Mercer’s Inaugural Elliott Conference Focuses on Work of Adam Smith


MACON – Mercer University's Center for America's Founding Principles will hold its sixth annual conference this week. The conference was recently endowed by a $1 million gift from Mercer alumnus and former trustee A.V. Elliott, and this year's event marks the first for the conference as the A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas. This year's event, titled “The Moral and Political Philosophy of Adam Smith,” takes place Wednesday and Thursday in Conference Room I of the Connell Student Center on the University's Macon campus.

“Smith is known mostly for his economic theory, but this conference will explore the entire range of his thought – including his under-appreciated and beautiful book of moral philosophy, The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” said Dr. Will R. Jordan, co-director of the Center and associate professor and chair of the Political Science Department. “The Smith that will emerge this week will be much more comprehensive and nuanced than the Smith everyone thinks they know.”

The event will feature eight scholars and experts on Smith, the 18th Century philosopher best known for his work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Through reading groups run by the Center, students and faculty have been studying Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments to aid in the discussions during the event. The conference will include several lectures by prominent founding scholars and close with a keynote address by Dr. Douglas Den Uyl from Liberty Fund. The conference will also feature a student panel where students will have the opportunity to present in front of experts from across the country, as well as two faculty panels discussing Smith.

“Adam Smith is well-known, but not necessarily well-understood, for his political economy, especially as it is encapsulated by the idea of the 'invisible hand,” said Dr. Charlotte Thomas, Center co-director and professor and director of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program. “However, a thorough understanding of Smith includes making sense of his moral philosophy as well as his political economy, where he presents his ideas about human sympathy, our natural drive to feel connected to our fellow men and the moral perils of pursuing 'frivolous utility'.”

Dr. Thomas said the conference will bring together some of the most thoughtful contemporary scholars of Smith in an effort to bring Smith's moral theory and political economy in focus in relation to one another.

“The Center is excited to bring this conversation to the Mercer community so that we may better explore together the meaning of being American citizens in light of Smith's influential teachings,” Dr. Thomas said. “We are especially grateful to Mr. and Mrs. A.V. Elliot for their generous endowment gift which will make our conference program a permanent part of Mercer's educational landscape.”

Full conference schedule:


6 p.m. – Opening Lecture, “Adam Smith on Living a Life” by Dr. Ryan Hanley of Marquette University


9-10:15 a.m. – Student Panel, with Mercer students Brandon Brock, Connor Cosenza, Ronnie Davis and Jackson Brown.

10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. – Faculty Panel with Dr. Jennifer Baker, College of Charleston; Dr. Scott Beaulier, Troy University; and Dr. Art Carden, Samford University.

1-2:30 p.m. – Faculty Panel with Dr. Joseph Knippenberg, Oglethorpe University; Dr. Eduardo Velasquez, Washington and Lee University; and Dr. Stuart Warner, Roosevelt University.

6 p.m. Closing Lecture: “The Fortune of Others: Adam Smith and the Beauty of Commerce,” by Douglas Den Uyl of the Liberty Fund

More on the conference and Center.

About Mercer University

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center launched July 1, 2012, and includes the University's medical, nursing and pharmacy schools and will add a fourth college – the College of Health Professions – on July 1, 2013. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program.

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