Discussion Colloquia

About Our Discussion Colloquia

Discussion Colloquia offer faculty and graduate students an opportunity to learn from each other by participating in structured discussions of key texts 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.

Programs are typically multi-day events that include four to six 90-minute sessions and 200 to 300 pages of reading.

Participants receive an honorarium, a travel stipend, all meals, and lodging for their contributions.

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.

April 24-26, 2020 in Arlington, VA


Liberty, Responsibility, and Mental Health

Only individuals act and all individual actions accumulate into social movements, social institutions, or social problems. If classical liberals hope to maintain the freest societies possible, we will also have to advocate for the healthiest and most capable individual minds possible. This seminar will explore the rich and understudied tradition of caring for mental health within classical liberalism from the English Civil Wars and Restoration period right up through the present day. Participants will explore historical and current understandings of mental health, ways for individuals to become healthier decision-makers, and the ways a liberal worldview can positively contribute to individual and social health and wellness.

May 27-29, 2020 in Washington, DC

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.

June 19-21, 2020 in Arlington, VA

Toleration and Pluralism

Toleration and Pluralism in a Global Society

With basic liberal principles such as toleration, pluralism, equality before the law, and constitutionally constrained democracy facing serious critique within and beyond the academy, IHS has launched the Discourse Initiative—a series of written and in-person conversations aimed at reinvigorating the exploration of the liberal intellectual tradition. This discussion will be among the first of these conversations. We’ve chosen the themes of toleration, pluralism, and the global cosmopolitan society as the focus of this discussion because they are central to the liberal vision of the good society—a pluralistic and tolerant society in which intellectual and economic progress are the norm and where individuals and communities flourish in a context of openness and mutual respect.

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

Religious Liberty at the Crossroads April 3-5, 2020 in Chicago, IL

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

History of Capitalism March 27-29, 2020 in Washington, DC

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