The Philadelphia Society is a membership organization of scholars, educators, journalists, business and professional leaders, clergy–thoughtful analysts of current trends and public policy–all dedicated to the goal of deepening the intellectual foundations of a free and ordered society and to broadening the general understanding of its basic principles among the public at large.
Founded in 1964, The Philadelphia Society holds regular meetings that explore pressing economic, political, cultural and other issues; provides a forum for some of the most original thinkers of our day; and generates incisive analysis that influences the ongoing debate about our national future and about the future of freedom around the world.
The men and women of the conservative movement who are influential in shaping the direction of events have had their thinking formed in the crucible of The Philadelphia Society. Many of the key issues which have stirred controversy and prompted legislative initiative over the last five decades received their first serious consideration in the programs of The Philadelphia Society. Perhaps more importantly, the Society’s gatherings have served to promote deep reflection on the nature of the free society and shared moral commitment to its realization.
The Philadelphia Society operates on the premise that progress is made by achieving insight and understanding, not by enforcing intellectual conformity. Effort is made to attract speakers and program participants from diverse intellectual backgrounds who can offer fresh–often conflicting–points of view.
Presentations from programs held by The Philadelphia Society have been published in a wide variety of journals and news outlets, with their ideas finding their way into chambers of business, educational and political leadership, and exercising influence that has far reaching consequences.
Perhaps the most important function of The Philadelphia Society has been to bring together specialists in different fields who share a commitment to freedom. This ongoing exchange of thought and insight multiplies the power of ideas. It provides support and encouragement, promoting an intellectual “cross pollination” which has been crucial to developing the conservative ideas now having their impact on the national scene in academic, policy, and cultural arenas.
Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, a founding member of the Society, observed that turning the intellectual tide is the “essential element in strengthening and preserving a free society. Such a turn must be fostered from many different areas. We need to bring into [the effort] not only economists but also sociologists, historians, novelists, playwrights, etc.”
Author Midge Decter insists that “more important than its lively and searching seminars,” The Philadelphia Society forges crucial links between “thinkers and doers [in different fields] who need one another for encouragement, stimulation and fellowship.”
A list of past and present members of The Philadelphia Society includes some of the most influential thinkers of the past half century. Three Nobel Prize winning economists are among them: F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, (who has also served on the Board of Trustees), and Ronald Coase. Outstanding conservative scholars such as Russell Kirk, Mel Bradford, Forrest McDonald, George Nash, Steve Hayward, and others have been active in the organization; many of them have served as President.
With such a powerhouse of talent and intellect in its membership and following, The Philadelphia Society is frequently cited as the single most important forum for the exchange of ideas and a key center of leadership from which so many of today’s most insightful interpretations and applications of the philosophy of ordered liberty have sprung.
Past speakers have included such distinguished figures as:
Robert H. Bork
William F. Buckley Jr.
M. Stanton Evans
Edwin J. Feulner
Victor Davis Hanson
S. I. Hayakawa
Erik von Kuehneldt-Leddihn
William A. Rusher
George J. Stigler
Edward H. Teller
Stephen A. Tonsor
(A complete archive of meeting programs will soon be available on this website.)