In times of intense ideological combat, there is a temptation to shrink intellectual ambition, to steer clear of contentious issues rather than engaging with them directly. Our intuition runs in exactly the opposite direction. The fraught disagreements of this moment arise from more fundamental questions:
· What gives life purpose?
· What does human flourishing actually mean?
· What makes for a good society—and who defines the good?
Our view is that the way out of ideological gridlock is not to avoid these foundational questions, but to find ways to engage with them directly and productively. Aspen's Philosophy & Society initiative aims to demonstrate a different paradigm for intellectual leadership and community at the national level, and to build infrastructure that will help it take root. We believe that citizens can get better at navigating their most distinctive and foundational convictions, and that intellectual humility is a key ally in this task.
In this planning grant, we are focused on one part of this larger vision. Young and aspiring writers and scholars are profoundly under-supported as they seek to emerge into national conversation. Yet, this is also a time of opportunity. Individual thinkers and journalists have come to play a larger and larger role in the media ecosystem, not least through so called "new media" outlets like Substack and podcasts.
If approached in the right manner, we think this situation presents real opportunities for individuals to model serious inquiry into deeper questions at the national level. Drawing on decades of collective media experience, our eventual aim is to build a talent pipeline for emerging talent—equipping them to prioritize first principle questions and giving them the tools to play a significant role in public debate. This 16-month planning grant concentrates on developing a robust strategic plan to that end.