Speaker Series: "What Is Conservatism?"

Select from the best speakers and faculty. 

Anthony Esolen, Ph.D.

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. Dr. Esolen has written several books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008), Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010), and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013).


“Your Imagination Redeemed: Exercise in Unreality”

“The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization”

Dan Cullen, Ph.D.

Dan Cullen PhDDaniel Cullenis professor of political science and directs the Project for the Study of Liberal Democracy, a program supporting teaching, scholarship, and critical discussion of the principles of constitutional government. Cullen is Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies at the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Constitutional Principles and History, and he serves on the Center’s Academic Council. Cullen also serves on the board of the Association for Core Texts and Courses, an international organization devoted to the advancement of liberal education. He is the author of Freedom in Rousseau’s Political Philosophy and has published various essays on Rousseau, Montaigne, democratic theory, liberal education, and the political philosophy of Roger Scruton. His most recent book is Liberal Democracy and Liberal Education, which he edited and coauthored. He is currently writing a book on the philosophy of Roger Scruton.

Talk: “Saving the Sacred (and the Human World)”

“It is from religious ideas that the human world, and the subject who inhabits it, were made.” This talk will expound Roger Scruton’s enigmatic proposition and its ramifications in his thoughts on religion, philosophy, politics and culture. What does Scruton mean by the sacred, and why is the experience of the sacred essential to understanding the human world? And how does the idea of the sacred figure in Scruton’s complex conservatism?

David Corey, Ph.D.

David CoreyDavid Corey joined the Honors Program faculty in 2016 and has been a political science faculty member at Baylor since 2002. He earned a BA in Classics from Oberlin College, a BMus from Oberlin Conservatory, and an MA and PhD in political science from Louisiana State University. He teaches courses on political philosophy, the history of political thought, and great texts. His book (with coauthor J. Daryl Charles) The Just War Tradition was published by ISI Books in 2012. His second book, The Sophists in Plato’s Dialogues, was published by SUNY in 2016. He is currently writing a book entitled Rethinking American Politics. Dr. Corey received Baylor’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2008 and 2018. Baylor’s student government has twice named him Faculty Member of the Year. He has been recognized multiple times for his excellence in teaching by the American Political Science Association and Phi Beta Kappa.

Talk: “Rethinking Tradition: How to Become a Genius”

By far the best way to become a master in any field is to apprentice oneself to tradition. Traditions are not essentially constraining—which is how the modern mind seems to understand them. They are rather exceptionally liberating, freeing us from ignorance and from inquiring profligately into questions already explored. Nor are traditions someone else’s invention. They are rather the work of many hands, presenting to us ideas that are sometimes refractory or irreconcilable. Most important, traditions only come alive when appropriated and applied by us to ever-changing historical circumstances. Like a piece of property handed down through generations, they fall to us to use, or not, as we think best. Thus traditions, rightly understood, are never static. They rather welcome and even facilitate change as we who take them up adapt them to their needs. Traditions are, in short, profoundly pedagogical, fluid, and evolving. Those who prematurely reject them also sadly reject the very possibility of genius, while those who master them—whether they decide to endorse or amend them—benefit from standing “on the shoulders of giants.” If you’d like to become a genius, you’d do well to begin by “rethinking tradition.”

Elizabeth Corey, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Corey is an associate professor of political science at Baylor University, where she also serves as director of the Honors Program. Her writing has appeared in First ThingsThe Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and National Affairs, as well as in a variety of scholarly journals. She received a bachelor’s in Classics from Oberlin College and master’s and doctoral degrees in art history and political science from Louisiana State University. She was the American Enterprise Institute’s Values and Capitalism Visiting Professor for the 2018–19 academic year.

Talk: “Liberal Learning and Why It’s Valuable”

In order to awaken the desire for liberal education, students must be shown why it is worth loving. Often this happens not in abstract conversations about the value of the humanities, but in mentorship or community with other people. The “personal” element of learning is thus vital for its flourishing.

Harrison Kleiner, Ph.D.

Harrison Kleiner

Harrison Kleiner attended a small liberal arts college in eastern Iowa called Cornell College. He earned an MA in philosophy at Boston College and then his PhD at Purdue. At Utah State, he teaches across the curriculum in philosophy, specializing in being a generalist, so to speak. His personal intellectual interests are quite broad but most notably are in philosophy of nature, ancient and medieval philosophy, continental philosophy, anti-modern Christian humanism, and Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). Dr. Kleiner also spends considerable time thinking about liberal education.

Talk: “Myth, Education, and the Stewardship of the West”

Those of us interested in preserving Western culture and civilization often understand our challenge to be winning a battle of ideas. There is something to this, of course. But in this talk, I argue that stewardship of Western culture largely rests on more pre-intellectual—though not anti-intellectual—foundations. Drawing on the thought of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and others, I argue that our bonds, commitments, and virtues are first formed in the experience of beauty, story, fantasy—the imagination. As we look to preserve and revitalize Western civilization and more generally seek to live well ourselves, we need to give special attention to those aspects of our education.


Harry Veryser, Ph.D.

Harry VeryserHarry Veryseris an adjunct professor of economics and teaches Introduction to Economics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, History of Economic Thought, Free Enterprise and Radical Criticism, and International Economics at the University of Detroit Mercy. Previously Veryser taught at Walsh College, where he was professor of economics and chair of the Department of Economics and Finance. He also was the chairman of the board and owner of an automotive supply company for many years. In October 2003, Professor Veryser was one of ten professors in the United States selected to receive the Will Herberg Award for outstanding faculty service from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. His articles have appeared in the Detroit News, the Intercollegiate Review, and the University Bookman. He is the author of Our Economic Crisis: Sources and Solutions and It Didn’t Have to Be This Way: Why Boom and Bust Is Unnecessary­—and How the Austrian School of Economics Breaks the Cycle (ISI Books). Professor Veryser received his undergraduate degree in philosophy and economics and two MA degrees, one in economics and one in religious studies, from the University of Detroit.


“The Moral Foundations of Prosperity”

One of the basic tenets of free-market economics is that markets allocate resources more efficiently than government bureaucrats ever could. The countless businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and consumers making economic decisions every day draw on a vastly greater range of knowledge, skill, and experience than a relative few government planners could possess. Just as important, top-down management runs counter to the natural organization of society, whose traditions, customs, laws, goods, technologies, markets, and other components evolved over many generations, not from any plan. The significance of this “spontaneous order” is easy to miss. But defenders of free enterprise must recognize that markets do not stand independent of the broader culture; they are inextricably linked to all the other organizations, associations, and political and legal systems that develop organically over time. In fact, truly free markets can develop only when crucial preconditions are met.

“Unity of Faith & Reason”

On St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.

Jeff Polet, Ph.D.

Jeff Polet

Jeff Polet is professor of political science at Hope College. He graduated from Calvin College and The Catholic University of America. He has written widely on subjects such as the American Founding, constitutional law, American political thought, contemporary European political thought, education policy, and more. His work has appeared in journals such as Modern Age, the Political Science Reviewer, and Humanitas, and in popular online venues such as The Hill, Law & Liberty, the American Mind, and Public Discourse. He has edited two volumes and is currently writing a book dealing with identity politics. He sits on the board of directors of the Front Porch Republic and is the academic director of “Kirk on Campus.” He is also a senior fellow of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. He is married with three adult children.

Talk: “Enemies of the Real Things: Education in a Time of Abstraction”

<p”>Higher education has exacerbated rather than addressed its and society’s central problem: disconnectedness. The exacerbation results from conscious strategies of disconnection. The emphasis on leadership, global citizenship, career preparation, and sexual license offers abstractions instead of concrete experiences. The surfeit of technological devices deepens rather than alleviates disconnection. Tribalism results from fragile individuals trying to maintain their sense of self in an increasingly abstract age. At the social level, this involves identity politics as well as organized and informal identity groups. At the intellectual level, it involves a hermeneutic that approaches the humanities and social sciences, and increasingly the natural sciences, purely in terms of tribal or personal identity. Another result is the growth of the student life and counseling complex on college campuses. Schools may offer international travel, global awareness, and heavily theorized approaches to education, but they are not offering rootedness, a sense of being anchored in something solid and enduring, which are parts of the great legacy of Western civilization. Such anchoring requires attentiveness to real things, to concrete objects and realities, and neither the nostrums of the left or the right, nor a large therapeutic regime, will accomplish that purpose. The crisis of the academy is not simply a crisis of language. But language, like all symbols, and most students, has become unmoored from its connection to reality. Tradition means “to hand down.” In connecting students to the Western intellectual tradition and to the student’s cultural inheritance, we are connecting them to the real things that give life its shape and meaning. “Reality” comes to us in particular forms, particular iterations. Helping students learn the ideas, events, people, and art that shape their reality is what enables them to become educated people.

Wilfred McClay, Ph.D.

Wilfred M. McClayWilfred M. McClayholds the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma. His book The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America won the 1995 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians, and Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story was the 2019 ISI Conservative Book of the Year. McClay received his BA from St. John’s College in Annapolis and his doctoral degree in history from Johns Hopkins University.


“Lost History of Western Civilization”

“Land of Hope”