First Principles

The Witherspoon Institute
June 9-22, 2024

This two week intensive seminar examines two topics central to the work of the Witherspoon Institute, namely, (1) the purpose of the university and (2) friendship and marriage. Unfortunately, these topics are often taken up from the vantage point of the culture wars, rather than from a patient, careful study of first principles. In these two weeks, we examine them from the background of philosophical anthropology, the metaphysics of the person, and a study of personal action and the human good. That is, from the perspective of the nature of being, the nature of knowing, and the nature of action, both the university and human relationships can be understood as having purpose and order insofar as they contribute to, and partially constitute, human flourishing. Absent a basis in a personalist anthropology, the university and human relations tend to seek alternative ends which are profoundly alienating and potentially destructive to persons and communities.

In the first week, the seminar examines traditional texts of metaphysics and epistemology as the backdrop for the university. In the second week, readings in human action and the human good provide a basis to examine friendship, sexuality, and relationship. Discussions are lively, vigorous, and socratic. The seminar includes guest lecturers and opportunities to interact with leading writers and public intellectuals in addition to regular faculty as well as cultural engagements with art, music, film, architecture. Participants will have the chance to explore Philadelphia and the historic and artistic opportunities the city offers.

Join students from around the country (and the world) in this intensive course on what it means to be a human who knows, acts, and loves.

This seminar is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

R. J. Snell, Director of Academic Programs, Witherspoon Institute
David Corey, Professor of Political Science, Baylor University
Karen Taliaferro, Assistant Professor, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State University

Application Deadline: February 2, 2024