Apply Now: UATX/Civitas Institute Student Symposium on the Enlightenment

A Reading of Voltaire, Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier

Apply Now: University of Austin/Civitas Institute Student Symposium on “The Enlightenment: Failed dream or unfulfilled promise?”


The University of Austin and the Civitas Institute at the University of Texas at Austin are hosting a fellowship program this summer for those seeking to study the Enlightenment through the following analytic framework: failed dream or unfulfilled promise?

The one-week symposium is being offered to top graduate students and advanced undergraduates (i.e., current juniors and seniors) in all fields. 

JMC fellow Devin Stauffer will lead the symposium, in which students will study, through the intensive study of foundational texts, the Enlightenment’s theoretical framework as it emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries. Readings will include those by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In addition to a daily seminar and optional discussion sections, students will enjoy the opportunity to explore Austin through various events and activities.

“It is so convenient to be immature!” Immanuel Kant wrote. “If I have a book to have understanding in place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me.”

Kant was not content with such childlike apathy. As one of the Enlightenment’s heralds, he championed “man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.” Centuries later, the success of the Enlightenment project can hardly be underestimated.

Yet, even within liberal democracies, commitment to Enlightenment principles is now wavering. On the political left, so-called progressives blame the Enlightenment for the hegemony of capitalist exploitation, oppression of minorities, and the rise of oligarchy. On the right, so-called post-liberals blame the Enlightenment for the collapse of religion, family, and community. Above all, moral relativism and absolutism challenge us to reevaluate the Enlightenment and its foundations.

The symposium will take place July 23-29, 2023 in Austin, Texas. All participants traveling from outside of Austin will receive a $300 travel stipend to help defray the costs of travel associated with participation in the program.

Tuition is free. Accommodations will be provided for participants living outside Austin, TX. Meals are also provided to all participants. All other expenses, including the purchase of course materials and books, are the responsibility of participants.


Participants must be currently enrolled graduate students (master’s or doctorate), recently graduated from an undergraduate degree program, or currently enrolled undergraduate juniors or seniors.

Please email with any questions.

Click here to learn more and to apply >>

The application deadline is May 21, 2023, and applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis. Space is limited and there is a competitive application process.



Devin Stauffer is Professor and Associate Chair of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in classical and early modern political philosophy. Prior to joining The University of Texas in 2004, Professor Stauffer taught at Kenyon College and St. John’s College in Annapolis. During his time at Kenyon College, he received two awards for teaching excellence, and he has since received two more teaching awards at The University of Texas. In 2013-14, he was a fellow of the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation in Munich. In Spring 2018, he was a visiting associate professor at Harvard University. Professor Stauffer’s books are Plato’s Introduction to the Question of Justice (SUNY, 2001), The Unity of Plato’s Gorgias (Cambridge, 2006), and Hobbes’s Kingdom of Light (Chicago, 2018). His articles have appeared in various journals, including the Review of Politics, the Journal of Politics, and the American Political Science Review.

Professor Stauffer is a Jack Miller Center fellow.

Learn more about Devin Stauffer >>



From the program

Launched in the summer of 2022, the Civitas Institute is a community of scholars committed to exploring the ideas and institutions that sustain a free society and enable individuals to flourish. We value independent thought, civil discourse, free speech, reasoned deliberation, and intellectual curiosity. Our programs facilitate inquiry into the foundational principles of a free and enduring society: individual rights and civic virtue, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and free enterprise and markets.

Learn more about the Civitas Institute >>



View JMC’s entire list of academic opportunities on the Academic Opportunities page >>



Facebook iconTwitter iconFollow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates about lectures, publications, podcasts, and events related to American political thought, United States history, and the Western political tradition!



Want to help the Jack Miller Center transform higher education? Donate today.