In their fascinating and divisive debate about the French Revolution, Irish statesman Edmund Burke and English political philosopher Thomas Paine sparred over moral and philosophical questions about the nature of political life and the best approach to social change: radical and swift, or gradual and incremental. Their fiery rhetoric advanced two very different sets of notions of liberty, equality, nature, history, reason, and reform, and laid the groundwork for modern American partisanship. Our study group will use Yuval Levin’s The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left (Basic Books, 2014) to learn about what conservatism, progressivism, and the debate between them truly amounts to. Through Levin’s book, we will explore ideas about what makes a government legitimate, what the individual’s place is in the larger society, and how each generation should think about those who came before and those who will come after. This exploration of traditional views of left and right will help us gain additional perspective on current debates about liberal democracy versus populism. We will try to spend some time at the end of each group meeting to explore how Burke and Paine’s ideas may inform our current political debates.