About Public Discourse

Public Discourse is the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute, a 501(c)3 research center located in Princeton, New Jersey. Our mission is to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free societies by making the scholarship of the fellows and affiliated scholars of the Institute available and accessible to a general audience. 

The Five Pillars

Beginning in October 2018, our website and content has been divided into five broad, interdisciplinary categories. Please take the time to visit this page and familiarize yourself with the five-pillar framework before submitting.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions to Public Discourse should be challenging and academically rigorous, but still accessible to the educated layman. They should contain an introduction, ideally with a timely hook, that leads up to a clearly articulated thesis statement. The body of the article should be broken up into sections, one for each step of the argument, with a subheader in bold text for each. The article will need a title and a brief summary (generally one or two sentences). You may provide these, or our editorial staff can help you craft them. 

Submissions should be written in single-spaced, left-justified 12-point Times New Roman font within a Word document, with a single space after periods. Please do not use footnotes, but do hyperlink to the sources of all quotations (to the full text of the article, if freely available online; the abstract page of articles published in academic journals/behind a paywall; or the Amazon listing of print books). 

We publish four types of content:

  • Full-length essays: 1500-2000 words, making an extended argument about a complex topic ($200 honorarium)
  • Shorter articles: 800-1200 words, offering a thoughtful, original point of view on an important topic ($200 honorarium)
  • Review Essays: 1500-2000 words, evaluating a book and exploring its topic by advancing an orginal, thesis-driven argument in conversation with the book ($200 honorarium)
  • Book Notes: 300-500 words, briefly reviewing and critically evaluating a recent book ($50 honorarium)

Although your topic may be specialized or abstract, you must articulate why PD readers should care about it, and why your conclusion matters.

The first pillar of a decent society is respect for the human person. 

Essays published within the Human Person pillar address human dignity and the need to respect all human life. Topics include but are not limited to abortion, assisted suicide, bioethics, and race. Other essays focus on man’s search for meaning, touching on questions of religious observance and theology as well as the need, in a pluralistic society that does not always respect human life, for robust conscience protections.

The second pillar of a decent society is the institution of the family, which is built upon the comprehensive sexual union of man and woman. 

Essays published within the Sexuality and Family pillar often blend philosophical thought with actual observation, privileging what can be known scientifically without being held hostage to the scientists who study these topics. Topics that include but are not limited to marriage, natural law, parental rights, pornography, and sexuality.

The third pillar of a decent society is a just system of politics and law. 

Such a government does not bind all persons, families, institutions of civil society, and actors in the marketplace to itself as subservient features of an all-pervading authority. Instead, it honors and protects the inherent equal dignity of all persons, safeguards the family as the primary school of virtue, and seeks justice through the rule of law. Essays in this pillar address topics that include but are not limited to upcoming elections, the American founding, constitutional law, the First Amendment, foreign affairs, immigration, and religion and the public square.

The fourth pillar of a decent and dynamic society is that of education and culture.

The essays published within this pillar include not only analyses of the state of educational institutions today but also broader reflections on the cultural practices and experiences that shape our intellectual and moral characters. Topics include but are not limited to architecture and the built environment, art, culture, education, the enviroment, history, literature, philosophy, science, and technology.

The fifth pillar, business and economics, is built upon concern for the common good and the ways in which the economic order contributes to—or detracts from—human flourishing. Public Discourse examines the ways in which the market is shaped by—and gives shape to—our understanding of the human person, the role of the family, the rule of law, and education and culture.

Public Discourse