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Living Out the Eastern Motto Reason Together: Agora Institute

Reason is defined as the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. This ideal is one of the three components of Eastern University’s statement “Faith, Reason, and Justice”. While there are many ways that reason is fulfilled on a day-to-day basis through academics, the Agora Institute and Agora Fellows Program are prime examples of how Eastern has implemented reason beyond the everyday classroom setting.

The Agora Institute’s name is a reference to the agora space in Greek cities. The agora was a large, open space where the people would gather to exchange goods as well as ideas. The agora was the center of the city-state—it was the space where political, social, commercial, and religious life took place. The most well-known agora was in Athens, and that was the agora where philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and Zeno would gather to debate. In fact, some of the greatest ideas of Western Civilization were formed in the agora, such as the Pythagorean theorem and the empirical method. This foundation is carried over to the Agora Institute.

The Agora Institute includes a select group of students (Agora Fellows) who get together once a week in a reading group. The theme for the spring 2016 semester is the idea of play. The Agora Fellows discuss questions of the nature of play and its role in the creation of a free and civilized society? Agora Fellows sit with various local professionals to discuss texts and ideas related to the semester’s theme or topic. The purpose of the Agora Fellows program is to seek virtue and the common good through conversation. The Agora Institute feels that topics like virtue and flourishing are what will model these students into not only good students but good citizens who can help sustain a healthy society, economy, and democratic polity.

Agora also offers many opportunities to attend lectures throughout each semester. Agora brings in various speakers to speak on topics like science and religion, political friendship, the supposed conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberties, and economic justice. The most recent lecture was entitled “A Strategy for Maintaining Relevance: The Free Library of Philadelphia in the 21st Century.”

In addition to the various lectures, Agora also offers a group of classes taught by the Eastern faculty who are part of Agora. The current faculty members who are a part of Agora are Dr. RJ Snell, Dr. Jeffrey Dill, Dr. Gary Jenkins, and Dr. Steven McGuire. The following courses are just a few of the courses in conjunction with Agora that are open to all students within the Templeton Honors College as well as Eastern University: Modernity and the Good Society, The Family, Political Theory, Justice in a Pluralistic Society, Political Ideologies, Early Middle Ages, and The Age of the Reformation. All of these classes explore and pursue the core values of Agora.

So, to have reason the only things you need are virtue and the common good…it’s as “simple” as that. Alright, maybe it isn’t as simple as it seems, but maybe next time there is a lull in conversation at dinner, reason may be the place to turn. It could end up leading to the common good.

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