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Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter helped organize a con­ference to examine the rela­tionship between con­ser­vatism and clas­sical lib­er­alism. External Affairs

Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter will be speaking at a con­ference which he helped organize to discuss the rela­tionship between con­ser­vatism and clas­sical lib­er­alism.   

The event, titled “The Future of Lib­er­alism: A Con­ver­sation Among Con­ser­v­a­tives,” will take place from April 11 – 13, hosted by the Center for the Study for Liberal Democracy at the Uni­versity of Wis­consin-Madison and will bring respected con­ser­v­ative thinkers from across the country to the center to discuss how lib­er­alism interacts with America, religion, culture, pol­itics, and markets.  

“We are living in a very pivotal time, years in the making, when the West is expe­ri­encing a pro­found identity crisis, not just here in America but also abroad,” Schlueter said in an email. “Many of the things we take for granted and hold dear are being ques­tioned. How we under­stand who we are will determine our future.”

The goal of the con­ference, according to Richard Avra­menko, co-director of the CSLD, is “to put serious defenders of the clas­sical liberal tra­dition in con­ver­sation with the best voices rep­re­senting American con­ser­vatism.”

The idea for the con­ference began last summer as the result of an ongoing con­ver­sation between Schlueter and Mark Mitchell, pro­fessor and chairman of the Department of Gov­ernment at Patrick Henry College, about Patrick Deneen’s book “Why Lib­er­alism Failed,” Schlueter said Deneen’s book rep­re­sents “an unfor­tunate and even dan­gerous turn against pol­itics and America by many con­ser­v­a­tives.”

Schlueter and Mitchell con­tinued to discuss Deneen’s book and lib­er­alism in general, and their con­ver­sa­tions cul­mi­nated in the two proposing to Avra­menko an event which would convene bas­tions of con­ser­vatism and clas­sical lib­er­alism, with Deneen as the keynote speaker. Avra­menko agreed, and Schlueter and Mitchell orga­nized the con­ference. It will consist of five panels, each focusing on one dimension of the lib­er­alism-con­ser­vatism rela­tionship and fea­turing two dis­tin­guished speakers with opposing view­points.  

The CSLD has hosted similar con­fer­ences before, including con­ver­sa­tions about the First and Second Amend­ments. Each year it also hosts a “Dis­in­vited Dinner” for a prominent speaker who has been dis­in­vited from a speaking engagement due to protest. One of its stated mis­sions is to “advance intel­lectual diversity at the Uni­versity of Wis­consin-Madison by taking ideas seri­ously that we believe have not always enjoyed suf­fi­cient respect on campus,” according to its website.

Although the event’s speakers will be almost exclu­sively con­ser­v­ative, not all speakers agree on the place of lib­er­alism in America.  

D.C. Schindler, asso­ciate pro­fessor of meta­physics and anthro­pology at the Pon­tifical John Paul II Institute, will be on a panel to discuss lib­er­alism, con­ser­vatism, and religion.  

“Lib­er­alism,” he said, “is a co-opting of the virtues of Chris­tianity in abstraction from the the­o­logical sub­stance of Chris­tianity. It gives the illusion of pro­tecting Chris­tianity, but in a pro­found way really under­mines it.”  

Schlueter hopes the con­ference, despite the dif­ference in opinion, will ulti­mately be uni­fying rather than divisive.  

“We are not inter­ested in a polemical debate where each side tries to score points with its fol­lowers,” Schlueter said. “There is too much of that today and it’s not very pro­ductive. Rather, we are inter­ested in a serious con­ver­sation in which we really try to under­stand points of con­ver­gence and dif­ference, with the hope of moving ahead in united way.”