Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Learn Without Arrogance

Last evening in Melbourne I was invited to give a talk on Adam Smith, part biography part his ideas to a weekly discussion group fascilitated by an extraordinary and genuinely self-confident, but in no way arrogant, man called Produs, who is passionate about learning from engaging with people who have something positive to contribute to the understanding of 'members' of the audience (and speakers). The ethos of the discussion in firmly fixed on the celebration of capitalist values in the context of freedom and liberty.

How refreshing from the usual moaning pressure-minded scholars, who are expert at denigrating each other's ideas and outlook, and aredoom-laden with moans about everything they talk about, and who usually talk in place of learning.

The discussion that followed, under guidance from Produs, involved the audience, including some new attendees and 'old hands', was direct, and fairly robust. My answers were gently chided when not to the point of the questions! I can think of many academic seminars where such interventions would have been appropriate from the chair, and productive ...

I introduced the myth of the invisible hand - which was closely qestioned from several listeners - and was (correctly) objected to by a participant when I appeared to leave out Smith's assertion that self-interest drove behaviour and this had beneficial outcomes in the main and was not negative. In making one point that merchants and manufacturers often acted in a protectionist manner - narrow the competition to broaden the market for themselves - but without the beneficial aspects of self-interested motivations, I was open to justified criticism. So, speakers learn how to present their views in the round too!

If I lived in Melbourne, I would join this group to keep my feet on the ground. The meeting finished at 9.30 on the dot (what admirable discipline from the chair) and the participants dispersed happy that they had not wasted their evening.

It's back to Sydney today.



Blogger Lorenzo said...

And we very much enjoyed your presentation, thank you!

1:29 a.m.  

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