Shannon Chamberlain - Dean's Lecture & Concert Series

Friday, October 29, 2021 7pm

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1160 Camino de Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505

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“Against Stoicism: Adam Smith’s Literary Answer to Epictetus” 

Shannon Chamberlain, Tutor, St. John’s College, Santa Fe 

Friday, October 29, Great Hall, 7:00 p.m. 


“To feel much for others, and little for ourselves”—this is the essential problem of human life, as Adam Smith sees it in the beginning of The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1760). Although Smith praises the virtue of “self-command” throughout his treatise, he is also critical of Stoicism, the philosophy of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus. What is the difference between self-command and Stoicism? And why does Smith claim that novels and plays are “much better [moral] instructors than Zeno, Chryssipus, or Epictetus”? For Smith, the playwrights Racine and Voltaire, along with the novelists Samuel Richardson, Pierre de Marivaux, and Marie Jeanne Riccoboni, “best paint the refinements and delicacies of love and friendship,” and save us from a fate in which cultivating indifference to our own suffering leaves us ill-equipped to appreciate the pains and joys of others. This lecture will explore how Smith believes that we develop self-command, and how reading of imaginative fiction can properly regulate a self-command that goes too far. 

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  • Shelly Cook
  • Carly Jackson

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