Harvard’s John Adams Society Holds Intellectual Retreat at Kirk Center

For generations, Harvard’s conservatives were guided by the towering intellectual presence of Harvey C. Mansfield. Professor Mansfield taught the full range of political theory, from Plato and Aristotle to Burke, the Federalists, and Tocqueville, until his retirement this year. Members of the John Adams Society believed that, as one alumnus noted, “Professor Mansfield’s introductory political philosophy classes have played so vital a role in the intellectual formation of John Adams Society members over the past ten years, there is a need to pass on some of this formation to younger members who will no longer be able to get it from the source.”

Enterprising John Adams Society members took upon themselves to propose holding an intensive five-day intellectual retreat at the Kirk Center to teach the introductory classical political philosophy syllabus that they would have had with Professor Mansfield this year. Recent Harvard graduates Liam Warner and Benjamin Paris introduced current students to classical political thought, the relationship between philosophy and politics, and the impact of Christianity on the classical system. Readings ranged from Plato and Aristotle to St. Augustine’s The City of God. The course was held at the Kirk Center for ten students from August 19 – 23.

This is the second time the John Adams Society has partnered with the Kirk Center for an intellectual retreat. Due to the success of the program, tentative plans are in place to visit every other year, and alternate content between Professor Mansfield’s introductory classical and modern political philosophy courses. As the students put it:

“I would absolutely recommend the Kirk Center to anyone who is serious about political philosophy and conservatism. My time at the Kirk Center was sublime in the pursuits of fraternity, learning, and escape from the general vicissitudes of college life.”

“The Kirk Center offers an unparalleled opportunity to forward your understanding and appreciation of the Western and conservative traditions. Its ambience will draw you into a reflective state of mind, just as it has for conservatives for many decades, going back to Kirk himself. I highly recommend you spend some time here to rejuvenate your mind, soul, and intellect.”

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