We read books of richness, depth, and lasting value that bear repeated re-readings. Such books teach readers at all levels of preparation, and they level the distance between the teacher and the learner so as to encourage collaboration. With a book as a teacher, each reader develops the ability to inquire in depth and to evaluate evidence by his or her own lights.
We find that conversation is the best way to cultivate free and independent learners. Conversation and reading are the primary vehicles of the learning we offer: writing assignments are subsidiary. Essays help the reader to think and help to focus the conversations that result from it.
We seek to meet the human need for serious inquiry with as few arbitrary constraints as possible.
Our organization is driven by the needs of individuals for serious intellectual connection and community. Should the need dry up or be satisfied by other means, our existence as an institution will no longer be justified.
We seek a minimum of structure to meet those needs, with an eye to our simple practical, moral and legal obligations, so as to avoid the bureaucratic overreach and dysfunction so common to our contemporary institutions.
In the short term, we would like to grow as quickly as possible, while seeking to maintain a distinct and serious intellectual culture, without overwhelming our human or financial resources. We make our courses available to anyone meeting basic registration criteria who has an internet connection or access to email or the postal service.
In the medium term, we seek a global network of teachers and learners in order to reach as many people as possible and so as to learn from as broad a swathe of humanity as possible.
We recognize that online connections are an imperfect substitute for in-person intellectual communities. Thus in the long-term, we hope that our network can form the basis for local, autonomous, brick-and-mortar educational institutions conducted in our spirit, once conditions permit such an undertaking.
We set our order of goals opposite to many businesses. Unlike a business, which may start locally and then seek global reach, we seek global reach first, in the interest of building local institutions in the long term. Our ultimate goal is to create enduring, “hard-wired” support for the studies we promote: that is, learning that is for its own sake, available to anyone who desires it, and integrated by local participants into a given community and its culture. The nature, use, and continued existence of the umbrella organization will be re-evaluated regularly once local institutions are in place.
Our offerings are available to adults 16 years or older from all educational backgrounds and walks of life. In reviewing applications to study with us, we look for enthusiasm and fit for an independent and collaborative style of learning.
Bear in mind that we have many more readers who are interested in studying with us than we have the capacity to serve. Please consider studying with us only if you are confident that you can commit to the regular readings and meetings.