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First Principles

July 12, 2020 - July 25, 2020

First Principles Event

This 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 Princeton and will also take a day trip to New York City to visit the offices of First Things.

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.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Voegelin, Nietzsche, Newman, Charles Taylor, Arendt, Pierre Hadot, Josef Pieper, and others.

Faculty and Lecturers
R. J. Snell, Director, Center on the University and Intellectual Life, Witherspoon Institute

David Corey, Professor of Political Science, Baylor University

Anna Moreland, Associate Professor of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions, Villanova University

R. R. Reno, Editor, First Things

This seminar is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Young professionals working in a related field may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Application Information
The following documents are required of applicants: cover letter explaining your interest in the seminar, resume or curriculum vitae, copies of your unofficial transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. All application materials must be submitted online on or before February 11, 2019; applications received by email will not be considered.

Location and Admissions Information
Admitted students will be notified of their status in mid-March. A non-refundable $400 registration fee is required of all admitted students to offset the costs of tuition, room, and board to attend this program hosted on the campus of Princeton University.

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July 12, 2020
July 25, 2020


Princeton, NJ
Princeton, NJ United States + Google Map