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.
Teaching Civil Discourse in the College Classroom: A Summer Seminar for Faculty
Made Possible with the Generous Support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
Instructors: Teresa Bejan (Oxford) and John Rose (Duke)
Keynote address: Gary Saul Morson (Northwestern)
Dates: August 9 – 12, 2022
Location: Duke University
We are pleased to announce a call for applications to an upcoming four-day faculty summer seminar entitled “Teaching Civil Discourse in the Classroom: A Summer Seminar for Faculty,” made possible by a generous grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. The seminar, to be held at Duke, will be led by Teresa Bejan (Oxford) and John Rose, Associate Director of the Civil Discourse Project. The seminar will prepare early career 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 course offers tools to promote open discourse and civil disagreement about controversial social and political topics.
The seminar will cover topics including potential course content, best practices for effectively promoting civil discussion over sensitive topics in the classroom, and how to utilize university resources to create such courses. In addition to Prof. Bejan and Dr. Rose, this year Gary Saul Morson (Northwestern) will serve as a guest lecturer. 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 $5000.
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.
This seminar is open to full-time, tenure-track or recently tenured faculty at 4-year or higher institutions. If you would like to be considered for this seminar, please email John Rose (email@example.com) with your complete application, including the following attachments:
2) 2-3 page statement explaining your interest in the seminar
3) Any other relevant documentation, including relevant course syllabi, publications, etc. (No more than 3 additional attachments please.)
There is no application deadline. Applications will be handled on a rolling basis.
Questions regarding the seminar or application can also be emailed to Dr. Rose.
The High School Seminar in Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion
Dates: July 10-15, 2022
Location: Duke University
We are now accepting applications for the 4th annual High School Summer Seminar in Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion. With readings from authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, the seminar will explore big ideas in philosophy, including the basis of morality, the metaphysics of reality, and the relationship between science and religion. Several Duke faculty members will co-teach the seminar. Participants are responsible for their own travel but, once at Duke, it will be a cost-free experience for them. Students will stay in Duke dormitories on the West Campus and be provided meal cards. Previous students’ evaluations showed that they found the seminar to be intellectually rewarding and influential in their lives. As one student wrote, “I know I’m going to carry the things I’ve learned here for the rest of my life. Thank you.” Another remarked, “This seminar was amazing, and I’ll never forget it. I feel like I can’t even review it objectively because it’s become very dear to me.”
To apply, please send an application to J.D. Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org and include a one-page cover letter explaining why you wish to attend the seminar, a copy of high school transcripts, and a 300 word essay in response to Meno’s question, “Can virtue be taught?” Applications will be handled on a rolling basis. Preference is given to rising seniors, but we will consider rising juniors or graduating seniors as well.
Medical Ethics Seminar
Dates: June 12-18, 2022
Location: Duke University
We are now accepting applications for the 2022 Civil Discourse Project Medical Ethics Summer Seminar at Duke University. This seminar is designed for physicians in training and nursing students. Dr. Farr Curlin, MD, and Professor Chris Tollefsen will once again lead the seminar. Participants will be provided with Duke dormitory housing and meal cards.
This 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 purpose of the seminar is to equip participants with intellectual tools that can help physicians discern how to practice medicine well in the face of medicine’s clinical challenges and moral complexities.
Applicants should send their CV’s and a cover letter explaining their interest in the seminar to J.D. Wagner at email@example.com.
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.
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.
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, 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 is completing 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
- 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?”
- Lucas Morel, “Constitution Day Lecture,”
- Chris Arnade, Elizabeth Corey (Baylor), and Samar Ali (Vanderbilt), at UNC, “Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide” with
- 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”
- “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.
with Yuval Levin, Patrick Deneen, Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, and Dan McCarthy
with Chandran Kukatas, Emily Chamlee-Wright, Stephen Davies, and Steve Horwitz
with Justin Giboney, Jillian Johnson, Michael Kazin, and Dan Vermeer
In the News
- “Cultivating Intellectual Freedom in the Classroom,” Jed Atkins, Duke Magazine
- “How I Liberated My College Classroom,” John Rose, Wall Street Journal
- “Can We Talk?” Robert Bliwise, Duke Magazine
- “Agree to Disagree: Teaching Students to Depolarize,” Steve Hartsoe, Duke Today
- “Why We’re So Polarized and What We Can Do About It,” Staff, Duke Today
- “Where did ‘Cancel Culture’ Come From?” Shannon Watkins, James G. Martin Center
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.