 

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