Star Trek and Adam Smith

sympathy reading groups science fiction

May, 2022

James Hartley
Is sympathy a learned behavior or is it innate? Is it the sign of an advanced culture? Is imitation an inherent feature of a society? Is it a desirable feature? What makes a society a just society? When is it acceptable to seek to alter characteristics of a society? Is self-command the source of all virtues? These are among the questions Adam Smith addresses in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. These are also among the questions addressed in Star Trek.  How does The Theory of Moral Sentiments help us think through the moral dilemmas in Star Trek?  How does Star Trek help us understand The Theory of Moral Sentiments?  In this Virtual Reading Group we will look at these two works together as a means of thinking about questions of individual behavior and the construct of society.

Pre-registration is required. Participants will need to access the Star Trek episodes listed below. The TMS readings are available online as well as for purchase in soft cover. (Use promo code VRG2022 to receive 35% off your purchase.) Participants who successfully complete ALL sessions will be eligible to receive an Amazon e-gift certificate.

The sessions and readings are as follows:

Session One: Tuesday, May 3, 3-4pm EST
Star Trek, “The Empath” TMS: pp. 9-43 (Of the Sense of Propriety, Chapters 1 and 2)

Session Two: Tuesday. May 10, 3-4pm EST
Star Trek, “A Piece of the Action” TMS: pp. 43-78 (Of the Sense of Propriety, Chapters 3-5)

Session Three: Tuesday, May 17, 3-4pm EST
Star Trek, “A Taste of Armageddon” TMS: pp. 78-108, 171-178 (Of Merit and Demerit, Sections I and II)

Session Four: Tuesday, May 24, 3-4 EST
Star Trek,  “Mirror, Mirror” TMS: pp. 227-264 (Of the Character of the Individual, Chapters 2 and 3)