High School Summer Seminar in Ethics a success

Earlier this month, Duke faculty members John Rose (Kenan Institute for Ethics), Thomas Pfau (Professor of English), Jed Atkins (Professor of Classics), and Warren Smith (Professor of Theology) engaged high school students in a week-long conversation about the ideas of natural law, the relationship between philosophy and theology, and the relationship between science and religion — all within the context of assigned literature, works of theology, and some readings from modern analytic philosophers.

The Arete High School Summer Seminar in Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion was again held at Duke with its aim to prepare high school students with a “tool kit” and roadmap for approaching these subjects in college.  The seminar built upon the works of Plato, Aristotle, and other great minds to examine the meaning of virtue, the substance of human nature, the question of human flourishing, the metaphysics of reality, and the nature of “truth.”  Students shared some very profound lessons learned about themselves and interpreting classic thinkers:

The Arete program taught me to engage with difficult texts or pieces from either the masters before me or modern thinkers that I completely disagree with. Additionally, the program helped me to better understand what I believe and how to defend it in the postmodern world. Finally, I appreciated how we focused on a variety of topics such as the relationship between faith and reason, or faith and science, as well as more light-hearted subjects such as the meaning of happiness and where it lies.

I got exactly what I wanted out of this experience and more.  I loved this week so much. I especially loved the people I was around. Both the RAs and the students. They really felt like my type of people, and that’s something I never really felt completely before.  Thank you for an amazing week.


The Arete Initiative sponsors scholarship and learning opportunities that are focused on recovering and sustaining the virtues in contemporary life, especially in the workplace, the university, and the public square. “Arete” is a Greek word that connotes moral virtue or, more broadly, human excellence.


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