Sunday, January 04, 2009

Attending a Conference - Without Internet Connections

I am leaving for Oxford University tomorrow to attend as a listening participant the following conference:

“The Philosophy of Adam Smith

A conference to commemorate the 250th anniversary of The Theory of Moral Sentiments
January 6-8, 2009 - Balliol College, Oxford University.

Organised by the International Adam Smith Society and The Adam Smith Review.

“Although Adam Smith is better known now for his economics, in his own time it was his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which established his reputation. Just as scholarly work on Smith has challenged the free market appropriation of Smith’s Wealth of Nations, so it has also come to appreciate the importance of Smith’s moral philosophy for his overall intellectual project. This conference, to be held at the college Smith himself attended from 1740-46, and at the beginning of the year marking the 250th anniversary of the publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, will provide an opportunity to re-evaluate the significance of Smith’s moral philosophy and moral psychology, the relationship between them and his other writings on economics, politics, jurisprudence, history, and rhetoric and belles lettres, and the relevance of his thought to current research in these areas."

From the delegates’ list it is a gathering of some of the leading Smithian scholars from around the World and the papers to be presented are a mouthwatering sample of the very best of current scholarship.

That it is to be held in Balliol College, Oxford, where Adam Smith spent six years (1740-46) earning his MA degree, is a special treat in itself. He went to Oxford to study to qualify for ordination into the Church of England and for a career as a minister in the Episcopalian Church of Scotland (the C of E affiliate church, north of the Border). He left Oxford before completing his course and resigned his Snell Exhibition (worth £40 a year) in 1749, and never returned to Oxford University.

It was while Adam Smith was at Oxford that, it is believed, he began to write sometime around 1744 what became is essay, ‘The Principles which lead and direct Philosophical Enquiries as illustrated by the History of Astronomy’, first published posthumously in 1795 by his Literary Executors, Joseph Black and James Hutton.

In my ‘Adam Smith: a moral philosopher and his political economy’, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, I regard this first essay as a most important statement of Smith’s approach to his work, coinciding, while he was writing it, with his decision to resign from his preparation for a career in the Church and to become a moral philosopher.

I also suggest – which I am currently researching in detail – that this essay marks his first statement of his abandonment of the Church version of Christianity, followed up in Moral Sentiments with what amounts to a non-religious stance that was well short of Deism.

Unfortunately, my current laptop no longer connects to the Internet, so, unless I can make alternative arrangements in Oxford, I shall be unable to post on Lost Legacy (you may believe I shall every effort to find an Internet Café or such like). I shall be able to read messages and emails on my Apple i-phone.

I shall compile reports of the Conference for Lost Legacy, but I may be unable to post them until my return to Edinburgh on Friday.

Thank you for your patience at any absence enforced by failure on the technical side.

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