Scholar, Educator, Citizen

Adam Smith's own combination of science, moral philosophy, education, and public engagement is the model for Adam Smith 300 in how we undertake research, discussion and dissemination of his work and ideas. 

The Tercentenary activities are supported by three connected pillars: Smith as scholar, as educator, and as citizen.

Scholar: How did Adam Smith's reading inform his thinking?

Adam Smith is a world historical figure, yet he is often misunderstood by those who think that they know what he thought.

By undertaking original research into the marginalia in his personal library and how he absorbed and criticised ideas from earlier writers Adam Smith 300 will enhance our understanding of Smith's thinking.

Exploring the formation of Smith's ideas in his interaction with the writings of other thinkers increases intellectual discussion of Smith and re-frame academic debates surrounding Smith by encouraging new perspectives on the development of his thought. The enduring canard of the Adam Smith Problem, where Smith was thought to contradict himself when he moved from the discussion of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments to the discussion of self-interest in the Wealth of Nations, continues to confront those within a particular interpretation of of his writings.

Through close attention to his intellectual oeuvre and new research into his books and reading, Adam Smith 300 will demonstrate how Smith provides a vision of humans as complex beings that simultaneously live moral and economic lives. 

some of the outputs from the 

Educator: How did Smith shape the character of his students and what can we learn from this?

Adam Smith understood that human lives need to be understood in a holistic fashion and that we must integrate thinking around morality and markets.

Smith's account of how our moral beliefs develop and how they change over time is one of the earliest and most sophisticated versions of cultural evolution. Smith recognised that central to the problems that commercial society faced at the time of his writing was how to reconcile virtue and commerce prompting him to analyse commercial virtues.

Smith was also a professor of moral philosophy who saw education and learning as vital to prepare his students to lead successful and happy lives.

Together, these two aspects of Smith’s work hold significant, but as yet underutilised, potential for an approach to education that is Smithian in form and content. Smith's moral philosophy and his teaching at Glasgow were directed at shaping the character of his students and readers to ensure that they possessed the virtues needed to live well in a commercial society.

Adam Smith 300 supports new vistas of Smithian scholarship in order to generate new ways of thinking and influencing educational practice that helps to shape the character and thinking of contemporaries. By increasing awareness of Smith's ideas, through enhancement and development of academic sources, we will ensure that current and future generations are able to engage with Smith in a structured fashion that encourages creative thinking.

 Smith as Educator activitiessome of the outputs from the  Smith as Educator activities

Smith as Citizen: How can revisiting Smith help us navigate the grand challenges of contemporary societies?

In addition to his academic and educational duties Adam Smith was one of the foremost public intellectuals of his time. He saw himself and his ideas as actively participating in the cosmopolitan conversation of the Enlightenment. The Wealth of Nations in particular was intended as a policy intervention.

In the spirit of Smith's ethos and public intellectualism, our Smith as Citizen pillar seeks to bring Adam Smith back into public debates. Such an endeavour feels particularly timely as we sits at a point where a sea-change in economic and social thinking is vital to ensure that we are able to recover from the impact of the pandemic on our individual and economic freedoms. This landscape presents global challenges in reconciling and balancing virtue, wealth, freedom and responsibility - all key Smithian precepts.

Smith as Citizen activitiessome of the outputs from the Smith as Citizen activities