Philosophy Workshops & Outings

In our  “philosophy as a way of life”-inspired workshops we explore a variety of philosophical topics, ranging from virtue ethics and Stoicism to Indian philosophy and metaphysics…and more.  No background or prior experience in philosophy is required or expected.  FREE. All ages welcome. $20 Suggested donation per workshop. Light snacks & tea provided. Space is limited. 

Philosophy Workshop: 
From Karma to Dharma —
Finding Your Way through Indian Philosophy

Saturday, December 7th 2019

(10am-12:30pm)

Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center
~ 101 Reeder’s Alley ~

Workshop Description

This 2½-hour workshop will introduce key concepts and arguments from the Buddhist and Hindu philosophical traditions of India.  Our goals will be to dispel some common misconceptions about Indian philosophy and religion, to distinguish different Indian philosophical schools from one another, and to develop a deeper understanding of these rich and varied traditions.

Our central questions will include:

  • What does “karma” really mean?
  • What arguments do Indian philosophers give for reincarnation? What happens to the rest of their teachings if these arguments fail, or we don’t accept reincarnation?  And how is reincarnation supposed to work, anyway?
  • What do these philosophers have to say about the Hindu and Buddhist Gods? What is their relation to the world, to human life, and to the laws of karma?  Do Buddhists even believe in any Gods, or is Buddhism an “atheist religion”?  What about the idea that “everything is one”?
  • And finally, what can these descriptions of the world tell us about our ethical life or our individual and social duties (dharma)?

We will examine concepts that are shared across the various Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as those which are explained, defended, or justified quite differently in different philosophical and religious schools.  We will consider the major forms of South Asian Buddhism, the well-known Vedānta tradition of Hinduism, and the less well-known (but historically very influential!) Hindu schools of Nyāya and Mīmāṃsa philosophy.

You will leave the workshop with:

  • a deeper understanding of karma, dharma, and other important concepts, as they were explained in their original context,
  • a “roadmap” for situating different (sometimes agreeing, sometimes conflicting) traditions and movements in Indian philosophy, and
  • suggestions for books and other media, to allow you to take the next steps in exploring any of the traditions we’ve discussed.

During the month of December, Merlin’s Philosophy Read-In Group will be exploring the Bhagavad Gītā, which is perhaps the most well-known philosophical and spiritual text of India.  The workshop and the Read-Ins will complement each other, but each will stand alone: you do not need to come to either one in order to attend the other.  But if you do choose to join us for both, you’ll come away with an even fuller and deeper appreciation for the arguments and traditions.

Philosophy Workshop: 
The Philosophy of Friendship

Saturday, January 18th 2020

(10am-12:30pm)

Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center

~ 101 Reeder’s Alley ~

Workshop Description

Aristotle says that even the most blessed human life would be incomplete without friendship.  And most of us will agree that friendship—having good friends, and being a good friend to others—is important.  But what, exactly, is so special about friendship? 

In this 2½-hour workshop, we’ll explore some classic arguments about friendship offered by Aristotle, the Stoic philosophers Epictetus and Seneca, and the traditions of ancient commentaries on these philosophers’ work.  We’ll examine the what-s and why-s of friendship, in order to find guidance on how to navigate the difficult, challenging, and perplexing situations that all-too-often arise among friends—or with those who falsely claim to be our friends!

We’ll start by building a precise understanding of what friendship is, and why it’s valuable.  Here, important questions will include:

  • What, exactly, makes friendship unique? What makes friends different from the other important people in our lives, like parents, children, neighbors, or business partners?
  • What are the connections between friendship and love? What are the differences?
  • Can you be your own best friend?
  • Is it better to have only a few close friends, or a much larger group?

Then, we’ll apply this understanding of friendship to address some practical questions:

  • How can I tell who my true friends are?
  • What are my duties toward my friends?
  • How should I respond when a friend treats me badly?
  • When is it appropriate, or even necessary, to end a friendship?

You will leave the workshop with:

  • a deeper understanding, drawn from our conversation and discussion, of friendship;
  • practical suggestions, drawn from the ancient philosophers, for reflecting on and improving your own friendships; and
  • recommendations for books and other media, to allow you to take the next steps in exploring the philosophers (and their arguments) that we’ve discussed.

During January and February, Merlin’s Philosophy Read-In Group will be exploring friendship and love in two of Plato’s most moving and poetic dialogues: the Phaedrus and the Symposium.  The workshop and the Read-In Group gatherings will complement each other, but each will stand alone: you do not need to come to either one in order to attend the other.  But if you do choose to join us for both, you’ll come away with an even deeper understanding and appreciation: both for the arguments and insights of these ancient philosophers, and for the role of friendship and love in our own lives today.

 

About Our Workshop Leader

A lover of philosophy and the great outdoors, 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 theJournal 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 people of all ages and backgrounds.

A hermit by nature and by committed choice, he balances contemplative solitude with his active work in teaching, counseling, and the healing arts. David Nowakowski serves as a Philosophical Advisor for Merlin CCC & Senior Mentor for scholars in the Merlin Fellowship Program. 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]

Visit our Merlin Workshop Archive page to access resources & photos from our previous workshops.

An extended version of our philosophy walks, our “campfire philosophy” outings are 3-4 day “philosophy as a way of life”-inspired outings that involve overnight camping (either in campsite lodging or tents), hikes (and other activities), and philosophical discussion (led by guest scholars) over a campfire each night.  

Phi-Llama Campfire Outing: 
The Human-Nature Relationship
“A Philosophical Examination of Our Relationship with the Wild”
(Inspired by the Wolves of Yellowstone National Park)
Summer 2021
Yellowstone National Park
(Lamar Valley/Lamar Buffalo Ranch: A Llama-Led Backcountry Trip)

(A MerlinAccess Wild & Yellowstone Forever collaborative venture into the great wide open)

Phi-Llama Campfire Outing: 
The Human-Nature Relationship
“A Philosophical Examination of Our Relationship with the Wild”
(Inspired by the Wolves of Yellowstone National Park)
Fall 2021
Yellowstone National Park
(Lamar Valley/Lamar Buffalo Ranch:  A Llama-led Backcountry Trip)

(A Merlin, Access Wild & Yellowstone Forever collaborative venture into the great wide open)

Our Workshop Sponsors

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