Daniel Jacobson

Daniel Jacobson     Director, Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization

Mission

The Benson Center promotes critical reflection on the distinctive traditions and political perspectives that characterize Western civilization. The Center encourages residents of Colorado and the United States to more fully understand and appreciate their past, their future and a free and creative American society within an International environment.

Integral to this mission is the Center's commitment to fostering research, debate and dialogue about the fundamental ideals of our time. Our efforts are grounded in academic research and study that foster an understanding of the historical context of Western civilization. The Center focuses on and explores the values that grow out of historical Western traditions and trace their influence on the world, and, in particular, to study their role in the foundations and ongoing institutions of the United States.

The Center provides a forum for free and open discourse, study and research. It seeks to promote a lively and balanced conversation, ranging over both conservative and liberal ideals, to maintain the full diversity of political, economic and philosophical perspectives on the CU Boulder campus. By stressing intellectual rigor and the highest academic standards, the Center offers a venue for students, scholars and citizens of Colorado to fully understand our nation's political and cultural traditions. By focusing on the Western values of individual liberty and independence, both political and economic, the Center will provide members of the CU community, and residents of our state more generally, a place to understand the ideals that shape our understanding of an important aspect of American cultural heritage.

Statement of Principle

The Benson Center believes that the purpose of a university is the pursuit of truth, wherever it may lead. This pursuit requires that reasonable people of good will be able to make arguments in good faith, even if those arguments are wrong, unpopular, or not in keeping with the political or moral views of others at the university. Our mission requires that we display the utmost toleration for the views of scholars whom we invite to participate in the Center’s academic life. 

To its great credit, the University of Colorado’s guiding principles include a commitment to intellectual and political diversity. The Benson Center supports faculty projects promoting the study of Western Civilization from various perspectives. In addition, partly through its Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy, the Center aims to increase intellectual and political diversity at CU. Our mission is to promote a civil exchange of views on controversial topics. We believe that the quality and tone of moral and political debate is improved by careful study of opposing viewpoints. John Stuart Mill put this point eloquently: “Only through diversity of opinion is there [...] a chance of fair play to all sides of the truth."
 
This year we will be sponsoring a virtual speaker series titled “The Canceled,” which explores the social (as opposed to legal) coercion of unpopular opinion, especially in academia and the media. These speakers have a wide range of opinions and will frequently disagree with one another. We welcome the campus community to engage in what we hope will be lively but civil and reasoned debate.
 
In the words of Keith Whittington, author of Speak Freely and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University: "If we are to take seriously the injunction that a more diverse academic community is a benefit because, in part, it adds to the diversity of perspectives that are voiced in class and creates a better learning environment, then we cannot expect a diversity of people and experiences to mingle on a campus without jarring, sometimes heated, and sometimes deep disagreements.” 

Prof. Daniel Jacobson
Director, Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization

 

Fellowships and Grants

Fundamental to the Center's mission is to bring a diversity of voices into the University by sponsoring annual fellowships for scholars from other institutions, as well as some from CU. At the heart of its mission, the center will encourage collaborative relationships with the many CU Boulder scholars who are leading figures in their fields. The center will stimulate conversation and debate over how conservative and liberal ideologies have impacted Western traditions across a wide range of topics--science, economics, history, literature, the arts, philosophy, law, and politics--in their various ancient, medieval and modern forms.

The center organizes an annual series of Dialogues that bring to Boulder scholars who are at the forefront of teaching and research on issues that animate contemporary debates in politics and culture. We seek to understand the values that underlie these debates and where these values come from. Through discussing these issues among a diverse group of scholars, we seek to understand the debates that run through various spheres of American society, and how conversation can yield a shared understanding of the issues that confront us.

We also fund proposals from members of the CU community that seek to promote the study of Western civilization in any of its aspects. See the Grants page for more information.