Summer Seminars

For High School Students

June 12-18, 2022 (Men) •  June 19-25, 2022 (Women)

Moral Life and the Classical Tradition
The Witherspoon Institute
Cairn University, Langhorne, PA

The Moral Life and the Classical Tradition Seminar is a week-long program for rising high school juniors and seniors as well as rising college freshmen interested in the ancient philosophical tradition and its influence in the Christian moral life. The seminar is offered to both young men and young women, although their seminars take place separately (see dates above). Both the young men and the young women study two tracks:

1. Classical Moral Philosophy:This track explores Plato’s MenoSymposiumApologyCrito, and Euthyphro as well as selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics.

2. Contemporary Issues in Moral Thought: This track consists of discussions and readings on the foundations of Judeo-Christian moral tradition, including the relationship of faith and reason, the Judeo-Christian tradition and scientific inquiry, sexual ethics, marriage and family, and biomedical ethics.

Both courses will consist of a great deal of discussion and interaction between the students and the teacher; therefore, students are expected to be well prepared by reading and understanding beforehand the assigned readings. Readings for the seminar will be provided about one month in advance of the seminar. Classes will be supplemented with quiet time for study and with extracurricular activities such as sports, cultural outings, and opportunities for spiritual reflection.

The Moral Life and the Classical Tradition Seminar is a challenging intellectual experience that brings high school students into direct contact with serious scholars of the humanities.

Application deadline: February 15, 2022

Learn more and apply


June 20-24, 2022

Principles of American Politics
James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
Virtual

This seminar for upper-level high-school students and rising college freshmen will be taught as a one-week online seminar, for two consecutive weeks with separate groups of students. Participants will study the fundamental questions of equality and liberty in American political life. What have Americans meant by these principles from the founding to the present? What is their relationship with one another, with political power, with law, and with the private sphere of civil society? Are they in tension or in harmony? Readings will be in primary sources including The Federalist and Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, as well as other basic texts from American history.

Faculty:S. Adam SeagraveAssociate Professor, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State UniversityJeffrey J. PoelvoordeAssociate Professor of Politics, Converse CollegeBradford P. WilsonExecutive Director, James Madison Program, Princeton UniversityMatthew J. FranckPolitics Lecturer, Princeton University

Applications for the 2022 Summer Seminar on the Principles of American Politics will open in January.

Learn more and apply


June 27-29, 2022

How to Survive (and Thrive) at College: God, Truth, and the University
The Collegium Institute
University City, Philadelphia, PA

Statistically, college is where faith goes to die. Not only faith, but even truth itself has become the object of intense scrutiny and skepticism in the academy. Is believing in absolute truth naive or even harmful? Is faith nothing more than willful ignorance, quickly remedied by a college education, or are there rational grounds for belief? How do you retain or even grow in your faith in the college environment? What is truth, why does it matter, and are there any truths you would die for?

 
The Collegium Institute’s summer seminar How to Survive (and Thrive) at College: God, Truth, and the University will approach these questions over the course of three days by examining the history and purpose of university education, the nature of faith, and the splendor of truth as articulated by figures like Augustine and Aquinas, Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena, Newman and Wojtyla.
 
While much of the seminar will be grounded in first principles, it will also feature practical contemporary advice from alumni and current students of Ivy League universities and small liberal arts colleges on how to succeed in college.
 
Join us as we explore through lectures and seminars, tours and pilgrimages what it means to be true to yourself, true to your friends and family, and true to God both in the university and beyond.
 

Application deadline: February 28, 2022.

Learn more and apply


July 10-16, 2022

Human Meaning and the Moral Life
The Austin Institute
University of Texas, Austin

What does it mean to be human? This question is more important than ever in our frenzied age of materialism, unbridled technological advancement, and moral upheaval. High school students who have finished their sophomore or junior years are invited to participate in a highly-interactive, week-long seminar that plumbs the depths of the human person. Each day, we will address a different aspect of what it means to be human. Daily topics will include:

A human person is an embodied soul.
A human person changes over time, and not always for the better.
A human person has a conscience and a moral sense.
A human person strives toward a specific goal, happiness.
A human person must discriminate between competing claims.

Led by experienced faculty members, students will examine these topics through both classical philosophical texts and literary works selected to put some flesh on the philosophical concepts we discuss. We will end each day with a concrete application of the concepts we have studied to some contemporary moral issue. For example, the day we discuss the human person as an embodied soul, we will wrestle with contemporary competing claims that the human person is nothing but matter and that the human person is primarily a soul whose material body doesn’t really matter that much. Armed with the wisdom of classic texts, students will leave better prepared to face the world – and more immediately, college.

Classroom instruction will be supplemented with outdoor activities, cultural outings, film viewings, and all the best that Austin has to offer, so students can expect a generous dose of fun mixed in with their study.

Application Deadline: March 6, 2022

Learn more and apply


July 11 – 15, 2022

Metaphysics and Robotics
The Zephyr Institute
Location TBD

Artificial intelligence is becoming more intelligent by the day. Will robotic intelligence someday match or surpass human intelligence? What is the line between robot and human, and what does artificial intelligence mean for humanity? This summer, Zephyr Philosophy Camp participants will analyze some of the most pressing scientific and technological questions of our day. Drawing from Aristotle, Descartes, and current debates in the philosophy of mind, we will explore what it means to be human, the nature of intelligence and consciousness, the concept of God, and the metaphysical possibilities of strong artificial intelligence.

Application Deadline: July 4, 2022

Learn more and apply


July 11-17 (Women) • July 17-22 (Men)

The Awakening Project
The Canterbury Institute
Oxford, UK

The Awakening Project offers tutorials, seminars, group discussions and mentorship to students in the year ahead of university entrance to equip them with the necessary skills to navigate the intellectual and personal challenges to come. The Project draws from tutors associated with the University of Oxford and the Canterbury Institute (UK Registered Charity No. 1186234) to provide personal guidance and education on the theories and ideas in one’s upcoming degree specialisms. It commits to an Oxonian approach of individually-tailored educational development through small-group learning. The Awakening Project forms part of the Canterbury Institute’s charitable mission of rediscovering the academic vocation through humility towards the truth. It differs from other summer school programmes by having students themselves set the goals they have for their university years. The Canterbury Institute subsequently handpicks tutors in Oxford who can best accelerate achievement of those self-determined goals.

Application Deadline: May 13, 2022     

Learn more and apply


August 1 – 5, 2022

Pursuing the Common Good in the Digital Age
The Abigail Adams Institute
JFK Park in Harvard Square, MA

In recent years we have witnessed a growing sense of division in Western societies. Here in America, liberals and conservatives, men and women, atheists and Christians, red and blue Americans, among others, all seem to have a bone to pick with the existing societal arrangement.

What is producing disaffection in contemporary liberal Western societies? What are the underlying assumptions of our political system? How have they developed and changed over the years? Are the forces pulling us apart now stronger than those that bring us together?

In this five-day intensive seminar we will examine the roots of our situation exploring fundamental tensions around such phenomena as freedom, self-interest, authority, dogma and common good. Students will study the ideas and perspectives behind modern liberal society and how different ways of thinking have shaped what the common good looks like today. We will read and/or discuss selections of ancient, modern and contemporary writers, including Plato, Mandeville, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, Taylor and Fukuyama.

Application Deadline: June 24, 2022

Learn more and apply

For Undergraduate Students

June 20 – 24, 2022

Man and Woman, Body and Soul
The Abigail Adams Institute
Harvard Campus Housing TBD

Questions surrounding sex and gender, and sexual equality and freedom, are especially fraught these days, both personally and politically. We move quite intentionally from metaphysics to ethics to politics, ask these questions with “sex and gender” foremost in mind. We first explore questions of body and soul and the relationship between them by reading Plato, Aristotle, & Thomas Aquinas. Students can look forward to Professors Franks & Bachiochi, their personal guides to challenging texts that should not be read on one’s own.

We then explore questions of education and wisdom, virtue and happiness, sex and marriage, and work and family obligations by reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, & Sarah Grimke. The seminar environment provides room for discussion & disagreement, and we encourage a wide-range of viewpoints and beliefs on course material!

Finally, we explore questions of friendship and the common good, political freedom and legal equality, rights, the purpose of law, and the ends of government by reading Dorothy Sayers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, & Judith Butler. In the evenings, students will have time to explore Boston & build community. Alumni of the seminar stay connected after the week is over, many staying in touch two or three years later!

The seminar is open to advanced undergraduates (including graduating seniors),  graduate students, and young professionals. 

Application Deadline: April 29, 2022

Learn More and Apply


June 27 – July 1, 2022

Theory and Practice of Statesmanship
The James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
Virtual
 
This one-week online seminar for college undergraduates will ask a fundamental question lying at the heart of politics and public life: What is statesmanship? From that, we will explore statesmanship’s defining qualities, why we seem to have so little of it in modern times, and whether we can aspire to statesmanship. We will examine four fundamental aspects of statesmanship:
  1. The identifying characteristics (as opposed to ordinary political life, demagoguery, or tyranny)
  2. What the classical political writers had to say about statesmanship (Aristotle, Cicero)
  3. Lived examples: 18th-century (George Washington), 19th-century (Abraham Lincoln), and 20th-century (Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer)
  4. Statesmanship in the Democratic Context – judicial statesmanship, administrative statesmanship, intellectual statesmanship

Readings will be in primary sources including Aristotle, Cicero, Plutarch, Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, Weber, and Havel.

*This seminar will be held virtually on Zoom.*

Faculty:
Allen C. Guelzo, Senior Research Scholar and Director of the James Madison Program’s Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship, Princeton University
Theresa MacArt, Arizona State University School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Nathan Pinkoski, St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto

Applications for 2022 Summer Seminar on the Theory and Practice of Statesmanship will open in January. 

Learn More and Apply


July 3 – 8, 2022

The Machine Has No Tradition: A Seminar on Technology, Revolution, and Apocalypse
The Zephyr Institute
Location TBD

In this immersive weeklong seminar of undergraduates, graduate students, and young professionals, we will grapple with the essence of technology and life in a technological society. We will explore how technology is reshaping our souls and our society and what a humanistic approach to technology might look like. We will engage with the best that has been said and thought about technology, while also hearing from both Silicon Valley technology creators and practitioners of endangered human traditions. Our guides will be Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Marshall McLuhan, Ivan Illich, René Girard, and more.

Application Deadline: TBD

Learn more and apply


July 5 – 9, 2022

Natural Law and Public Affairs
The Witherspoon Institute
Princeton, New Jersey

The last several decades have witnessed a revival of natural law theory among English-speaking moral and legal philosophers. This ethical tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas offers a compelling alternative to the Kantian and consequentialist systems that have dominated modern moral philosophy. It also provides powerful rational defenses of moral principles often identified as Judeo-Christian, but common also to many great Muslim, ancient Greek, and Roman thinkers—indeed, principles dominant for centuries throughout the West.

This seminar will begin by engaging contemporary analytic work on the foundations and methods of natural-law moral reasoning. But the better part of it will be spent examining arguments that apply natural-law insights to a variety of moral and political issues, including religious liberty and the role of the state; justice in commerce and in communication; just war and capital punishment; abortion and euthanasia; and marriage and sexuality.

A recent participant says,

One of the strongest parts of the program were the intellectually stimulating readings and discussions that have real world applications. I enjoyed that the program was not discussing scholars from an ivory tower; rather, the program also emphasized current debates and action in public policy. 

This seminar is open to advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and young professionals.

Faculty:
Robert P. GeorgePrinceton University
Christopher TollefsenUniversity of South Carolina
Sherif GirgisThe Witherspoon Institute
Ryan T. Anderson, The Ethics and Public Policy Center

Application Deadline: February 15, 2022

Learn More and Apply


July 10 – 23, 2022

First Principles
The Witherspoon Institute
Philadelphia, PA

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.

Faculty:
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 15, 2022

Learn More and Apply


 

For Graduate Students and Young Professionals

June 20 – 24, 2022

Man and Woman, Body and Soul
The Abigail Adams Institute
Harvard Campus Housing TBD

Questions surrounding sex and gender, and sexual equality and freedom, are especially fraught these days, both personally and politically. We move quite intentionally from metaphysics to ethics to politics, ask these questions with “sex and gender” foremost in mind. We first explore questions of body and soul and the relationship between them by reading Plato, Aristotle, & Thomas Aquinas. Students can look forward to Professors Franks & Bachiochi, their personal guides to challenging texts that should not be read on one’s own.

We then explore questions of education and wisdom, virtue and happiness, sex and marriage, and work and family obligations by reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, & Sarah Grimke. The seminar environment provides room for discussion & disagreement, and we encourage a wide-range of viewpoints and beliefs on course material!

Finally, we explore questions of friendship and the common good, political freedom and legal equality, rights, the purpose of law, and the ends of government by reading Dorothy Sayers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, & Judith Butler. In the evenings, students will have time to explore Boston & build community. Alumni of the seminar stay connected after the week is over, many staying in touch two or three years later!

The seminar is open to advanced undergraduates (including graduating seniors), graduate students, and young professionals. 

Application Deadline: April 29, 2022

Learn More and Apply


July 3 – 8, 2022

The Machine Has No Tradition: A Seminar on Technology, Revolution, and Apocalypse
The Zephyr Institute
Location TBD

In this immersive weeklong seminar of undergraduates, graduate students, and young professionals, we will grapple with the essence of technology and life in a technological society. We will explore how technology is reshaping our souls and our society and what a humanistic approach to technology might look like. We will engage with the best that has been said and thought about technology, while also hearing from both Silicon Valley technology creators and practitioners of endangered human traditions. Our guides will be Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Marshall McLuhan, Ivan Illich, René Girard, and more.

Application Deadline: TBD

Learn more and apply


July 5 – 9, 2022

Natural Law and Public Affairs
The Witherspoon Institute
Princeton, New Jersey

The last several decades have witnessed a revival of natural law theory among English-speaking moral and legal philosophers. This ethical tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas offers a compelling alternative to the Kantian and consequentialist systems that have dominated modern moral philosophy. It also provides powerful rational defenses of moral principles often identified as Judeo-Christian, but common also to many great Muslim, ancient Greek, and Roman thinkers—indeed, principles dominant for centuries throughout the West.

This seminar will begin by engaging contemporary analytic work on the foundations and methods of natural-law moral reasoning. But the better part of it will be spent examining arguments that apply natural-law insights to a variety of moral and political issues, including religious liberty and the role of the state; justice in commerce and in communication; just war and capital punishment; abortion and euthanasia; and marriage and sexuality.

A recent participant says,

One of the strongest parts of the program were the intellectually stimulating readings and discussions that have real world applications. I enjoyed that the program was not discussing scholars from an ivory tower; rather, the program also emphasized current debates and action in public policy. 

The seminar is open to advanced undergraduates (including graduating seniors), graduate students, and young professionals.

Faculty:
Robert P. GeorgePrinceton University
Christopher TollefsenUniversity of South Carolina
Sherif GirgisThe Witherspoon Institute
Ryan T. Anderson, The Ethics and Public Policy Center

Application Deadline: February 15, 2022

Learn More and Apply


July 10 – 23, 2022

First Principles
The Witherspoon Institute
Philadelphia, PA

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.

The seminar is open to advanced undergraduates (including graduating seniors), graduate students, and young professionals.

Faculty:
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 15, 2022

Learn More and Apply


July 25-29, 2022

Moral Foundations of Law
James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
Virtual

This one-week online seminar, sponsored for the last dozen years by the Witherspoon Institute, is now sponsored by the James Madison Program. Under the direction of Professor Gerard V. Bradley of Notre Dame Law School, the seminar covers some of the most contested areas of inquiry in legal philosophy today, including legal positivism, practical reason, human good and positive law, morals legislation, pluralism, crime and punishment, property, and rights and duties. The seminar is designed as an intensive weeklong program investigating the relationship between sound norms of critical morality and civil law. Seminar discussions will examine key contemporary legal debates, such as religious freedom and conscience, beginning and end of life issues, and marriage legislation. A federal appellate judge will join the seminar for one day as a guest lecturer. Past guest lecturers include Judge Thomas Hardiman, Judge Edith Jones, Judge William Pryor, and more.

*This seminar will be held virtually on Zoom.*

Current law students, graduate students who are studying jurisprudence in related fields (e.g., political science, philosophy), and recent graduates still early in their careers are encouraged to apply.

Faculty:
Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Law School
John M. Finnis, Professor Emeritus of Law & Legal Philosophy, University of Oxford; Biolchini Family Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Notre Dame Law School
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program, Princeton University
Adam MacLeod, Professor of Law, Jones School of Law, Faulkner University
Matthew J. Franck, Associate Director, James Madison Program, Princeton University
Grégoire Webber, Canada Research Chair in Public Law and Philosophy of Law, Queen’s University

Applications for 2022 Summer Seminar on the Moral Foundations of Law will open in January. 

Learn More and Apply


July 31 – August 6, 2022

Thomistic Seminar: The Normativity of Nature
The Witherspoon Institute
Princeton, NJ

Sugar dissolves in water, puddles of water evaporate in the sun, quasars pulse, and so on—these expressions point to regularities in nature.  They also point to something more than mere regularities—tendencies, say, or dispositions, powers or capacities, aspects of a causal order in the world.  These thoughts, all on their own, suggest that there is some sort of low-level normativity in nature—a presupposition that some kinds of changes should occur under some kinds of circumstances, and recent work in mainstream Anglo-American philosophy of science and metaphysics has involved many efforts to theorize the kind of order at issue in these matters involving inanimate aspects of the natural world.  Things get even more exciting when we turn to the animate—the biological—natural world.  Here, we find recent work urging that such matters as right conduct, good character, and basic understanding of species of living things all involve natural normativity.  That the heart pumps blood, that fish swim, that wolves hunt in packs, and that I ought never to take murderous mean to my ends—however exalted those ends might be—are taken to be matters of natural normativity as well.  In this seminar, we will read recent mainstream Anglo-American philosophical work on these topics alongside some of Aquinas’s work with an eye toward investigating the normativity of nature.

This seminar is open to graduate students in philosophy and related fields.

Faculty:
Candace Vogler, University of Chicago
Therese CoryUniversity of Notre Dame
Dhananjay JagannathanColumbia University

Application Deadline: February 15, 2022

Learn More and Apply