Liberty Fund has held more than 4,000 conferences around the world based on the educational philosophy of our founder, Pierre Goodrich. These small, socratic-style conferences focus on themes of liberty and responsibility in economics, history, law, political thought, literature, philosophy, religion, the fine arts, and the natural sciences.
Conversations Worth Having
Liberty Fund conferences reflect Pierre Goodrich’s conviction that education in a free society requires a dialogue among active minds freely engaging with the ideas that have shaped human civilization in general and the free society in particular. Our conversations are open ended; the purpose is neither to convey doctrine nor to reach consensus.
Mr. Goodrich did not believe that there was a formula or a model that could guarantee educational success, because he thought of education as “something that happens within an individual,” and that real education is dependent on personal desire and effort. Goodrich’s philosophy of education emphasized the centrality of reading important books and then engaging in a discussion of their meaning and significance. Goodrich thought it “more hopeful” than other traditional approaches.
A Format Designed to Engage
A Liberty Fund conference, usually held over a four-day period, is the culminating event in a three-month intellectual endeavor. Liberty Fund provides all participants at these invitation-only conferences with a set of readings that serve as the basis of the conference’s discussions. The first conversation Liberty Fund seeks to promote is between the reader and the assigned authors. Only after reading, reflecting, and considering an author is a participant ready to discuss the author’s work in a socratic setting. As Goodrich wrote, “By conversation the reasoning process and experience of each individual will be helped by other individuals, each of whom is the product of his own pressures, experiences, habits, and thoughts.”
Discussion That Deepens Your Thinking
Liberty Fund conferences offer a unique blend of structure and openness. Pierre Goodrich emphasized the importance of opportunities for spontaneous conversation: “sufficient time for discussion, formal and informal, should be allowed in an interval between the formal sessions.” Formal sessions are moderated by discussion leaders who “should confine themselves to a minimum activity of policing the discussion so that as much participation as possible may occur.” Goodrich’s socratic approach presumes the radical equality of all participants. “Lecturing should be taboo either by the examiners or by individuals. It is the examiner’s right to interrupt the lecturer. It is the socratic peer’s right to become the examiner of the socratic examiner if the examiner fails in his duty not to lecture.” Given the diverse backgrounds of participants, discussions can sometimes move in unanticipated directions, and at times allow experts to learn things from comparative novices. This process challenges the notion that any individual should be considered the final authority on a topic under discussion.
Sample Conference Topics
- Free Will, Character, Fate, and Dharma in the Mahabharata
- Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville on the Conditions of Individual Freedom
- The Federalists, the Anti-Federalists, and the Constitution They Created
- Trust and Economic Growth in Brazil
- Liberty and the American West in the Films of John Ford
- Virtue, Private Property, and Freedom: East and West
- Big Business and the Free Society
- Liberty, Responsibility, and Intergenerational Justice
- Balzac’s Capitalism: Money, Passions, and Morality in Père Goriot
- Cicero and the Republican Tradition of Liberty
- Liberty under the Tudors in Hume’s History of England
Co-Sponsored Conference Program
In 2004, Liberty Fund began partnering with other organizations to expand our discussions to their networks. Through these partnerships, over 1,000 co-sponsored conferences have been held in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe.
Nobel Laureate, Chapman University
Professor of Philosophy and Economics, Tulane University
Executive Director, Center for Latin America, Atlas Network
Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame
Chair Professor of Political Science, Singapore Management University