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First Things is pleased to invite our readers to New York City for a memorable weekend of seminars and lectures on the
Life of the Mind. 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 led by faculty from Northeast Catholic College. 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.


Every few months, a new bestseller emerges that raises the alarm about the current state of education. Though the diagnoses and prescriptions vary from volume to volume, there is virtual unanimity among the authors that a crisis has overtaken us: We can no longer effectively educate our youth, pass on the treasures of our culture and values, and sustain a life of the mind across generations. Beyond this consensus of crisis, very little common ground can be found. Technocrats struggle with those who would further politicize the academy while both groups show little interest in the traditional means and arts of acquiring wisdom. 

Through this intellectual retreat and the reading curriculum—drawn from classic texts in the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish traditions—participants will have the opportunity to reflect upon fundamental questions that must orient any serious effort to reform and animate both formal education and the life of the mind. 

Participants will

  • Clarify and discuss the goals and means of education as they were understood classically, considering education as enlightenment, the pursuit of wisdom, and the development of linguistic facility, all within a teleological ordering.
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of how education and religion can mutually inform and shape their respective domains while contributing to the formation of heart and mind in a human life oriented to a transcendent end.
  • Consider the future of education—its forms and content—in light of classical and more contemporary commitments, diagnosing contemporary maladies and reflecting upon sources of renewal.


The First Things Intellectual Retreat will be held from Friday evening, August 10 to Sunday morning, August 12, 2018 at the NYU Kimmel Center for University Life.


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. Plato, The Republic
  2. Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics
  3. Aristotle, The Politics
  4. St. Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Learning
  5. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah
  6. Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators” 
  7. C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time”
  8. Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon
  9. Josef Pieper, Only the Lover Sings
  10. Roger Scruton, “The End of the University”

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

1st Seminar: The Purpose and Means of Education

2nd Seminar: Education and Religion

3rd Seminar: The Shifting Forms and Content of Education

4th Seminar: The Future of Education



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 Northeast Catholic College. 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 New York City or hotel accommodations. For a list of recommended hotels see here.

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.

In partnership with:

Northeast Catholic College

Northeast Catholic College