Philosophy Walks

Some say they do their best thinking when walking. Philosophy Group members and friends are putting this notion to the test for the third time on Friday 21 December when they walk from Hebden Bridge along the canal to Tod to finish in The Pub. (Your reporter can feel a Monty Python song coming on.)

These walks are the brainchild of group member Alan McDonald, who is studying for an MA in Philosophy at the University of Manchester and is also a member of Tod Walkers, who don’t usually lead or organise walks directly, but made an exception for philosophical walks as part of the Festival of Ideas.

For each of the first two, Alan successfully inveigled a proper philosopher from the Uni to join us and put us through our paces with a set topic to discuss on the way.

The first took place on the 21 June, the evening of the solstice, a deliberate choice on the part of Alan. The conversations centred on the philosophy of walking and what it means to do things together. We started at the Unitarian Church, went uphill to Longfield Equestrian Centre and Long Hey Lane, then left along the Calderdale Way, returning down through the woods and on to Oldroyd Road to the canal towpath, finishing in The Pub in Brook Street in Tod town centre to continue discussions there.

For our second one, which took place on Saturday 22 September, to coincide with the equinox, the subject was: ‘Nature and the Good Life’.We were joined by practising philosopher Dr Paul Knights, who lives in the Upper Calder Valley, and does postdoctoral research as a British Academy Fellow at the University of Manchester.  Here’s his outline of some things we talked about as we walked, reflected and drank:
What is the good life for a human? What role does nature have in our well-being? How can natural landscapes best be managed to contribute to us living good lives?
During this walk we were invited to reflect on the good life and the role of nature in our well-being. Our walk through the landscape prompted reflection; landscapes such as the South Pennines are increasingly the focus of policy demands to deliver public goods – contributions to societal well-being – in return for the public subsidies received by land managers. In addition to food from livestock farming, natural landscapes will be expected to deliver improved flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and opportunities for recreation. Underpinning this policy shift is the assumption that changes to the way natural landscapes are managed can benefit people – improve their lives – in a range of ways. This will change both the way the landscape looks, and how we relate to it. As we walked through the landscape, we were invited to think about the variety of ways our environment contributes to our well-being, and in doing so engage with that most ancient of philosophical questions: what is it to live a good life?

The linear walk began at the entrance to the Top Brink car park on Lumbutts Road at 10:30 a.m.  We strolled along the ridge and descended eventually to the canal towpath and ended with more philosophical chat in the pub called The Pub (3 Brook St, Tod, OL14 5AJ).

The next walk will be on the equinox, Friday 21 December, this time a walk along the canal from Hebden Bridge, again finishing in The Pub.