The Wynnewood Institute was founded in 2003 by Thomas Patrick Burke, D.Phil., D.Th., Professor Emeritus of Religion at Temple University. It is named after its place of origin, a suburb of Philadelphia. The inaugural lecture by the English philosopher Roger Scruton, “The Defense of the West: How to Begin” was held on April 12, 2005.
The Wynnewood Institute is an independent, academic, non-partisan non-profit organization concerned with the fundamental questions and the current problems of Western civilization. Our focus is on ideas. With regard to the role of government, our point of departure is the philosophy of true or “classical” liberalism, including a strong defense. Our cultural perspective is an open-minded conservatism. Our research is concerned especially with basic questions concerning justice, human rights and civil rights, and with the implications of science for human values. We offer courses, seminars and public lectures by prominent thinkers.
Our philosophical perspective can be described as classical liberalism combined with conservatism. As classical liberals we believe in freedom. This means that the role of government, which always acts by coercion, should be limited to the tasks that alone can be accomplished by coercion, namely the protection of the nation and its citizens against aggression foreign and domestic. A free society is one that possesses freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and commercial or market freedom. These freedoms are limited by the requirement that they be employed peacefully. A free society has no obligation to tolerate forms of religion or speech that promote aggression. We therefore view just laws and a properly regulated military and police as essential safeguards of freedom.
But freedom by itself is not enough. As Edmund Burke wrote about the claim of the French revolution to bring liberty to the people of France: “The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.” Conservatism points out that some of the things we can do with our freedom are very much better than others.
What We Do
Lectures and Seminars
The Institute holds public lectures by speakers who are known nationally or internationally for their original contributions to classical liberal or conservative thought. The purpose of the lectures is to make the latest research and analysis public on general questions new and old that affect our national life.
In addition to the lectures, we also offer seminars. These are more specialized and go into their subject matter more intensively.
We strive to offer lectures of a high academic order. Even if you hold a different viewpoint, we hope that you will feel enriched and stimulated by them. A discussion period follows each lecture to provide an opportunity for open-ended inquiry.
Recordings of our public lectures are available on DVDs and audio CDs.
We also offer courses to the general public in a variety of fields. The purpose of these is to disseminate a deeper understanding of traditional American and Western ideals and values.
The Wynnewood Institute sponsors research which promotes a better understanding of Western civilization, especially in areas related to classical liberal and conservative thought.
Our main research interests center on rethinking the idea of justice, and consequently rethinking the many areas of private and public policy that have been affected by the revolution that took place in the West’s conception of justice during the twentieth century. These effects have been felt in areas as diverse as our demographic future, the family and relations between the sexes, the marketplace and the economy, the churches and organized religion in general, and education, to mention only a few.