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First Things and the Collegium Institute are pleased to invite our readers to Philadelphia for a memorable weekend of seminars and lectures on Economics and the Human Person. Participants will have the opportunity to explore texts alongside scholars and First Things writers and editors, discussing ideas and questions about education and the intellectual life in small-group seminar sessions.

There are no academic prerequisites for participation; no grades or exams. If you enjoy reading First Things or discussing the ideas found in its pages, this event is for you. Discussions will take place in small seminar sections with faculty provided by the Collegium Institute. Participants will explore substantial texts and questions of great significance in an environment animated by a spirit of friendship and a common purpose.

This is a rare opportunity to get together with like-minded individuals to talk about big, timeless ideas and how they inform our understanding of the issues that occupy our culture today.


What is the place of economics in our public life? For over a hundred years, economic questions have occupied a prime place in our social and political discourse, but confusion about the premises and even the purpose of economics continues to proliferate. Through this intellectual retreat and the reading curriculum—drawn from a variety of philosophical and religious traditions—participants will have the opportunity to reflect upon the nature and function of economics.  Participants will

  • Develop a nuanced understanding of how economics and religion can mutually inform and shape our views on the common good.
  • Consider the future of economics in light of classical and more contemporary commitments, diagnosing contemporary maladies and reflecting upon sources of renewal.
  • Reflect on human beings as workers, prudential compromisers, owners and rational beings ordered to the highest good.


The First Things Intellectual Retreat will be held from Friday evening, October 12 to Saturday Evening, October 13, 2018 at the Perelman Quadrangle at Penn.


Reading materials will be emailed to participants upon registration, with a bound copy to follow by mail. The readings will include excerpts from the following texts, among others:

  1. Aristotle, The Politics
  2. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  3. Pope Benedict XVI, In The Beginning
  4. Gary Becker, The Economic Approach to Human Behavior
  5. Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
  6. Saint John Paul II, Laborem Exercens
  7. Pope Francis, Laudato Si’
  8. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
  9. Matthew Crawford, “Shop Class as Soulcraft”
  10. Wendell Berry, “Quantity vs. Form”

All participants will attend all seminars through the course of the day, in the following order:

1st Seminar: Happiness and the Order of Goods

2nd Seminar: The Person and Prudence

3rd Seminar: The Person as Worker

4th Seminar: The Person and Property


Cost: $650 per participant

You may make a deposit of $350, with the balance due at the event, or pay in full in advance. The fee covers seminar tuition, assigned text materials, and all meals, including two cocktail reception and dinner lectures with First Things editorial staff and faculty from Collegium Institute. There are a limited number of seats available for graduate students or seminarians; please contact us for details.

Companion tickets are available at $100 per ticket for participant companions who would like to attend the evening receptions and dinner lectures but are not attending the day seminars.

To register, please use the form below. Check the corresponding box to either make a partial deposit or to pay in full, and to purchase a companion ticket, if required. If you are registering three participants or more, please re-use the form to register one to two seminar participants at a time—let us know who the members of your party are by writing their names in the Comment Box. Please also use the Comment Box for any special requests, such as kosher or vegetarian meals, wheelchair access, etc.

If you would like to mail your registration, please include the same information along with your check and mail it to:

First Things Attn: Intellectual Retreat  35 East 21st Street, Sixth Floor  New York, NY 10010

You may also register by telephone at 1-212-627-1985, or contact us at

Please note: The registration fee does not include travel to Philadelphia or hotel accommodations. 

Retreat Cancellation Policy: For a full refund of tuition fees, please cancel with at least three weeks advance notice from the event’s date. We reserve the right to substitute speakers, change venues, cancel seminars, or cancel part of or the entire event, due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, our liability is limited to a prompt refund of the registration fee, on a pro-rata basis, for the affected days.

Registration is now closed for the 2018 First Things Intellectual Retreat in Philadelphia.

In partnership with:

The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture