Philosophy Read-In’s

What’s Our Read-In Group All About?

Our Merlin Philosophy Read-In Group is a gateway into classic and contemporary writings in philosophy. Unlike some of our more informal activities and events, these gatherings are structured around the book we’re reading together and the specific arguments given by the author.  

With an eye both to understanding their specific ideas and arguments, and to cultivating general skills for reading and studying philosophy, we carefully read together and discuss important and influential books in philosophy.  This includes evaluation, critique, and application to our contemporary lives, but always in a way that brings us back to the source. 

Read-In Group meetings are facilitated by David Nowakowski, who brings specific knowledge and background to the text and helps cultivate the general skills of philosophical reading and analysis. FREE/$5 suggested donation.  Reading group book(s) can be purchased from Montana Book Co.  Alternatively, you can also visit Lewis & Clark Library to inquire about checking out a copy.

When Do We Meet?

Our Philosophy Read-In Group meets the 1st & 3rd Wednesday of every month from 6pm-7:30pm.  



Cottonwood ALC Community Center located at 322 Fuller Avenue.

How Are Our Read-In Group Gatherings Structured?

With each text, and at each meeting, we:

  • learn about the particular ideas and arguments advanced by important philosophers,
  • apply those ideas and arguments to our own lives and circumstances, and
  • learn strategies for engaging with philosophical writings, which will help us to read a wide range of other works, whether alone or in the company of others.

For each book, we move from background and context-setting, to examination of a few central questions, to a wider overall view of the text and its structure, to critical discussion and evaluation.  By emphasizing the earlier steps, we build the foundation for everyone in the group to read and engage with depth, rigor, understanding, and confidence.

Each participant should read the relevant sections of the book before coming to our meeting.  To help guide the reading, questions are provided to read-in participants in advance by the facilitator. In our meeting, we examine the text for a second (or third, fourth, …) time, in order to dig deeper. 

What Else?

While there is no long-term commitment — new participants are warmly welcome every time we start a new book — those who attend regularly will see patterns emerging across different books, and will be able to apply the ideas and skills from earlier works to later ones, developing an especially deep and rich appreciation for the life-changing work of philosophical reading and study. 

Check out what we’ll be exploring each month below!

January & February 2020

Jan. 8th & 22nd (6pm-7:30pm)

Feb. 5th & 19th (6pm-7:30pm)

~ Plato on Friendship & Love ~

January/February Reading Info & Questions...

To start off the new year, and carry us through to Valentine’s Day, we’ll be looking at two of Plato’s most beautiful and poetic dialogues on the themes of friendship and love: the Phaedrus and the Symposium

In the Phaedrus, Socrates and his friend Phaedrus journey into the Athenian countryside, to consider whether it is better to love someone who also loves you, or whether (as Phaedrus’ teacher has recently suggested) it’s actually more noble to love someone who does not return your love.  From there, Socrates offers his own speech in praise of Love, explaining how love purifies and elevates both the lover and the beloved to higher and more noble things.

In the Symposium, we find Socrates back in the city, attending a dinner party with a group of friends, when the subject turns to love.  The six dinner guests compete to explain, and to praise, exactly what love is.  Comparing and contrasting these different account, we’ll come to our own understanding of this powerful yet often mysterious aspect of human life.

The Book

  • Plato on Love, edited by C.D.C. Reeve.  Hackett Publishing, 2006.

This paperback contains translations of the Phaedrus and the Symposium, both by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff (along with a few other things).  The very same translations can also be found in the (more expensive) Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper (Hackett, 1997).  If you already have another version of these dialogues, that’s fine too, but the Nehamas/Woodruff translations are really excellent, and highly recommended!

**PLEASE NOTE:  This month’s book is not available at Montana Book Co. this go around.  You should be able to purchase it on-line…or check-out a similar version of Plato’s work with the Phaedrus and Symposium in the library.**


The Reading Guide & Questions

March 2020

Apr. 11th & 25th (6pm-7:30pm)

~ Socrates and the Philosophical Life ~

March Reading Info & Questions...

We’ve heard the famous line attributed to Socrates, that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This month, we’ll explore what an examined, philosophic life meant to Socrates himself.

Week 1: An Invitation to Philosophy: Socrates and Alcibiades

In the schools of ancient Athens and Alexandria, the Alcibiades was the first Platonic dialogue that students would study, because it gives us such a clear vision of what the philosophical life is like. In conversation with young Alcibiades, Socrates tries to encourage the handsome and ambitious young man to devote himself to the pursuit of wisdom and self-knowledge.

The Book

  • Plato on Love, edited by C.D.C. Reeve.  Hackett Publishing, 2006.

We will read the translation of Plato’s Alcibiades by D.S. Hutchinson, which is found in Plato on Love, edited by C.D.C. Reeve (Hackett Publishing, 2006). This is the same book we used for the Read-In group in January and February. 

Week 2: Two Portraits of Socrates — Plato & Xenophon

Originally, the work “apology” (apologia in Greek) did not mean saying “sorry.” Rather, an apology was “speaking for, or on behalf of” someone or something, including a defense or justification for one’s way of life.

This week, we’ll compare two different accounts of the apology, or defense speech, that Socrates gave at his trial in Athens, as recorded by two of his followers, Plato and Xenophon. From Socrates’ words in defense of his way of life, we can figure out what he meant by the life of wisdom, and a life worth living.

The Books

  • From Xenophon, we will read the Apology of Socrates and a few short selections from the Memorabilia. There is a very readable translation that is now free in the public domain, so a PDF of both (very short) readings will be posted here soon!
  • From Plato, we will read another Apology of Socrates. Any translation will be fine, but there’s a good one in Plato: The Last Days of Socrates, translated by Hugh Tredennick and Harold Tarrant (Penguin Books, 2003). This is the same book we used for the November 2019 Read-In group.

The Reading Guide & Questions

  • To be added soon…

April & May 2020

Apr. 8th & 22nd (6pm-7:30pm)

May 13th & 27th (6pm-7:30pm)

~ The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca ~

April/May Reading Info & Questions...

Information to be added Soon!

Our Merlin Philosophy Read-In’s are geared for kids and are opportunities for youth to enjoy listening to featured stories aimed at getting their synapses firing, along with a kid-inspired philosophical discussion.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. welcome and encouraged to attend.

FREE. Light snacks provided. $5 suggested donation.


What: Philosophy Read-In
When:  TBD
Where: Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center (101 Reeder’s Alley, Helena MT 59601)
Age(s): Children, Tweens, Teens
Featured Stories: TBD (followed by a lively philosophical discussion)

  • Doors open at 6:15pm; Storytelling starts at 6:30pm
  • 30-45 minutes of storytelling & 30-45 minute post-reading discussion

Venue Capacity:  15-20 people
Cost: FREE ($5 Suggested Donation)
Other Information: Light snacks provided.

For more information, please contact Marisa Diaz-Waian at [email protected] or #406-439-5788.

Our Philosophy Read-In Sponsors

To view pictures from our philosophy read-in’s, please visit our Merlin Read-In Archive page.

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