Professor Jacob Levy Named Adam Smith Templeton Fellow

Professor Jacob Levy has been named an Adam Smith Templeton Fellow. Levy is among 8 other academics who have been given this honour by the John Templeton Foundation to mark the tercentenary year of Adam Smith.

The chosen Fellows are bringing Smith into conversation with the big questions of today through globally focussed events.

"It's a wonderful honour to be named a Tercentenary Fellow alongside seven extraordinary scholars— including one of my advisors, Chandran Kukathas,” says Levy.

Professor Levy’s research areas are liberalism and Enlightenment-era political thought, and Smith is central to how he thinks about both.

“Smith’s ideas are a crucial influence on my own theoretical work,” says Levy. “I particularly love teaching Smith, and once every three years or so I work through one of Smith's major works with the students in the RGCS Charles Taylor Fellowship. We're going to do the Theory of Moral Sentiments this year, in fact. Thinking about the Tercentenary Fellow Lecture is proving to be a great opportunity to distill my ideas about Smith as a political scientist, a political theorist, and a liberal."

Earlier this year, four students from McGill’s Research Group on Constitutional Studies have taken part various academic events and activities organized by the University of Glasgow to mark worldwide celebrations of Adam Smith’s tercentenary. Read more about their experience. 

Last month Dr. Ryan Griffiths Ph.D. 2023 gave a Glasgow-cosponsored lecture on Smith here at McGill as part of the celebrations.

“I've been very happy to see our McGill intellectual community brought into global engagement with Smith scholars, and I very much view the Tercentenary Fellowship as a chance to continue that engagement,” says Levy.

Professor Levy will be delivering a lecture, titled, “The pride of man, the vanity of the philosopher, the misfortune of the king” on October 12th at King’s College, London. The lecture is supported by the University of Glasgow and funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Levy’s lecture will discuss Smith as a theorist of the psychology of power, with a focus on two of Smith’s works, Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments.

" It's easy to imagine Smith's work as centering on two kinds of motivation: self-interest in the Wealth of Nations and moral benevolence in the Theory of Moral Sentiments,” says Levy. “That's not really accurate about either book individually, but it also misses a major theme that runs through both, which is the dangerous arrogance associated with domination and political power.”

“I'm going to use Smith's insights to talk about political questions from structural racism to the populist-authoritarian threat to liberal democracy,” says Levy. “I think he understood things about the mindset of the powerful that still have much to teach us today."





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