Philosophical Center

Burning Man founder and original instigator Larry Harvey created the Philosophical Center to serve as the “conscience and collective memory” of Burning Man, advancing the ethos described in the 10 Principles and acting to collect, preserve, and disseminate the essential stories that form our cultural DNA. Ranging from scholarly papers and thoughtful essays to interviews and first-person accounts, including some great videos, these resources are meant to inspire and inform, to preserve our past and help us find our way forward together.

Today the Philosophical Center continues this vital work by capturing and distributing stories in multiple media: supporting authors, filmmakers, podcasters, and scholars who are actively exploring Burning Man culture and its impact on the world.

Larry Harvey

The Founders (Photo by Karen Kuehn)


Any thoughtful exploration of Burning Man’s philosophical and historical roots must consider the ideas of Larry Harvey and his five partners in Black Rock City, LLC: Harley Dubois, Marian Goodell, Michael Mikel, Will Roger Peterson, and Crimson Rose. This group collaboratively led Burning Man from 1998 to 2013, when Burning Man became a nonprofit. These days, each of the six founders have varying levels of involvement in the operations of Burning Man and their collective influence continues to be felt in many ways throughout the community. In this section we have assembled some representative writings, interviews, and speaking engagements. Additional writings can be found in Historical Publications.

The 10 Principles of Burning Man

Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the 10 Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regional Network. They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on their inner resources.

Join the conversation in the 10 Principles blog series.
Join the conversation in the 10 Principles blog series.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.