The Purpose of the Symposium

LeFrak Forum and Symposium on Science, Reason and Modern Democracy MSU logo

Founded in 1989 in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, the Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy and the LeFrak Forum are centers for research and debate on the theory and practice of modern democracy.

They sponsor lectures, conferences, publication, and teaching, as well as graduate, post-doctoral, and senior fellowships. Their specific mission is to explore the intersection of philosophy and public policy: to place theoretical issues in practical context and policy issues in philosophical perspective.

As Abraham Lincoln once remarked: “No policy that does not rest upon some philosophical public opinion can be permanently maintained.” This is especially true in the post-traditional world of modern politics, which was consciously constructed on the basis of theoretical ideas and principles. But precisely due to their all-pervasive importance, these foundational ideas often recede into an invisible background where they continue to shape our practical, policy debates but escape their direct attention. The Symposium and the Forum seek to solve this problem by emphasizing the theoretically informed study of practical questions.

In this endeavor, it is extremely important that all points of view be heard. But today, within the universities, the spectrum of opinion has become dangerously narrow. The Symposium and the Forum are dedicated to fostering genuine intellectual debate, especially by introducing voices not regularly heard on university campuses — thinkers from the classical liberal, libertarian, and conservative traditions and other dissenters from reigning academic orthodoxies. In almost two hundred lectures at Michigan State University, more than a dozen international conferences, and a steady stream of publications, we bring together prominent and accomplished thinkers — academics, journalists, policy analysts, and figures from culture and the arts — to discuss, debate, and produce original studies of the pressing political and intellectual issues of our times.