What is the Principium Institute?

The Principium Institute is a consortium of scholars and intellectuals devoted to the renewal of culture, by pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful. The institute aims at developing the intellectual resources necessary for such a renewal of culture, including resources aimed at the academy, use by and in communities of faith, and other individuals interested in affecting such a renewal. What makes the Principium Institute distinctive is that the vast majority of its writers and speakers are scholars, but the primary materials the Principium Institute produces, although written by scholars, are aimed at a more popular audience beyond the academy. Thus, the resources are coming from Catholic scholars and intellectuals who are faithful to the Church’s Magisterium, but are accessible to a broad public. In this way, the Principium Institute aims at the evangelization of culture, and the intellectual theological, philosophical, and cultural formation of the laity.

 Why the name, Principium Institute?

Principium is a Latin word with many related connotations. Genesis 1:1, in the Latin translation, reads, “In principio creavit Deus…” In the beginning God created…. Likewise, the Gospel of John begins in Latin with the words, “In principio erat Verbum…” In the beginning was the Word…. Principium refers to the beginning of all things, and we derive English words, like “principle,” from this Latin word. Principium, however, is more than a Latin term for the modern English usage of principle. It means that from which one takes one’s foundation so as to begin. This includes both that which is understood and, concurrently, the undemonstrable reality itself that grounds one’s understanding and makes it possible. Therefore, a principium indicates simultaneously one’s origin, one’s foundation, one’s point of departure, and one’s proper end (finis). It is that towards which one returns, in the famed words of the T. S. Eliot, to “know the place for the first time” (Little Gidding, v.).

 Is the Principium Institute just for Catholics, then?

Both yes and no. It is distinctively Catholic in so far as the scholars who write for the Principium Institute are Catholic and strive to be faithful to the Magisterium. However, we would hasten to add that because the Principium Institute aims to engage both those who are Catholic and non-Catholic, it stands open to any who embrace or are simply interested in the “principia” out from which we move. We can very easily imagine these interested persons being non-Catholic Christians, those of another religion, or simply those seeking to know more about such contexts. Indeed, because the classical Western culture has been so shaped, at least historically, by the Gospel and the Church, many of the Church’s principia can be understood in non-Catholic or philosophical terms. This too is our aim: the renewal of culture.