The Center for Law, Philosophy and Culture exists to provide a forum for inquiry into the meaning of law and legal institutions as they relate to culture and the human good. It sponsors academic and public-policy explorations of the diverse ways in which law and legal institutions may express a cultural orientation to the human good or serve to renew and transform culture in the light of human and moral ideals. The scope of the center's inquiry encompasses the fields of jurisprudence, philosophy of law, comparative law, and social and political ethics. It fosters multidisciplinary collaboration between legal scholars and experts in such adjunct disciplines as philosophy, theology, history, literature, the arts, anthropology, and politics.
As an offering of The Catholic University of America, the Center derives an essential part of the inspiration for its work from the vision of culture and the human good found in the Catholic social encyclicals. The Center, thus, includes within its goals the exploration of questions of culture from the perspective of the social teaching of the Second Vatican Council and of the popes from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI. Inspired by these sources, the Center embraces human culture as an expression of an inherent human inclination towards the good, as this expression takes shape under unique and concrete circumstances according to a human community or society’s temperament and more particular inclination. In this vision, laws and legal institutions, in particular, are themselves cultural phenomena. The Church asserts that by studying the cultural form of laws and legal institutions, one learns more about a culture's relation to basic human values; and, that, by critiquing culture in relation to those values, one can contribute to its renewal and transformation.
As one of The Catholic University of America’s centers of excellence, the Center aims at the integration of legal studies into the fuller discourse of the university on the issues it considers. The Center does so by regularly convening multi-disciplinary academic conferences, public lectures, and faculty seminars. It also sponsors the annual Law, Philosophy and Religious Traditions lecture series. The scholars and legal experts the Center draws as participants in its events come from leading universities in the United States and abroad. As simultaneously an academic program of the Columbus School of Law, the Center not infrequently formulates its offerings in the terms of law and public policy, and it includes, among its speakers and participants, outstanding judges and legislators from within the United States and elsewhere. The topics the Center sponsors are, in most cases, theoretical, but they are often framed to revolve around contemporary problems of law reform and public policy. The center coordinates academic work by members of the law school faculty and other university faculties, as well as by scholars extramurally.
In an awareness of contemporary global trends, the Center seeks a scope for this discussion and debate that is both national and international. The Center pursues the international dimension of its activities through its university and culture project.
As an academic program of The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law, the Center provides resources, curricular counseling and direction, and directed research and writing opportunities to law students in theoretical and value-centered approaches to the study of law, as well to LL.M. students and students enrolled in joint degree programs involving philosophy, theology and canon law. It offers special assistance to students enrolled in the LL.M. program with a concentration in jurisprudence. It sponsors the annual St. Ives Summer Honors Internship, a field placement exposing law students to forms of legal argument honoring law as a means for transforming society in relation to human ideals. The center publishes the Journal of Law, Philosophy and Culture. The journal is dual faculty and student edited; the Center's director is faculty editor. The journal also has a student editorial board and editorial staff. In addition to its other content, the journal publishes proceedings and papers produced through Center activities.