THE INSTITUTE ON THE FORMATION OF KNOWLEDGE opened in the Fall of 2015 at the University of Chicago.

PEOPLE:  We constitute some 40 scholars from around the University, representing 11 of the 12 schools and divisions and spanning departments ranging from Anthropology and Art History to Law, Medicine, Social Thought and Statistics, as well as an international board of world-renowned thinkers. 

FUNDING: We offer postdoctoral positions, faculty and graduate fellowships, visiting professorships, and an undergraduate thesis prize.

RESEARCH:  It is our belief that when scholars share their fields of knowledge with each other, unusual and unanticipated forms of innovation and knowledge creation take place.  The modern university, however, offers few environments in which this belief can be institutionalized.

TEACHING:  We offer undergraduates and graduate students team-taught classes that challenge conventional wisdom across the board.  Our new XCAP series brings practice into the classroom to mix with theory—yet another way of broadening academic knowledge into something more.


Our scholars ask, What do we know?

In the current era, this question is more confusing than ever, and answers are hard to come by.  We face unreliable news, non-replicable scientific experiments, masses of data, groupthink, cultural relativism,  confusion about values, entrenched beliefs, and more.

In such an environment, one needs new methods for asking about the world.  At the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, we understand how factors like history, politics, culture and religion can shape knowledge—year in and year out, over decades, over centuries.  We also believe that to understand a phenomenon properly, one must approach it from a number of different fields, and with the correct sensitivity to context. No area of knowledge should be examined in a vacuum—one of the reasons we tend to underplay the importance of the division of knowledge into departments within the university. 

With our new questions and new methods, we try to find new answers to some of the largest and most perennial questions, all bearing on what it means to be human in the 21st century.


We bring together experts from every field.  We make them talk to each other, argue, and rethink their assumptions.  We are an arena, a laboratory, a lens, a voice.

IN OUR ARENA, entrenched assumptions are thrown to the lions.  We attack problems as a community of thinkers of every stripe.  We deploy the rigorous inquiry for which the University of Chicago is known.

IN OUR LABORATORY, we experiment on truth and see if it holds up.  What claims are simply wrong?  In what ways are we misled?  What forces are warping the structure of knowledge?

UNDER OUR LENS, we examine what people claim to know.  Are we rational animals?  Is democracy best for everyone? Can indigenous beliefs challenge science?  Are we advancing as a species?

WITH OUR VOICE, we speak to students and the public.  We have lectures, conferences, workshops, journals, blogs, and op-ed pieces.  We are in dialogue with the world.


contact us anytime:  ifk-info@uchicago.edu