Better Together—Creating Community Across Ideological Divides

The Arete Initiative sponsors courses, lectures, conferences, and research that concern the pressing questions of meaning, value, and spirit that confront us as human beings and citizens. At Arete, we believe that we are best able to consider such questions when we expose our convictions to the scrutiny of an intellectually diverse community of friends who will both support and challenge us. We encourage the cultivation of intellectual and civic virtues and strive to foster community across ideological divides between those who share a passion for and commitment to genuine truth-seeking amidst honest disagreement.

Upcoming Programming

  • September 16: “Constitution Day Lecture,” Lucas Morel
  • November 4: “Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide” with Chris Arnade, Elizabeth Corey (Baylor), and Samar Ali (Vanderbilt), AT UNC
  • December 6-7: “Self-Censorship and the Politicization of the Sciences” with Luana Maroja (Williams) and Anna Krylov (USC)
  • December 8-9: “Meaning and Purpose in the Universe” with Karin Oberg (Harvard), Chris Clemens (UNC), and Devin Gouveau (Holy Cross)

Jed Atkins, Director

Jed Atkins is the E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science at Duke University. His research focuses on Greek, Roman, and early Christian moral and political thought. He earned his PhD from Cambridge University. He is the author of Cicero on Politics and the Limits of Reason, Roman Political Thought, and editor (along with Thomas Bénatouïl) of The Cambridge Companion to Cicero’s Philosophy.


John Rose, Associate Director

Dr. Rose teaches courses on Human Happiness, Christian Ethics, Conservatism, and Political Polarization. His research concerns the tradition of virtue ethics and Christian theology. He earned his PhD from Princeton Seminary. He is the author of Until Our Minds Rest in Thee: Open-Mindedness, Intellectual Diversity, and the Christian Life.



Alfredo Watkins, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Watkins’ main areas of research are in metaphysics and philosophy of mathematics, with further interests in medieval philosophy, political philosophy, and PPE. He earned his PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill.



Kathryn Wagner, Visiting Scholar

Ms. Wagner’s research interests include late medieval religious writing, liturgical theology, postcritical reading, and liberal arts pedagogy. She is a PhD Candidate at Harvard University.

  • Jed Atkins, E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Thomas Pfau, Alice Mary Baldwin Distinguished Professor of English, and secondary appointments in Germanic Language & Literatures and the Divinity School
  • Farr Curlin, Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities in the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine
  • William Deresiewicz, “Change Your Mind First: College and the Urge to Save the World”
  • Alan Jacobs (Baylor), “Embrace the Pain: Living with the Repugnant Cultural Other”
  • Teresa Bejan (Oxford) and John Bowlin (Princeton Seminary), “Civility and Tolerance as Virtues in the University”
  • Patrick Deneen (Notre Dame), “America after Democracy”
  • Tyler VanderWeele (Harvard), “On the Promotion of Human Flourishing”
  • William Hurlbut (Stanford), “The Ethics of Gene Editing”
  • Paul Cartledge (Cambridge), “Ten Things You Really Ought to Know About Ancient Greece”
  • Melissa Lane (Princeton), “What is the Meaning of Political Office?”
  • Wilfred McClay (Oklahoma), “The Strange Persistence of Guilt”
  • Ciaran O’Connor and John Woods, Jr., “Love Your Enemies? Depolarization in the Age of Donald Trump”
  • Candace Vogler (Chicago), “Why Neo-Aristotelian Thomism Matters”
  • Jennifer Frey (South Carolina), “Aquinas and Happiness”
  • James Ceaser (UVa), “James Madison: Founder of the Modern Idea of Founding”
  • Adrian Bejan (Duke), “Nature, Humans, and Purpose”
  • Margarita Mooney (Princeton Seminary), “Being Human in the Modern World”
  • Christy Wampole (Princeton), “Utopian Models of the University in History”
  • Lydia Dugdale (Yale) and John Yoon (Chicago), “What Does it Mean to be ‘Good’ Physician?”

  • “How to Think in Age of Political Polarization” (Ethics, Political Science), Rose
  • “Democracy: Ancient and Modern” (Classics, History, Political Science, Ethics), Atkins
  • “Liberty and Equality: Ancient and Modern Perspectives,” (Visions of Freedom Focus Cluster), Atkins
  • “Conservatism” (Ethics, Political Science), Rose
  • “Christian Ethics” (Ethics, Religion, Political Science), Rose
  • “Happiness and the Virtuous Life” (Ethics) Rose

Our new Student Fellows program is designed for Duke students wishing to live out Arete’s mission of fostering friendship across ideological divides. Students who share a passion for and commitment to genuine truth-seeking amidst honest disagreement will be given the opportunity to share meals together with our guest speakers and various Duke faculty, while engaging in real conversation about important questions. Please email Alfredo Watkins if you would like more information or wish to apply.

Summer Seminars

2019 Arete Medical Ethics Seminar Participantsarete hs summer group

Arete holds two annual faculty-led summer seminars. Our medical ethics seminar for entering or current medical school students aims to equip participants with intellectual tools that can help them discern how to practice medicine well in the face of medicine’s clinical challenges and moral complexities. Our high school summer seminar in ethics, philosophy, and religion is intended for rising seniors wishing to explore the big questions of the human experience.

Arete Panel Videos



“The Future of Conservatism”

with Yuval Levin, Patrick Deneen, Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, and Dan McCarthy




“The Future of Liberalism”

with Chandran Kukatas, Emily Chamlee-Wright, Stephen Davies, and Steve Horwitz




“The Future of Progressivism”

with Justin Giboney, Jillian Johnson, Michael Kazin, and Dan Vermeer



Arete in the News

Arete Support

Arete receives financial support from Duke alumni, friends, and several educational foundations, including the Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education.

If you would like to learn more about Arete or be added to our email list notifying you of our latest news and events, please email John Rose.