The Agora Institute supports and produces a broad, interdisciplinary range of research projects united by a shared interest in understanding and promoting civic virtue and the common good. Animated by the fundamental questions of human existence -- What is the purpose of life? How should I live? What do I owe to others? What is a good community? -- they aim at insight into how we might live good, integral lives in community with one another. Further, Agora is convinced that the religious traditions offer something of lasting value in these explorations, without diminishing or challenging the integrity or pluralism of our contemporary polity.
RJ Snell works in philosophical anthropology investigating what humans are and for, including what persons need in order to flourish as responsible and self-governed. He is especially interested in a synthesis of the best of the old and the new, depending on the tradition of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas in explaining the structure and purpose of the person while engaging more contemporary thinkers such as Bernard Lonergan, John Finnis, Martin Rhonheimer, Charles Taylor, and John Paul II in understanding politics, ethics, and action within the modern world. He returns frequently to the order of love (ordo amoris), the role of wonder, the power of questions, and the common good in all his work.
Steven McGuire is a political theorist with a long-standing interest in the work of twentieth century critics of modernity, especially Eric Voegelin, but also Michael Oakeshott, Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and others. He is particularly interested in the question of whether various criticisms of modernity apply to the age as a whole or only in part, and, questioning the claims made by many modern authors to represent a complete break with the past, he explores the ways in which ancient and medieval insights into the human good continue to function and have relevance in contemporary political thought and life.
In line with these interests, he is currently working on a book-length study of autonomy and the primacy of practical reason in Kant, in which he argues that Kant's works themselves reveal the limits of the autonomous (free and rational) self that Kant supposedly establishes and defends. In a series of chapters on metaphysics, religion, politics, and virtue, McGuire attempts to show how Kant himself points to the limits of human reason and the embeddedness of the self (metaphysically and socially). At the same time, he argues that Kant's focus on autonomy and his arguments for the primacy of the practical are motivated by a concern to defend human personhood against objectifying and instrumentalizing modes of thought that threaten to undermine freedom, moral responsibility, and the human good.
While working on this larger project, he continues to work on other related side projects, including a series of articles comparing and contrasting Eric Voegelin's philosophy of consciousness to the work of modern thinkers such as Kant, Schelling, Habermas, and Rawls.
Jeffrey Dill's research focuses on cultural institutions that form and shape our habits, practices, aspirations, and beliefs. He examines how institutions like schools and families frame our understanding of the world and our experience of it. In seeking to understand the work of socialization in these contexts, he is essentially interested in the power of culture to determine the human experience of social reality. His projects focus on questions of pluralism and difference in educational systems, moral and civic education, and socialization processes in schools and families.