Conference Topic

Theology/Philosophy

FEATURED CONFERENCES

Liberty and Revelation in the Holy Qur’an

This conference examined a generous selection of Suras to provide a way to explore the major themes and concerns of the Qur'an, with an emphasis on the nature of man, his relation to God, and the status of human freedom.

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Moses and the Liberation of the Hebrew Nation

This conference will examine the career of Moses as political and spiritual leader as presented in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We will also read selections from the Qur'an and sayings of Muhammad in order to compare the status of Moses within Judaism and Islam.

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ALL Theology/Philosophy CONFERENCES

Freedom and Necessity in the Philosophy of the Renaissance

This conference explored the theme of human liberty as developed in the humanist tradition of the Renaissance.

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Liberty and Responsibility in the “Essays” of Montaigne

Published in 1580, Michel de Montaigne's Essays is a key text in the formation of modern liberalism. Via an exploration of selections from this text, we explored questions about the nature, possibilities, scope, and obstacles to individual liberty.

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Codes of Virtue and Liberty

The seminar investigated influential historical and contemporary codes with an eye to assessing how they cultivated both the character and the virtue of their citizens.

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Order, Individuality, and the Free Society in Hegel, Toennies, and Oakeshott

Making the fundamental distinctions between simple projects that can be organized as specific enterprises, and more complex civil associations that cannot, grew out of the relationship of customary practices and abstract rules in the formation of modern civil society. We took up these ideas in order of their most significant…

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Restraint, Politics, and Liberty

This conference explored the significance of certain kinds of character for the liberal political order. The readings examined conceptions of individual character, civil society, political order, and relations of mutual reinforcement (or the absence of those relations) between them, all with a view toward better understanding the conditions for, and…

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Religion, Ideology, and the Moral Sentiments

With readings drawn from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and two literary works, this conference explored the manner in which ideology and religion can distort the moral sentiments.

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The Interface of Culture, Religion, and Liberty in Islam and Christianity

This conference focused on the interface of culture, religion, and liberty in Islam and Christianity. Considering the expansion of Islam from North Africa to the South Pacific, we used the occasion to explore the possible reasons for the success of that expansion and then, having discussed those events, moved to…

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Liberty and the Divine-Human Encounter

This colloquium explored key writings reflecting the divine-human encounter from antiquity, the High Middle Ages, post-Reformation England, and the twentieth century, and concluded by considering whether the West can survive the desacralization of the foundations of the social order.

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The Nature and Limits of Liberty

The purpose of the conference was to discuss some important questions regarding the nature and limits of liberty: Does liberty consist in being able to do what one wants to do, or in the absence of coercion? Does liberty consist in being able to do what one believes is in…

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Virtue, Private Property, and Freedom: East and West

This colloquium focused on controversial discourses concerning the relations among private property, virtue, and freedom. A private-property-centered discussion explored relevant ideas deeply related to individual liberty and responsibility in both the Chinese and Western traditions.

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Virtue, Liberty, and Religious Toleration in Pierre Bayle

This conference probed the themes of liberty, belief, responsibility, and toleration as developed in two works by Pierre Bayle.

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Reason, the Passions, and Political Liberty

The connection between human nature and social order is a long-running, central theme in political theory. Fundamental to many of the arguments is a distinction between two aspects of human nature: the passions and reason. The purpose of this colloquium was to explore these connections between reason, the passions, and…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Montaigne’s “Essays”

Published in 1580, Michel de Montaigne’s Essays is a key text of early modern liberalism. This conference investigated Montaigne’s defense of a liberal order and of toleration, his investigations into tyranny and the human longing for grandeur and transcendence, and his discussions of virtue and the importance of self-knowledge.

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Character, Free Will, and Responsibility

This colloquium explored the relations between freedom of the will and responsibility for character as a way of focusing on some crucial issues concerning the nature of moral agency and responsibility. It addressed questions concerning the ways in which people’s characters—their values, dispositions, policies of judgment, and patterns of responses—are…

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Liberty and the Limits of Constructivist Rationality

Arguments from Cartesian rationalist principles have long been used to justify foundational approaches to politics and social action as well as various forms of central planning, all of which tend to represent onerous restrictions on individual liberty. Friedrich Hayek offers up a comparison of two views of the order of…

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Reformed and Unreformed Liberty: Turretin, Spinoza, and Locke

This conference examined Francis Turretin's reformed theology, contrasting it with that of John Locke and Baruch Spinoza in terms of the foundations and implications of religious faith and liberty.

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Lucretius, Evolutionary Morality, and Spontaneous Order

This conference explored concepts of evolution and spontaneous order through the classical writings of Lucretius and the contemporary work of Matt Ridley, among others.

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Justice: Individual or Institutional Virtue?

Conferees explored the relation between justice as an individual virtue and justice as a social norm or as a virtue of political and social institutions by considering prominent conceptions of virtue and justice in both ancient and modern contexts.

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Positivism and Constructivism

The purpose of this seminar was to demonstrate the clear influence of positivism and neo-positivism in what Hayek refers to as “the abuse of reason.” This can be perceived in the fields of political philosophy, namely in the epistemology of social sciences, and most particularly, in the epistemology of economics.

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Political Religions and Freedom in Modern Society

This colloquium studied in a cross-disciplinary perspective the complex interplay between totalitarian political doctrines and religious questions. This topic is especially relevant today, as we are confronted with new forms of fundamentalism and political theology.

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Liberty in the Utilitarian Tradition

Conferees explored the history of the development of the utilitarian tradition with the purpose of assessing whether critics of this tradition have captured the essence of the central concerns that motivated classical utilitarians, and how liberty featured among such concerns.

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Al-Ghazali and the Paths to Knowledge and Liberty

This colloquium examined the work of the great Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, whose name appears on the wall of the Goodrich Seminar Room. The conversation focuseed on al-Ghazali's epistemology and its impact on individual freedom.

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What We Owe to Each Other: Individual Freedom and the Boundaries of the Common Good

The colloquium analyzed the concepts of social justice and common good, as well as the concept of diffuse interests of society, in the contemporary political debate. The starting point was the challenge suggested by Hayek: does the idea of social justice make any sense? Is it not the fundamental role…

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Liberty, Society, and the Economy in Modern Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Thought

This conference engaged questions about human freedom, the social order, and the economy in the conditions of modernity through the reading and discussion of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic texts that contained detailed reflections on these matters.

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Liberty and Responsibility for Human Nature

The colloquium considered theories about human nature and their implications for a society of free and responsible individuals using readings drawn largely from philosophical anthropologies, but also from biology and psychology. In trying to live together peacefully, are we fighting nature or cooperating with it? Do we become morally responsive…

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Existentialism and Free Markets

This Socratic conference used excerpts from the existentialist tradition and most of Irwin's new book, The Free Market Existentialist, to examine the concepts of individualism and autonomy in existentialist thought, and whether they more properly entail a free market political economy or a Marxist one.

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Liberty and Responsibility as Themes in the Founding of Bioethics

This discussion on the moral principles upon which contemporary bioethics is founded was accomplished through an examination of philosophical writings, government reports, and medical and clinical concerns.

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Sociability and Governability: Bishop Butler in Context

The conference explored two intertwined aspects of Butler's work: human sociability and Butler’s innovations regarding human governability.

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Book of Job: Fate, Virtue, and Liberty

This conference examined questions of fate and individual responsibility through a reading of the Book of Job, a Muslim gloss on theodicy, and contemporary theological and artistic encounters with Job's message.

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Liberty, Capitalism, and Progress in Catholic Social Teaching

This conference explored the main aspects of Catholic Social Teaching (also called Catholic Social Thought, Catholic Social Doctrine, or Christian Social Thought) and how these relate to human liberty in general and the free market in particular.

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Liberty and Obligation in Roman Stoicism

This conference read classic Stoic texts to examine the history of the liberal understanding of freedom as individual autonomy, and not just the absence of external restriction.

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Adam Smith, Liberty, and Responsibility: East and West

Via the comparison and contrast of Adam Smith's works with a variety of Classical Chinese sources, this conference explored the foundations of a spontaneously ordered free society in the Western and Eastern traditions.

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Liberty and God’s Power in Philo and Josephus

The conference examined the combination of Greek philosophy and Jewish theology in Philo and Josephus, as well as Josephus's account of the Jews’ rebellion against the Romans.

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Suffering, Virtue, and the Way to Liberty in the Foundations of Buddhism

This conference explored the potential benefits and drawbacks of pursuing the way to liberty established by the Buddha and followed, in different ways, by his most influential early followers.

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Moral Ideals, Political Necessities, and Liberty

This conference discussed the recurrent conflict between moral ideals and political necessities, and the ramifications for liberty and responsibility of the different possible solutions to such conflicts.

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Faith, Covenant, and Responsibility: Narrative and Prophecy in Genesis and the Qur’an

This conference examined the foundations of society and liberty as recounted in Genesis and parallel passages in the Qur'an.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Self-Perfection in Confucian Thought

Confucianism grounds its social and political analysis firstly on the idea of a natural social order that imposes limits on what is possible for human beings and politics. Secondly, it holds to a notion of individual perfectionism in which the goal of life is to realize a potential or capacity…

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Virtues and the Market

Deirdre McCloskey, in her The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, argues that the conception of virtue, as we have inherited it, cannot be directly applied to societies with functioning markets. This colloquium invited a mix of scholars and non-scholars to debate McCloskey’s thesis, along with primary historical…

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Liberty, Happiness, and Imagination in J. S. Mill and William Wordsworth

The conference put Mill's best-known ideas on liberty into dialogue not only with some of his writings on religion, hope, and poetry, but also with Wordsworth's poetry to understand the relationship between reason, imagination, and emotion in Mill's thought and in the life of a free individual more generally.

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Liberty, Nature, and the Question of Human Dignity

This conference explored the connection between the notion of dignity and individual rights and liberty. It drew upon works of both contemporary and core sources.

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Religion, Freedom, and Citizenship in Spinoza’s “Theological Political Treatise”

This conference examined Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise with special attention to the political significance of religion. The conference explored the confrontation between religious traditionalism and secular modernity by returning to one of the key texts of the Enlightenment. Among the issues explored were freedom of religion and political stability; divine…

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Galileo Galilei and Freedom of Thought and Expression

This conference discussed Galileo's discoveries and writings through several texts, including The Starry Messenger and his Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems. Conferees also explored writings of opponents of Galileo in the Catholic Church, including Cardinal Bellarmine, in order to examine the tensions between religion and science, as well as…

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Responsible Persons and Responsibility

Conferees examined what it means to be responsible, who can be responsible, and what follows from being and not being responsible, which are critical elements of the ongoing conversation about liberty.

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Wisdom, Principle, and Liberty in Jewish Ethical Writings

Through an examination of the ancient Jewish ethical text Pirke Avot, in combination with writings by Maimonides and Spinoza, conferees considered religiously anchored and philosophically anchored conceptions of ethics and the well-led life, and the relations between those conceptions, from antiquity to the early modern period.

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Liberty and Chinese Philosophy

Through a comparison of five Chinese thinkers, this conference investigated general themes such as the rule of law; the purpose and legitimate extent of political authority; the relationship of the individual to political society and to the social community; and the harmonies or oppositions among the ideas of innovation, tradition,…

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Responsibility and Freedom: Ethics and Politics

The colloquium, held in Spanish, explored understandings of "responsible persons" and "responsibility" as well as the relationship of responsibility to freedom and liberty. Understanding what it means to be responsible, who can be responsible, and what follows from being and not being responsible is critical to the ongoing conversation about…

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Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Causality

Conferees discussed the basic questions: What is free will, What is moral responsibility, and Are they the same thing? Understanding these questions is essential to understanding how free and responsible individuals are to be considered.

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Anarchy and Legal Order: Legal and Political Arguments for a Stateless Society

This Socratic Seminar was on Gary Chartier's Anarchy and Legal Order: Law and Politics for a Stateless Society. The purpose of the conference was to confront the limits of the necessity of the state through a well-articulated anarchist argument.

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Liberty, Luther, and the Reformation

The conference explored how Protestant ideas developed and influenced thinking about liberty and responsibility in Germany and Europe, especially as those ideas came to be applied to legal and political developments from the time of Luther's 95 Theses forward.

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Classic Works of Humor as Expressions and Explorations of Liberty

This colloquium examined the manner in which classic works of humor have served as expressions of liberty by exemplifying a citizen's right to speak and write freely and irreverently concerning their society's leaders and practices, and as a tool for identifying limits to freedom and thereby to possible social reform.

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Moral Sentiments: Ancient and Modern Sources of Smith’s Moral Theory

Drawing from Enlightenment authors and some of their classical sources, this colloquium focused on the idea of sympathy or fellow feeling. As a motivator of human action, sympathy offers a foundation for accounts of human sociability and peaceful interaction that do not require Hobbesian government and that were central to the…

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Liberty and Toleration in the Writings of Spinoza and Bayle

This conference considered the work of Spinoza and Bayle on the question of toleration. One aim of the conference was to understand their arguments in relation to one another. The broad aim, however, was to discuss questions of general and immediate interest to the free society regarding religious toleration. These…

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Liberty as an Islamic Value

Aimed mostly at public intellectuals and journalists, this colloquium focused on the question of individual liberty both within and outside of an Islamic context.

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Liberty and Authority in Luther’s “95 Theses”

The conference examined the theological landscape that led Luther to post his 95 theses, his defense of Christian liberty, and his impact on both Protestants and popes.

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Liberty and the Law in Samuel I and II

The books of Samuel offer a unique account of the relationship of liberty and law, one that ultimately seeks to understand whether human beings are capable of reconciling their religious obligations with the necessities of political life. The concern of Samuel I and II was the establishment of a political…

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Liberty, Nature, and Wisdom in the Philosophical Tales of the French Enlightenment

This conference explored themes of liberty, convention, nature, and wisdom in four French Enlightenment travel tales: Montesquieu's Persian Letters, Voltaire's Zadig, Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's Voyage, and de Graffigny's Letters from a Peruvian Woman.

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Liberty and Equality

This colloquium explored the adequacy of the ideal of equality in a society of free and responsible individuals. Should equality be endorsed as an ideal? Are there other conceptions of the ideal of equality that merit endorsement? Which is most congruent with liberty as an ideal?

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Boethius on Liberty and Providence

This conference explored Boethius's important book, The Consolation of Philosophy. The focus was on his ideas concerning individual freedom and free will, and how these can coexist with a belief in the power of Fortune and Divine Providence.

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Art, Morality, and Freedom in Kames and Burke

This colloquium investigated the way art, beauty, and sublimity promote moral responsibility and a free society according to the works of Lord Kames and Edmund Burke. Eighteenth-century British philosophers devoted extensive attention to problems of aesthetics—concerning the nature of the beautiful, the sublime, and art—more than any previous period of…

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Tomasi’s “Free Market Fairness”

In his book Free Market Fairness, John Tomasi introduced an interpretation of liberalism he calls “market democracy,” which attempted to combine attractive ideas from the two great liberal traditions. This conference explored the main arguments offered by Tomasi in support of his hybrid conception of liberalism.

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Seneca on Cruelty, Tyranny, and Liberty

This conference explored the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca's views on human nature, politics, and the passions. In particular, the passion of anger was explored with regard to its relationship to cruelty and tyranny. This was done through reading Seneca's essays and two plays.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Moral Value in David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Samuel Johnson

This conference focused on Hume’s and Reid’s sharply opposed accounts of responsibility for action, moral motivation, and moral judgment, and also looked at Johnson’s views on free will, the nature of virtue, and the origin of evil.

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Liberty, Growth, and Justice

The conference explored recent pro-growth arguments that incorporate considerations of justice or moral rights and their relationship to a free society, through reading and discussing substantial portions of David Schmitdz's Elements of Justice (2006) and Tyler Cowen's Stubborn Attachments (2018).

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Free Will or Divine Predestination? Augustine and Pelagius on the Human Condition

This conference explored the debates between Pelagius and Augustine about human nature and free will. The dialogue of these thinkers about human freedom directly bears upon the question of individual liberty, and it has implications for individual responsibility, in that the limits of free will also form the limits of…

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Conceptions of Law and Liberty in the Abrahamic Faith Traditions

This conference explored the roots of conceptions of law and liberty, and their interrelations in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. These traditions have been the source of immensely influential conceptions of law, its ground, and its purpose, and they are also sources of conceptions of human liberty, why it…

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Virtue, Vice, and Liberty

This conference explored the relations between virtue and liberty and vice and liberty, as a way of raising fundamental questions about whether certain states of character are necessary for a person to be able to exercise the sort of liberty made possible by a liberal political/legal order.

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Freedom, Responsibility, and Faith in Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard

Conferees explored freedom, faith, humanity, and religion in two key works of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Soren Kierkegaard: The Brothers Karamazov and Fear and Trembling.

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Pluralism, Liberty, and the Challenge of Relativism

This conference was on the challenge that relativism poses to a classical liberal pluralistic conception of society as it can be read from Hume, Michael Oakeshott, John Gray, and other authors.

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The Seventeenth-Century French Moralists on Self-Love

Self-love, or selfishness, can be seen as a problem for social and political orders, one that necessitates the Hobbesian leviathan as the solution. Or, self-love can be understood as the basis for peaceful social and commercial cooperation. This conference explored the work of the seventeenth-century French moralists who offered a…

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Spontaneous Order versus Rationalism in Defense of Liberty

The conference examined the notion of spontaneous order as developed through the diverse perspectives of Wittgenstein's philosophy, Hayek's economics, and Oakeshott's key distinction between enterprise and civil associations.

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Freedom from Corruption?

This conference will consider original papers treating corruption as a topic of foundational philosophical importance, and will discuss how the resulting ideas impact political philosophy in the free society.

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Liberty, Political Neutrality, and Religion

Conferees explored how a public position of neutrality is compatible with religious life and religious liberty in a free society.

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Liberty, Toleration, and Constraint in the Holy Qur’an

The conference examined questions of religious tolerance and holy war through a reading of select suras of the Qur'an, including those generally identified as justifying military jihad against nonbelievers.

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Constitution, Law, and Tradition: The Qur’an and Its Transmission in Commentary

Conferees considered the themes of liberty and interpretation through an examination of selections from the Qur'an and Muslim commentaries on the Qur'anic texts representing different approaches and schools of thought.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Foundations of Libertarianism

This colloquium explored the meanings and foundations of libertarianism. Focused on doctrines that are commonly thought to be necessary and sufficient for constituting libertarianism, it investigated how those doctrines relate to each other and to liberty.

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Morals, Liberty, and the Rule of Law: Francisco Suárez

The conference explored the political, legal, and moral thought of Francisco Suárez, examining his ideas about freedom for all the domains of human life and the connection of natural law to civil law, property rights, and the laws of war.

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Liberty and Individual Responsibility in the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita

This conference explored fundamental texts of Hinduism in several Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Conceptions of the self and its relation to divinity were explored, as well as moral principles and ethical disciplines.

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Freedom and Government in Locke and Spinoza

This colloquium engaged in a comparative study of Spinoza’s arguments and Locke’s more well-known Second Treatise on Government to consider which approach is best suited to our contemporary concerns of fostering the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

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Rationalism, Scientism, and Liberty

This colloquium explored the twentieth-century notions of objectivism and scientism through the lens of several thinkers including Eric Voegelin, Michael Oakeshott, F. A. Hayek, Leo Strauss, and especially Michael Polanyi.

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Religion, Society, and Freedom

This conference explored the ways in which Christian and Muslim philosophers, theologians, and historians have engaged with the project of human liberty. In particular, the conference looked for areas of agreement and disagreement in approaches toward liberty within the two religious traditions. 

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Rationality and Liberty

Conferees explored alternative conceptions of rationality, the relationship of these with free will, and their implications for understanding liberty in the political, economic, and legal realms.

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Liberty and Necessity in Emerson and Nietzsche

Emerson is perhaps best known to a wider American public for his enthusiastic defense of individual liberty and self-reliance, his critique of politics and the active state, and his praise of the virtues of private property and even wealth. Among that same American public, it remains nearly unknown that Emerson’s…

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Liberty and Justice in the Prophets and Wisdom Books of the Bible

This conference will expand prior Liberty Fund discussions on the Bible to two other crucial genres of biblical writing: the prophets and wisdom literature.

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Freedom, Tradition, and Humanism in the Works of Petrarch

This conference explored themes of individual liberty and responsibility in the work of Petrarch, one of the greatest humanists.

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Liberty, Coercion, and Consent

This conference explored the vision of a free society based on voluntary and consensual relations in which force and coercion are absent.

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Occupancy, Territorial, and Resource Rights

This colloquium explored issues related to occupancy, territorial, and resource rights through a selection of classical authors, and through the interpretation and reformulation of their theories by contemporary authors.

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Liberty, Law, and Limited Government in Hume’s “Treatise”

This conference examined one of the central themes of Hume’s career through an investigation of his most systematic writing on the moral foundations of a free society, contained in part 2 of book 3 of his Treatise of Human Nature.

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Classical Liberalism in Contemporary Political Philosophy

Recent years have seen a resurgence in classical liberal political philosophy. While some philosophers continue in the tradition of the self-ownership based natural rights theory made famous by Nozick, this resurgence has not been limited to that domain. Classical liberal political philosophers now base their theories on a wide range…

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Maimonides on Free Will, Liberty, and Human Perfection

Free will and its role in human excellence and happiness were among the central concerns of medieval Jewish thinkers, and of thinkers ever since. We propose a conference on Moses Maimonides, the most important Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, both in relation to free will and in relation to…

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Freedom, Imagination, and Aesthetics in Modern Western Thought

The main aim of the conference was to explore the implications of the aesthetic perspective for the concept of liberty, especially within the context of modernity.

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Freedom, Responsibility, and Rawls’s “Theory of Justice” at Fifty Years

The publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971 was pivotal for political philosophy in general and philosophy of liberalism in particular. Not since J. S. Mill's On Liberty, more than one century earlier, had a statement of liberalism enjoyed a comparable impact. This conference reassessed the importance of Rawl's…

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Character and Responsibility in Ancient China and Greece

Ancient Greek moral philosophy and Chinese moral philosophy are both anchored in reflections about character and social roles, particularly responsibilities and priorities. By juxtaposing these practical ethical debates from different world perspectives, conferees considered perennial questions of character formation and personal responsibility.

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The Moral Foundations of Economic Behavior

Most people readily admit that morality is a part of a life well-lived and an important component of human society. Similarly, most would agree that economics, too, plays an important role in society. This conference examined to what extent these two are related to one another, and how do their…

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Dimensions of Evil and its Impact on Liberty

What explains the appalling crimes committed in the name, or in the context, of political goals? Are atrocities like the Holocaust or the Stalinist Terror the result of wicked ideologies that somehow consume otherwise decent people? Or are they the work of a handful of evil men who somehow gain…

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Calling and the Professions in the Free Society

Participants read primary philosophical and theological texts to examine the concept of a calling as a way to structure one's life and to answer the question: Does the concept continue to make sense in the modern world?

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Harmony and Freedom: East and West

Participants in the colloquium explored the main ethical, political, and economic senses that the notion of harmony has acquired in Chinese philosophy, and contrasted such views with relevant reflections in the Western liberal tradition, with particular emphasis on the implications of those alternative understandings of harmony for individual liberty.

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Political Freedom in Classical Islamic Philosophy

This conference examined the great philosophers of the Islamic “Classical Period” (ca. 900–1200). While these philosophers wrote on a great many subjects, woven into all of their deliberations is the relationship between the individual (especially the individual qua philosopher), the state, and the religion of Islam. This colloquium examined these…

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Liberty, Property, and International Justice

While everybody agrees poverty is tragic, the obligations of countries that are relatively affluent remains highly controversial. This is particularly true given the documented ineffectiveness of foreign aid. Some authors, however, have argued that there are some institutional alternatives to foreign aid, and that relatively affluent countries are morally obligated…

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Liberty and the Sabbath

Conferees discussed the relationship between the Sabbath and liberty in Jewish, Puritan, Catholic, philosophical, and legal texts for the purpose of understanding the implications of that relationship for contemporary American culture.

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Ideals of Personal Liberty and Governance in Ancient Daoism

The conference engaged with three of the foundational texts of Daoism to explore its relationship to liberty and responsibility.

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