Public Discourse exists to fill a void in the Internet publishing world. Eight years ago, I left First Things and moved out to South Bend to start a PhD program in political philosophy. At that time, we launched PD. Here is how I described our mission:
We live in a sound-bite age. Rhetoric often replaces reason. Considered judgments often yield to the pressure for quick reactions. Serious moral reasoning often gets short shrift in our public discussions. Public Discourse seeks to fill this vacuum. We make use of the new forums for communication that modern technology provides, but we don’t let them undermine the quality of our thinking. We draw on some of the academy’s best scholars, making their years of study and expertise available and accessible to a broader community, but we don’t get bogged down in technicalities and academic jargon. We can do this, because at the Witherspoon Institute we have created a community of distinguished scholars from diverse backgrounds and fields of study. Public Discourse brings these voices to the public. And we don’t shy away from the most controversial of questions, convinced that careful reasoning can settle many of the challenges before us.
We are not a Journal. We are not a Blog. Our aim is to provide a venue where readers can find out what our associated scholars are thinking about or working on—whether in their own academic scholarship or in informed commentary on contemporary events. Our hope is that by benefiting from these scholars’ perspectives, readers will be better equipped to form their own.
I think we’ve been pretty successful. Consider just a handful of our articles from the past six months:
- Robert P. George: Antonin Scalia: An American Originalist
- Mary Rice Hasson: Women and the Power to Change the World
- Margaret Hagen: Transgenderism Has No Basis in Science or Law
- Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George: Liberty and SOGI Laws: An Impossible and Unsustainable "Compromise"
- Robert P. George: Could America Survive without Religion?
- Jennifer Lahl: Commercial Surrogacy: Stop It or Just Regulate It?
- Melissa Moschella: To Whom Do Children Belong? A Defense of Parental Authority
When we launched PD, we were publishing two articles a week. A year or so later, we moved to three articles. Then, this time five years ago, we started publishing an article every weekday.
Our contributors—thoughtful, intelligent, insightful—have made Public Discourse the forum we first envisioned for our readers. While we don’t pay them much, we do compensate them for their time and effort in writing for us. If you’d like, you can help us do that by making a contribution here.
And our editorial team has been top-notch. Over the past eight years, several excellent managing editors have worked for Public Discourse: first Matthew Schmitz (now literary editor of First Things), then Lauren Wilson (now managing editor of First Things), then Octavia Ratiu (now pursing graduate studies at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences), then Gabrielle Speach (now pursuing graduate studies at Princeton University and who has become Gabrielle Girgis, thanks to the match-making talents of this editor). For the past three years, we have been fortunate to have the exquisite editorial talents of Serena Sigillito, who recently gave birth to her first child.
Young editors and their children need to eat, so we try to pay them a living wage. You can help feed them here.
We must also meet the costs of maintaining the website, the e-mailing program, and several other technologies that make online publications thrive. Keep us up and running by making a donation here.
These efforts don’t require too much money, but they do require some. If you enjoy reading these articles and would like to help support the success of Public Discourse, please consider making a donation to our publisher, the Witherspoon Institute. You can do so here; please include a note marking it for Public Discourse.
You can also further the work of Public Discourse by sharing our articles with your friends, particularly on social media. Follow Public Discourse on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow me and Serena on Twitter, as we both share articles from other sources that might be of interest to readers of PD.