Founded in the immediate wake of America’s dramatic 2016 presidential elections, Northern Michigan’s Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom (C.A.I.F.) provides a unique space for thoughtful reflection and reasoned civil dialogue in a time of political polarization among mutually uncomprehending extremisms, dogmatisms, and institutionalized thought-policing. Our “Athens on the shores of Lake Superior” aims to celebrate both the love of wisdom and spirit of public liberty that animated that ancient democracy!
We promote freedom of mind and respect for individual rights, both in education and elsewhere, amidst the competing cultures of conformism typified by today’s widespread anti-intellectualism, totalitarian populism, fear of knowledge and hatred of reason.
Celebrating ethical pluralism; affirming principled cognitive ecumenism; stimulating viewpoint diversity; defending robust free speech and open inquiry in a dynamic forum adjacent to today’s dominant academic discourse (cultural relativism plus identity politics): the Center offers students, faculty, and the community at large escape from the prevailing collectivist ideology into an open horizon defined by active, critical engagement with the human inheritance, as embodied in traditions of classical liberalism and the Great Books of Western civilization.
Toward these ends…
- We host public talks by leading scholars engaged with the urgently necessary task of redescribing and reinterpreting our shared understandings of civil society in a rapidly changing technological situation and fluid cultural context. In this regard, “the more things change, the more we remain the same”—in the sense that the C.A.I.F. stands for ongoing, deep engagement with the timeless inheritance of Western civilization as the greatest resource for coping with an oftentimes bewildering contemporary reality.
- We provide special seminars for students and faculty to productively engage with premier intellectuals and authors of major works on the state of our nation and the world today. #OpenInquiry is the name of the game at these events, where thoughtful dialogue is the rule.
- We put on debates between exemplary thinkers exploring inescapable social, political, and economic questions of unparalleled import. #ViewpointDiversity is our watchword!
- Our purpose is helping to renew liberal education and freedom of mind for a generation and in a time that desperately needs it.
- On this website, you will find a record of past C.A.I.F. events and information about upcoming ones.
- As of now, all that’s missing is your voice… So please come to our events and discover a rare and uniquely valuable experience of participation in robust free speech and dialogue about the pressing issues of our day and the great themes of Western Civilization!
- To get on our mailing list and receive updates about forthcoming events, please click the Contact tab above.
Lecture followed by Q&A. Admission is free, light refreshments. Students, faculty, administration and staff, campus and local community welcome.
Please join us when we host award-winning economist, historian, and transgender activist Deirdre McCloskey for a discussion of McCloskey’s new book: “Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World For All.”
McCloskey’s new book is an insightful and passionately written book explaining why a return to Enlightenment ideals is good for the world.
The greatest challenges facing humankind, according to McCloskey, are poverty and tyranny, both of which hold people back. Arguing for a return to true liberal values, this engaging and accessible book develops, defends, and demonstrates how embracing the ideas first espoused by eighteenth-century philosophers like Locke, Smith, Voltaire, and Wollstonecraft is good for everyone.
“Israel is Still Living in History”
CAIF Senior Research Fellow, Gadi Taub, recently moderated a discussion between The Spectator Associate Editor and author, Douglas Murray; Ariel University Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Dr. Dina Lisnyansky; and Director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, Dr. Dan Scheuftan. Convened at Tel Aviv University, in Israel, the panel explored themes of nationalism and multiculturalism, as they relate to Islam, Europe and Israel, which Murray presents in his book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. Taub and the others also deliberated over the source of a unified European identity, separate from populism, and what role truth-telling plays in constructing a national, sociopolitical narrative. According to Murray, the difference between the European and the Israeli ethos relates to a perception of “people living after” or “people living in” history. “Obviously modern Europe is the clearest example of a people who think they’re living after history, that is after historical events,” Murray said. Adding that, “Israel is clearly still living in history,” he stressed “that means you know things can still happen, you still have things to fight for.” According to Taub, a united, liberal elite is to blame for propagating populism in the West because it attacks “democracy by delegitimizing nationalism” and, with it, the nation state. “Europeans are overestimating their own tolerance and then reacting violently,” Taub said. “My fear is not just that European culture is committing suicide or going down, but that its resurgence may indeed be dangerous and violent.”