Tuesday, July 19, 2005

32nd International Hume Conference: Day One

I'll just be giving a few notes each day on the events.

* The Conference was opened by Donald Ainslie and Margaret MacMillan.

* There was a plenary session; the speaker was Martha Nussbaum. Her paper, "'Mutilated and Deformed': Adam Smith on the Material Basis of Human Dignity," which is part of the book she is currently working on (The Cosmopolitan Tradition) was excellent. Since it was really part of the chapter, the argument was a bit complicated -- there were really three arguments: (1) Contrary to common conception, the Adam Smith of Wealth of Nations is less callous and cold than the Adam Smith of Theory of Moral Sentiments; (2) There are a number of interesting contradictions between Adam Smith's appeal to the importance of material conditions (health, education, etc.) in WN and his more severe acceptance of Stoic ideas in TMS; (3) We need to move away from a conception of human dignity that is based on enduring suffering to one where people are regarded as having human dignity for the simple fact of being human. The third was only lightly touched upon, but I suspect it will be a major theme of the book. It was a very enjoyable talk. I look forward to reading the finished work.

* Afterward, a nice reception. Now I'm off to do a little packing, and then (as Pepys always says) to bed.

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