The Mission of the Witherspoon Institute

The Witherspoon Institute is an independent research center that works to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, the Institute promotes the application of fundamental principles of republican government and ordered liberty to contemporary problems through a variety of research and educational ventures.

The Witherspoon Institute carries out its educational mission through the scholarly work of the Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution and the Center on Ethics and the University. These two centers provide opportunities to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to examine the moral foundations of political, philosophical, and social thought and to assist leading scholars in performing rigorous scholarship, often from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The Witherspoon Institute carries out research through five Research Programs focused on various actors and institutions of modern society: the individual, the family, the university, and the state.

Fellows of the Institute are faculty members of the leading liberal arts colleges and research universities of North America, Africa, and Europe. They are selected both for their excellence in scholarship in areas of interest to the Institute and for their commitment to teaching. The Institute provides funding to its fellows and affiliated scholars for their scholarly work. On occasion, the Institute will also provide funding to institutions of higher learning for large-scale, collaborative research projects. Please visit our funding page to read the Institute’s policies for such research projects.

The Institute is named for John Witherspoon, a leading member of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the sixth president of Princeton University, and a mentor to James Madison, the fourth president of the United States of America. As important as these credentials and his other accomplishments are, however, it is Witherspoon’s commitment to liberal education and republican government that inspires the Institute’s name.