OHIO community invited to Menard Family George Washington Forum Nov. 7 event: ‘The Science of Man’ and the Problems of the Wealth of Nations: History and Philosophy in the Scottish Enlightenment

Published: October 26, 2023 Author: Staff reports
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The Menard Family George Washington Forum will host Andrew Wilkins discussing "‘The Science of Man’ and the Problems of the Wealth of Nations: History and Philosophy in the Scottish Enlightenment" on Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. in Baker University Center 240.

Wilkins is the George Washington Forum’s Postdoctoral Scholar in History. He specializes in British and Irish Economic History, the emergence of social, economic, and political modernity, empire, industrialization, and the Anthropocene. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.

“The Forum is fortunate to have Dr. Wilkins on board,” said Cortney Rodet, director of the George Washington Forum and associate professor of economics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University. “He joined us this year after completing his Ph.D. at UT Austin, bringing with him expertise in a variety of fields. His contributions to OHIO’s missions of teaching and scholarship have been immediate. As a scholar of the Scottish Enlightenment, he speaks to the history, politics, economics, and philosophy of the time, so his talk on Adam Smith’s comprehensive project will offer something valuable to a broad audience. Everyone is invited to attend.”

Wilkins’ talk will analyze the question of why Adam Smith undertook an Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in Eighteenth Century Scotland. Why did he make, in his words, a “very violent attack...upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain?" Ultimately these concerns were part of a broader attempt to construct a “Science of Man,” a prototypical social science, based upon David Hume's radical assault upon the whole philosophical system of Europe. To understand those prior questions, Wilkins argues that we must understand that science.

This talk seeks to answer the questions of what the “Science of Man” was, what was Smith’s goal in constructing it, and how did it relate to the pressing political questions of his day. Only in doing so can not only the “Wealth of Nations,” but Smith’s wider project, be understood. Moreover, only in doing so can we see how Smith’s context lay at the very core of his work, and what that context means for our readings of Smith today.

This event is free and open to the public.