The Civil Discourse Project

The Civil Discourse Project (formerly known as 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. 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. We maintain that the pursuit of truth and healthy civil discourse require the freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression for academics and students.

Faculty Seminar

Teaching Civil Discourse in the College Classroom: A Summer Seminar for Faculty

Instructors: John Rose (Duke) and Deondra Rose (Duke)
Dates: August 15 – 16, 2023
Location: Duke University
Durham, NC

We are pleased to announce a call for applications for the second annual faculty summer seminar, “Teaching Civil Discourse in the Classroom,” made possible by a generous grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Our 2022 seminar was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The two-day seminar, to be held at Duke on Tuesday, August 15 and Wednesday August 16, will be led by Deondra Rose and John Rose. It will cover topics including potential course content and best practices for effectively promoting civil discussion over sensitive topics in the classroom. The seminar will help prepare professors to teach a course based on CDP’s own highly popular class at Duke, “How to Think in an Age of Political Polarization” (HTAPP).

The seminar will be free of charge with food and lodging covered. Participants will stay at the beautiful JB Duke Hotel on Duke’s campus. In addition, participants will receive a stipend of $5,000.  In order to participate, applicants must agree to teach a course similar to Duke’s HTAPP within three semesters of finishing the seminar. Successful applicants will need to acquire express and written approval from their department chair or dean allowing them to teach such a course within that timeframe. In addition, participants will agree to participate in a Zoom follow-up meeting within three semesters of the summer seminar, where they will present the results of their course to other participants.

Applications will be handled on a rolling basis, with a deadline of April 15. Materials can be emailed to John Rose (john.rose@duke.edu) and should include the following attachments:

1) CV/Resume
2) 2-3 page statement explaining one’s interest in the seminar
3) Any other relevant documentation, including relevant course syllabi, publications, etc.

Questions concerning the application can also be sent to John Rose.

Medical Ethics Summer Seminar

Faculty: Farr Curlin, MD (Duke University) and Christopher Tollefsen, PhD (University of South Carolina)
Dates: June 15–17, 2023
Location: Duke University,
Durham, NC

Apply now to participate in a two-and-a-half-day Civil Discourse Project Medical Ethics Summer Seminar. This seminar is designed for physicians in training and is open to nursing students also. The seminar invites students to examine the central ethical questions that arise in the everyday practice of medicine and to interpret those questions through a moral framework drawing from both natural law and medicine’s traditional orientation toward the patient’s health. This framework will be contrasted with principlism and consequentialism as participants consider what sort of practice medicine is, whether it has a rational end or goal, and how medicine contributes to human flourishing.

The seminar will consider common clinical ethical cases to examine perennial ethical concerns that arise in the practice of medicine, including: the nature of the clinician-patient relationship; the limits of medicine, the meaning of autonomy, the place of conscience in the physician’s work, the difference between an intended effect and a side effect, proportionality, human dignity, sexuality and reproduction, the beginning of life, disability, end-of-life care, and death. The seminar 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.

Admitted applicants will be housed in Duke dormitories and provided with meal cards. There is no cost to attending.

This seminar is open to entering and current medical students or residents, as well as nursing students, from any school.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. There is no deadline.

All applicants must submit the following forms and documents via e-mail to John Rose at john.rose@duke.edu:

1) CV or resume, including your nationality.
2) Cover letter discussing the reasons for your interest in the seminar and an overview of any relevant experience in the seminar’s topic. Please explain how you found out about the seminar.

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.

Natalie Hannan, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Hannan’s main area of research is in ancient Greek theories of knowledge and their intersection with ethics; she has further interests in comparative philosophy and philosophy of religion.  She earned her PhD from Columbia University.

Ejuerleigh Jones

Ejuerleigh Jones, Graduate Fellow

Ms. Jones’s research interests are rooted in nineteenth-century American literature with particular attention to religion and conceptions of God, the extremes of human nature, and the role of confession. She is a PhD candidate in English at Duke University.

John Rose headshot color

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.

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. Kathryn serves as the Director of Academic Programming for the Center for Christianity and Scholarship, a Duke Chapel Affiliate.

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.

Matthew Young

Matthew Young, Postdoctoral Fellow

Mr. Young studies the relationship between political theology and the practice of toleration. His teaching and research interests span the fields of theology, just war theory, toleration, law, virtue ethics, and PPE. He earned his PhD in political theory from UNC-Chapel Hill.

  • 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 German Studies and the Divinity School
  • Farr Curlin, Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities in the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine
  • Dorian Abbot (U Chicago), Luana Maroja (Williams), and Anna Krylov (USC), “Self-Censorship and the Politicization of the Sciences”
  • Karin Oberg (Harvard), Chris Clemens (UNC), and Devin Gouveau (Holy Cross), “Meaning and Purpose in the Universe”
  • Chris Arnade, Elizabeth Corey (Baylor), and Samar Ali (Vanderbilt), at UNC, “Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide,” co-sponsored with the Program for Public Discourse at UNC.
  • Lucas Morel (Washington and Lee), “Lincoln, the Founding, and an America Worthy of Saving”
  • Toni Alimi (Cornell), “Slaves of God: Augustine and Other Romans on Domination”
  • Justin Giboney, Jillian Johnson, Michael Kazin (Georgetown), and Dan Vermeer (Duke), “The Future of Progressivism”
  • Chandran Kukatas (LSE), Emily Chamlee-Wright, Stephen Davies (Auckland), and Steve Horwitz (Ball State), “The Future of Liberalism”
  • Yuval Levin, Patrick Deneen (Notre Dame), Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo (Texas State), and Dan McCarthy, “The Future of Conservatism,” co-sponsored with the Program for Public Discourse at UNC.
  • 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
  • “The Seven Deadly Sins” Wagner
  • “Contemporary Nationalism and Classical Political Theory” Watkins
  • “Liberalism and Its Critics” Watkins, Caldwell

Our new Student Fellows program is designed for Duke students wishing to live out the Civil Discourse Project’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.

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



The Civil Discourse Project 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 the Civil Discourse Project or be added to our email list notifying you of our latest news and events, please email John Rose.