The following comes from a press release issued by First Things magazine.

First Things is pleased to invite our readers to Los Angeles for a memorable weekend of seminars and lectures on The Search for Happiness. Participants will have the opportunity to explore texts alongside scholars and First Things writers and editors, discussing these ideas in small-group seminar sessions.

Who should attend? There are no prerequisites required to participate. Whether you are a graduate student, parent, clergy, or professional, if you enjoy reading First Things or discussing the kind of ideas found in its pages, then this event is right for you.

Sigmund Freud once said that “happiness is something essentially subjective.” His view is commonplace today. This series will examine that claim: is happiness in the eye of the beholder? If not, what would objective happiness be? And how can one be happy given the vicissitudes of life? In Sophocles’ great play about a very unhappy man, Oedipus, the chorus ends that play with the judgment that we can count no one happy until they are dead. Only then can a sure claim be made that there has been a happy life. Surely it is odd that only in death can one judge someone to have lived a happy life.

As we explore these questions, Scholars from The Agora Foundation, Thomas Aquinas College, and St. John’s College will guide seminar participants through several classic treatises on the topic of human happiness.

The Search for Happiness is co-sponsored by The Center for Liberal Arts and Free Institutions at UCLA. CLAFI’s purpose is to study the great works and achievements of Western and other civilizations, with particular emphasis on the foundations of free institutions.


The First Things Intellectual Retreat will be held from Friday evening, May 20 to Sunday morning May 22, 2016 at the UCLA School of Law.

Friday, May 20, 2016
6:00 pm Cocktail reception
7:00 pm Dinner & lecture

Saturday, May 21, 2016
8:00 am Continental breakfast (optional)
9:00 am – 5:00 pm Seminar discussions

15-20 participants per group
Lunch & scheduled breaks throughout the day

6:00 pm Cocktail reception
7:00 pm Dinner & lecture

Sunday, May 22, 2016
9:00 am Continental breakfast (optional)
9:30 am Poetry reading
11:00 am End of intellectual retreat

Dress code: Business casual attire for cocktail receptions and dinners. Casual attire for breakfast, lunch and seminars.


Reading materials will be emailed to participants upon registration, with a bound copy to follow by mail. The texts for the retreat are as follows:

  1. Epictetus, The Enchiridion (or The Manual)
  2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (selections from Bk. 1)
  3. Aquinas, On Happiness (edited)
  4. Bertrand Russell, “The Free Man’s Worship.”

All participants will attend all seminars through the course of the day, in the following order:

1st Seminar: Epictetus, The Enchiridion (or The Manual)
The first seminar of the series devoted to happiness will consider Epictetus’ claim that the only way to achieve happiness and freedom is to understand what things are in our control, and what are not, and to act according to that knowledge.

2nd Seminar: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (selections)
The second seminar will examine Aristotle’s arguments about what the chief good is for human beings, and how happiness is found in that good.

3rd Seminar: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (selections)
The third seminar will discuss Thomas Aquinas’ various arguments that happiness is not found in wealth, not in honor, not in fame, and not in power. Aquinas also argues that happiness is not found in pleasure, not in any bodily good, not even goods in the soul. Finally he reasons that happiness should not to be sought in any created good, but is found in a life with God.

4th Seminar: Bertrand Russell, “The Free Man’s Worship.”
The final seminar will be a consideration of Bertrand Russell’s rejection of the arguments that there is a chief good for man, and that happiness is found in an approach to God.


Participants are responsible for their own accommodations.
The UCLA Tiverton House is a well-reviewed hotel close to the retreat venue and offers reasonable rates. Space is limited; we encourage participants to book their rooms early.

Fees and Registration

Cost: $600 per participant

You may make a deposit of $300, with the balance due at the event, or pay in full in advance. The fee covers seminar tuition, assigned text materials, and all meals, including two cocktail reception and dinner lectures with First Things editorial staff and faculty from Thomas Aquinas College and The Agora Foundation (keynote speakers to be announced). There are a limited number of seats available for graduate students or seminarians; please contact us for details.

Companion tickets are available at $100 per ticket for participant companions who would like to attend the evening receptions and dinner lectures but are not attending the day seminars.

To register, please use the form below. Check the corresponding box to either make a partial deposit or to pay in full, and to purchase a companion ticket, if required. If you are registering two participants or more, please re-use the form to register one seminar participant at a time—let us know who are the members of your party by writing their names in the Comment Box. Please also use the Comment Box for any special requests, such as kosher or vegetarian meals, wheelchair access, etc.

If you would like to mail your registration, please include the same information along with your check and mail it to:

First Things
Attn: Intellectual Retreat
35 East 21st Street, Sixth Floor
New York, NY 10010

You may also register by telephone at 1-212-627-1985, or contact us at