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The Great Connections Seminar for Working and Retired Adults

October 1, 2015 - October 4, 2015

- $475
Understanding art seminar


Would you like to experience the ideas, books, thinkers, 
and intellectual stimulation you may have missed out on 
when you went to college – an
d meet some of the most interesting people?

Well here’s your chance!

So often, people wistfully express regret for what they didn’t accomplish in their college years – the courses they should have attended, the books they should have read, the discussions they didn’t have. Some even guiltily wish they had spent more time in class instead of sleeping, drinking, or otherwise slacking off.

It’s never too late! Now you have a second chance. Armed with renewed motivation and seasoned with the experience, you have a new perspective that will make this “return to college” genuinely worthwhile and rewarding. Join us to chew over some of the most intriguing works by the world’s great thinkers, and come to your own conclusions about them – entirely for your own satisfaction and pleasure. No tests, no assignments, no other pressures.

It’s a fact: Most people need to earn a living, build a career, support a family. Those are admirable goals. But the downside is that we’re forced into narrow, specialized paths. We often have no choice but to leave education behind.

But the need and desire for learning never ends. A broad background in the liberal arts and humanities offers each of us tremendous value.

Indeed, for many, this is what gives life its meaning: The achievement of possessing a body of knowledge that is both broad and deep. An education that equips you with a rich understanding of current events, of the world, of civilization, of human experience.

The most successful people have this advantage. Because they’re broadly educated, they can see the big picture. These “renaissance people” are often the most accomplished, fulfilled, and envied.

Three days of intellectual adventure…

The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute is among a small group of organizations that teach the “Great Books.” That means that instead of using textbooks or lectures, we read and discuss the original sources: “the best that has been thought and said.”

These are the books that transformed the world. Their ideas have been enormously powerful and influential. The authors of these works – from Aristotle to Jefferson and beyond – engage in a sort of “conversation” with each other that stretches across millennia … on ethics, politics, justice, art, love, and many other subjects.

You’ll read, discuss, and obtain insights from these works. You’ll gain an understanding of their wisdom, significance, and relevance to the events of today. You’ll be challenged, provoked, inspired, excited. You may even angrily disagree at times. But you’ll never be bored!

In addition, you’ll discover the often-hidden links between classic principles and current controversies. This is what we mean by “The Great Connections.”

You’ll read key works, discuss them, and exchange ideas with the instructors and with your fellow participants. And the discussions can be intellectually electric!

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll experience during this provocative three-day period:

  • Become an “ideological detective.” Train your mind to find the covert assumptions behind any concept and judge its merits. The evidence-based method we’ll employ will sharpen your ability to evaluate abstract ideas and solve practical problems.
  • Discover the different meanings of “power.” We’ll examine works such as:

    • The ancient Stoic, Epictetus, who managed to have power even though a slave.
    • Machiavelli, on the social power of the Roman republic.
    • James Madison, on the political separation of powers.
    • Ayn Rand, on conflicting views of ethical power.
  • Grasp key concepts in esthetics. The importance of objectivity in art; what art is and what it isn’t and why; and how to understand and appreciate a painting or sculpture even if you have no previous acquaintance with the work.
  • See the links between timeless principles and today’s hottest issues. These are the “Great Connections” that include: The need for “enlightenment” and how its lack confounds many issues. The kinds of social power and how they influence your life. The importance of the political separation of powers and how it explains recent crises.
  • And much more!
"The Spearman" Grant Park, Chicago

“The Spearman” Grant Park, Chicago


City of Chicago by the river.

City of Chicago by the Chicago River


We won’t just sit in a classroom – we’ll explore the art and architecture of Chicago on a beautiful fall weekend.

We’ll watch and discuss selections from two famous films, aimed at influencing opinion – one by the Nazis, another by Americans.

You can see the entire schedule here. To get a flavor of what the fall seminar will be like, you can watch a video of our 2010 weekend seminar for adults, above.

Meet the faculty…

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Philosopher Tibor Machan

On Saturday night, we’ll have a gala dinner together and listen to philosopher, Tibor Machan, talk about his life from communist Hungary to fame as a thinker and staunch advocate of freedom.

After Dr. Machan was smuggled out of communist Hungary he immersed himself in American culture, focusing on political philosophy.  Influenced by Ayn Rand, he helped create the Reason Foundation and forged a career as an independent scholar, influential professor, writer, and speaker. He will discuss his life as well as issues of timeless concern to us all, such as the importance of thinking objectively.

Ray Raad

Raymond Raad, M.D., M.Ph.


On Sunday, we’ll hear psychiatrist and research fellow at Columbia University, Ray Raad, explain the research evidence for free will, and the power of self-awareness. Dr. Raad, himself, has attended several Great Connections seminars. He said:

“Every time I attend one, I gain deeper insight into an idea I thought I already knew well. These seminars have changed the way I read.”

Marsha Familaro Enright, M.A., President of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, will be the Seminar Leader. You can read more about her here.

The instructors won’t simply deliver a lecture and depart but will be available for face-to-face discussions, both in and out of class. Furthermore, Dr. Machan and Dr. Raad will both join us as participants for our seminar discussions.

One caution: Because of the high level of personal and individual attention that the faculty will devote to each attendee, registration is strictly limited to 20.

We’re intentionally limiting the seminar to a maximum of 20 participants.

Why? One of our priorities is to create a close interaction between each student and faculty member. This strategy achieves a deeper understanding of the works and ideas under consideration.

What’s more, the instructors won’t force-feed you prefabricated notions. Rather, our talented faculty will encourage and strengthen one of the most important skills of all: the ability to grasp the meanings of events and ideas for yourself

Seminar details, and an early-registration discount.

The basics: The “Great Connections” seminar will begin at 7:30 PM on Thursday, October 1 and end at 12 Noon on Sunday, October 4, 2015. Location: The Hotel Blake, 500 South Dearborn Avenue at Congress Parkway, Chicago.

Capsule schedule: Participants will attend seminars in the mornings, go on excursions in the afternoons, and engage in extended discussions in the evenings. Thursday evening: an orientation and initial Great Connections Seminar. Friday and Saturday: Seminars and excursions, special presentation on Saturday night with the closing-night dinner. Sunday morning: the final Seminar and presentation; the rest of the day is free to explore the city or return home, at your option. View the full schedule here.

Fee: $475. This tuition fee includes all sessions and the closing-night dinner.

If you can’t take the time to join us for the entire weekend, attend our dinner on Saturday night and hear Dr. Machan. Dinner and the talk cost $90.


We’ll reside at an attractive downtown location, The Hotel Blake, where the conference will take place.  Or book a room at one of the other many nearby facilities in Chicago’s dynamic city center. Surrounded by great restaurants and stunning sights, this stylish downtown hotel is set in a 19th-century beaux arts building in the Printers Row historic district, steps away from some of the city’s most magnificent attractions; Millennium Park, The Harold Washington Library, The Art Institute, The Board of Trade, Willis (Sears) Tower as well as some of the city’s best shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

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Hotel Blake

In your room, you will discover complimentary internet access, free local phone calls with no access fees, LavAzza coffee makers, hairdryers, iron & ironing boards and complimentary water.  There’s a casual coffee and juice bar downstairs. Our guest may also take advantage of our large spacious, well equipped complimentary fitness center and complimentary wireless internet in the lobby, and 24-hour business center.

We’ve arranged for a special conference price of $189 per night for your room. To qualify for the seminar discount rate, reserve your room by calling 312.986.1234 by September 1st and use our special code: “The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute.” If you prefer, the Chicago Hostel is nearby, as well as many other hotels. Transportation to downtown Chicago from O’Hare and Midway airports is easy via CTA train or airport shuttle.

Stretch your mind…

At The Great Connections, you’ll benefit from the same distinctive learning method, absorbing curriculum, and top-notch faculty that has won rave reviews from the students who have participated in our “undergraduate” events every summer the past six years.

Experience an atmosphere of enjoyable collaboration resulting from our specially crafted, evidence-based discussion methodology, in which reason is the only authority. You’ll come away enlightened, with your powers of reasoning and first-hand judgment strengthened. And you’ll have forged “great connections” with the other fascinating people who will attend.

As a physicist from Stanford who has attended several of our events said: Imagine you’re into yoga, but you do it by yourself – then you find this group where everyone is doing it! The high level of cognitive functioning, the intellectual stretching – that was really valuable to me. “

Three Easy Ways to Register

1. Go to this link to register and pay by credit card. Payments can be made at this link.

2. If you prefer, print out this form and send your payment by check to:

RIF Institute
9400 S. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643

3. Call 773-677-6418 to register and pay by credit card.

Please contact info at rifinst dot org or call  773-677-6418 with any questions.

It’s time to unlock your hidden potential!

Most people have vast potential they haven’t even begun to realize. Here’s an opportunity to expand your horizons and release the capabilities you didn’t even know you possessed!

Seize this opportunity to fulfill your intellectual curiosity, purely for the love of knowledge. You’ll stretch your mind and enrich your life.

Let’s face it: The world is complex and confusing. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of anything. But this is precisely where the greatest thinkers of all time can help.

During our provocative seminar, you’ll learn the timeless, fundamental truths that help you make the world comprehensible. You’ll emerge with a better grasp of the meaning of current events and news headlines. You’ll build your confidence and be able to hold your own in any discussion.

Moreover, you’ll reap real-world rewards, both personal and professional. You’ll be equipped with tools for success, living well, and achieving your goals. You’ll sharpen your skills in reasoning, thinking, arguing, debating. You’ll make better decisions, increase your creativity, solve problems more rapidly and efficiently.

The “Great Connections” seminar is a unique “total immersion” experience and intellectual adventure packed into three days of intensive learning, interactive sessions, off-campus explorations, and rewarding camaraderie. Join us.



October 1, 2015
October 4, 2015
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The Blake Hotel
500 S. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60605 United States
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