The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

Spring Law School Seminars at Chicago & Georgetown

by James Wilson Institute on April 30, 2024
Event Report
JWI Founder & Co-Diretor Hadley Arkes and Deputy Director Garrett Snedeker with seminar participants at Georgetown University Law Center on April 6, 2024.

JWI’s Law School seminar program resumed this spring, and we are pleased to announce successful returns to two leading law schools. Since 2017, these weekend seminars, an introduction to a jurisprudence of Natural Law, have allowed us to engage with enthusiastic law students from across the country. With each visit, we’ve expanded JWI’s impact on the next generation of law students by recovering an older, more philosophically coherent approach to the law

Following three seminars at University of Texas, University of Virginia, and Regent University in 2023, we got off to a strong start this spring by visiting the law schools at both Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. 

DC Area Law Schools

On April 6th, JWI’s Founder & Co-Director Hadley Arkes, along with JWI’s Deputy Director Garret Snedeker, led an all-day seminar at Georgetown University Law Center in partnership with both the Georgetown and George Mason Federalist Society Chapters. The seminar was open to all DC-area law students, and the 23 attendees came from Georgetown University, Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and George Washington University. The seminar’s list of topics included The Logic of Morals and the Logic of Law and The Moral Ground of the Free Economy, with readings drawn from the thought of Aristotle, Lincoln, and our own Hadley Arkes. Following the seminar, Zoe Berndt, a Georgetown Law Student, described it as “truly the highlight of my entire 1L experience thus far.” This past seminar for DC-area law students marked the second time JWI has hosted a seminar for law students in “our backyard.”

The University of Chicago

From April 11-12, JWI returned to the University of Chicago Law School for the first time since 2018 to host one of its seminars. The University of Chicago Federalist Society chapter along with campus chapters of the Edmund Burke Society and Thomas More Society co-hosted JWI. JWI co-directors Hadley Arkes and Gerry Bradley led a fantastic group of 20 students in an intensive set of five seminars and one public address. The seminar began with an opening session and dinner at the historic Quadrangle Club on the University of Chicago campus. Topics over the rest of the seminar ranged from understanding categorical versus contingent propositions in the law to Prof. Bradley’s signature session on the Establishment Clause, to Snedeker’s closing session on the administrative state and moral function of the separation of powers. One student remarked at the weekend’s close that “several participants said that the seminar fundamentally altered their opinion of Natural Law.”

Through these seminars, JWI revitalizes legal education by bringing its lessons to noteworthy clusters of students hungry for what JWI teaches. Through engaging with some of the most talented law students in the country, we bring Natural Law jurisprudence to places where it is needed most.

We look forward to even more seminars in the fall!

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790