Discussion Colloquia

About Our Discussion Colloquia

Discussion Colloquia enable faculty and graduate student to learn from each other by participating in structured discussions of foundational texts and contemporary scholarship in the classical liberal tradition selected for their intellectual rigor and relevance to a theme. Discussion Colloquia are hosted in partnership with faculty or academic centers at hotels or university campuses across the country or online.

Programs that convene in person typically include four to six 90-minute discussion sessions and 250 to 300 pages of reading. Online programs usually include three to four 75-minute discussion sessions and 200- 250 pages of reading.

For programs convening in person, participants receive an honorarium, a travel stipend, all meals, and lodging for their full participation. For online programs, participants receive an honorarium for their full participation.

As part of its Discourse Initiative, IHS is particularly interested in supporting research or facilitating programs in the following general categories:

  • Liberalism and Its Critics, including engagement with and response to critiques from both ends of the ideological spectrum.
  • Key Challenges within a Free Society, such as tensions between liberty and equality, dynamism and disruption, and freedom of speech and social cohesion.
  • Cultural Challenges within Liberal Society, such as protections for minority rights, the pace of change in an increasingly digital and globalized world, and the cultural requirements of a tolerant and pluralistic society.
  • Contentious Topics within the Liberal Tradition, including negative vs. positive rights, moral obligations within the liberal order, and contested meanings of liberal principles such as justice, equality, and democracy.
  • Liberalism in Times of Crisis, including the proper role of government in a crisis and how to balance competing goals, such as public health and safety, with civil liberties, the rule of law, and economic freedom in an emergency.

IHS welcomes applications and proposals on these or other related topics from scholars in all disciplines, including economics, history, political science, philosophy, PPE, law, literature, business, sociology, psychology, and the visual and performing arts. Scholars can visit the pages listed above for more information and to apply directly to their program(s) of interest.

Email us at Discourse@TheIHS.org to learn more or explore potential opportunities for collaboration with IHS.

November 7-8, 2020

Free Speech, Free Press, and Misinformation

This discussion colloquium facilitates in-depth study by graduate students of competing philosophical justifications of freedom of the press and their implications for current debates about media misinformation. Participants will be drawn from a range of disciplines, including communications, history, philosophy, political science, and law. The goal is to offer a different perspective on media misinformation that points in the direction of better solutions to the problem. Readings will include selections from John Milton, John Stuart Mill, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

This program was conceptualized by and developed in partnership with Professor Keith Bybee and Laura Jenkins of Syracuse University.

November 14-15, 2020

Coexisting in a Pluralist Society

This discussion colloquium is the first of two programs aimed at developing conceptual and analytical tools to address contemporary governance challenges by exploring the interface between modus vivendi political theories and governance theories based on institutional diversity and polycentrism. A research workshop in which original scholarship on this important topic will be prepared for publication in a prospective collected volume will follow the discussion colloquium.

This project was conceptualized by and developed in partnership with Professors Jennifer Murtazashvili of the University of Pittsburgh and Paul Dragos Aligica of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

March 26-28, 2021

History of Capitalism

History of Capitalism

The purpose of this colloquium is to better understand recent trends in the study of the history of capitalism, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the New History of Capitalism, and to ponder how scholars should define capitalism more broadly. The agenda will include topics such as the “old” and “new” history of capitalism, capitalism and slavery, big business, competition and the state, finance, and inequality. Participants will be encouraged to discuss how they might approach the history of capitalism in their own work.

This program was conceptualized by and created in partnership with Dr. David Sicilia.

April 9-11, 2021


Religious Liberty at the Crossroads

This colloquium explores current academic debates on religious liberty with a view toward encouraging open and respectful dialogue between proponents of diverse perspectives. Religious pluralism, freedom of conscience, and the conflict between religious liberty and equal protection are among the topics that will be examined.

This program was conceptualized by and created in partnership with Dr. Barbara A. McGraw of Saint Mary’s College of California.

April 16-17, 2021

Liberty, Property, and Pollution

Liberty, Property, and Pollution

This discussion colloquium explores how liberal principles can inform responses to large-scale pollution problems in the environmental arena. Participants will include leading experts in environmental law, political science, and philosophy. After the colloquium, participants will produce original research on what resources liberalism provides and what challenges remain. A research workshop in which participants will critique each other’s research to prepare their work for publication in a prospective edited volume will follow in the fall of 2021.

This program was conceptualized by and developed in partnership with Professor Jonathan H. Adler, Director of the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law at Case Western Reserve University.

April 23-24, 2021

Foundations of Civil Society

Foundations of Civil Society

This discussion colloquium explores the history and promise of civil society in the United States, with a focus on the role of philanthropy in civil society. Participants will be graduate students majoring in the humanities and social sciences. Classic works by Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville, as well as contemporary scholarship, will be studied. A distinguished scholar will lead the discussions.

This program was conceptualized by Lenore Ealy of the Charles Koch Institute and Professor Daniel J. Smith of Middle Tennessee State University; it was developed in partnership with Professor Smith and MTSU’s Political Economy Research Institute.

Applications coming soon!

May 24-26, 2021

Civil Society and Pluralism in Smith, Hume, and Burke

Civil Society and Pluralism in Smith, Hume, and Burke

The purpose of this colloquium is to introduce scholars, policy makers and practitioners associated with the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University to seminal texts in the classical liberal intellectual tradition, while providing Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) scholars with a more concrete understanding of those texts as they apply to current debates about the modern administrative state.

This program was conceptualized by and developed in partnership with Prof. Adam White.

Have an Idea for Your Own Discussion Colloquium?

Please contact us at DiscussionColloquia@TheIHS.org for more information and include the following: a current CV, a detailed description of the program topic, and the dates that you have in mind for the program.



See What You Missed from Our Previous Discussion Colloquia

Intersectionality and Individualism March 27-29, 2020 in Arlington, VA

Sociology and the Classical Liberal Tradition February 21-23, 2020 in Arlington, VA

Artificial Intelligence and Liberal Futurism February 7-9, 2020 in Arlington, VA


Introduction to Law and Economics Through the Work of Elinor Ostrom January 24-25, 2020 in Fort Worth, TX

Ideological Bias in the Classroom November 8-9, 2019 in Washington, DC