Alice Temnick on Adam Smith as an Educator

education literature lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres habitual sympathy teaching

May 3, 2024

What might it have been like to be a student of Adam Smith, and if he hadn't quit teaching, would we have ever gotten The Wealth of Nations? Host Juliette Sellgren explores these questions and more with master teacher Alice Temnick.
Alice Temnick joins us today on The Great Antidote. She is an IB economics teacher at the United Nations International School in Manhattan and is an education consultant for Liberty Fund’s Adam Smith Works. We continue a previous conversation on Adam Smith, this time exploring his time at Glasgow and his Lectures on Rhetoric and Belle Lettres, lectures from his time there. We talk about why he left the University and the ways that we as modern day learners benefit, but how it impacted his students at the time.

Want to explore more?

Read the transcript.

Juliette Sellgren
Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. Hi, I'm Juliette Sellgren,, and this is my podcast, the Great Antidote- named for Adam Smith, brought to you by Liberty Fund. To learn more, visit www Adam Smith Welcome back. Today on April 1st, April Fools 2024. I'm excited to be continuing the conversation on Adam Smith in education with Alice Temnick. If you didn't tune into our last conversation, you should definitely check it out. It was about Adam Smith's education and being a student. Alice is an IB economics teacher at the United Nations International School in Manhattan, and an education consultant for Liberty Fund’s Adam Smith works. Welcome back.

Alice Temnick 
Thank you, Juliette.

Juliette Sellgren (1.01)
So let's jump in with a new first question, the same kind of as the old first question, but Adam Smith inspired. Last time we talked, you talked about Epictetus, who Adam Smith was reading when he was 13 years old. So what were you reading when you were 13 years old and how did that influence you?

Alice Temnick 
Yes, so I thought of two different really influential authors and books that I read then. So growing up in the younger years, I read a whole lot of the Little House on the Prairie books in the series of Laura Ingalls Wilder. And when people hear that, they picture and only think of the television series and the very early books, but it was quite a long series and especially when I was 12, 13, it was the later books called The Long Winter and By the Shores of Silver Lake. And then the final one was These Happy Golden Years. And what really captivated me, well a lot of things captivated me about those books that I read easily 20, 25 times a piece, was that Laura taught in a one room schoolhouse and began teaching at the age of 16. They had to fabricate her documents because she had to be 18 to teach, and she did this to support the family.

And so this is during some very lean years of which there were many throughout the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. What I remember about the influence of reading those books and loving them so much, it was not just the frontier living and the hardships, but it was the illustrations by Garth Williams. And if you haven't seen those just opening up any of the old series of those books, they were little, tiny, black and white, utterly detailed sketches, and that was all we had growing up. There was no movie or television series to imagine who these people were, what they looked like. And I just loved that. Also very influential on so many young girls was Little Women and Jo's Independence. And so that's what I remember. I certainly wasn't carrying around a dog-eared copy of Epictetus’ Discourses. How about you, Juliette?

Juliette Sellgren (3.23)
Oh, throwing it back at me. I actually didn't realize until I asked you the question on air that I would probably get it thrown back at me. So now I was sitting there furiously trying to figure out what I was reading. I think at the time I was reading 13. Geez, okay. Either I was reading Divergent or I was reading this series called Mist, born by Brandon Sanderson, and both of them were super influential on me because well, in Divergent you have these different factions and they sort people based on which trait you have more than any trait. And first I was wearing different colors based on I would assign myself a faction every day of the week because there were five of them. And so I would go to school every day on Monday I would wear all black, and then every day on Tuesday I would wear all gray.

And then every day on Wednesday I would wear red and yellow, and then it was black and white on Thursday and then it was blue on Friday and I would just do this. But then later when I finished the series, I guess I was old enough at that point because there was time in between each one that I read. I realized actually that being divergent, this mix of all the different factions or having a combination of different traits was actually quite normal. And that's how the world actually is. And kind of learning to embrace this sort of balance between things, even though I probably wouldn't have said it as maturely, realizing that I can wear different colors on different days of weeks and mix them all together and that that's actually the life we live and that we're not such basic inputs as having one trait I think was important for whatever reason.

And I couldn't quite tell you why that was important, but it seems important. And then Mist Born, basically it's this fantasy series about, first it starts with a dictatorship and they have to overthrow the dictator and it's this whole thing, but you ingest metals and certain people are born with the power to use these metals. And no, Adam Smith would not have been reading this, but it was kind of this gang of very scrappy up-from-nothings revolting against the authority situation, but at the same time, it really highlights, and maybe it makes sense because the author is a professor and he's also a Mormon and all of these things, but even though they're fighting against tyranny, and I keep reading to find out what happens, he really highlights the relationships and how it changes the characters involved and how they grow over time because it follows them throughout their lifetimes. And it is very classically liberal. It is very classically liberal. And I didn't realize it until I actually reread it in January because he's still releasing books. The beginning of it, there are three that are pre-Industrial Revolution, and then now post-Industrial Revolution. So what do you do when guns are added in the mix and cars? And that's really fascinating also because they deal with things like economic fluctuations and innovation. And so that's super-duper interesting for a different reason, but for the more philosophical thing, that's what I was reading when I was young, and I guess maybe that makes sense.

Alice Temnick 
It does. And what I find really interesting is you were reading very contemporary to your youth books that had an influence of classical liberalism, whereas when I was 13, I was reading some earlier century stuff, but also you probably know the classical liberal background of Rose Wilder Lane, who we learned later co-wrote these books with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Yeah, very interesting.

Juliette Sellgren 
I mean, do you still think about her so frequently now and kind of all of these powerhouse ladies of Liberty who wrote, do you think because of that? Or do you think you would've had the same fascination with them? Had you read their works and been exposed to them later on?

Alice Temnick (7.44)
Well, no, I think I definitely, yes and yes. But I was definitely influenced and I was so drawn to these books in this series. And then of course later in life I've become quite a reader of all of, well, the Women of Furies. I know you did an interview on that about Rose Wilder Lane, Ayn Rand and Isabelle Patterson and yeah, I continued to be fascinated with the early women of Liberty.

Juliette Sellgren 
And I've reverted, now I'm obsessed with 19th century Russian literature. So the contemporaries had an important place at the beginning, but now I, I've moved back in time, I guess.

Alice Temnick 
Yeah. Wonderful. Alright, I love talking books with you. 

Juliette Sellgren (8.32)
Okay, I know we talked for what, 10, 15 minutes before about books and now we're still talking about books and we just can't stop. So last time we left off with Smith at Glasgow, I kind of want to start by setting the scene again. We talked about this a little bit last time, but what did it look like maybe to be in a lecture with Smith or even to be at the university at the time? Who was there? Why would you go to university? I'm guessing there weren't women at the university. What was it like?

Alice Temnick (9.07)
Oh yeah. Okay. So University of Glasgow founded back in 1451. And so I've asked all those same questions. What was Smith's teaching career? How did he develop as a teacher? Why did he leave? We'll get to that. Did he have to grade and mark poorly written essays, and did he have a TA? And what were his administrative duties? Everything involved with being a professor? I've wondered about, there's a lot of different information from a number of different resources. And I'll quickly say who I've drawn the most from is the Smiths. I learned a lot about Adam Smith from Craig Smith and Vernon Smith. Scholars, Ryan Hanley, and of course Dugald Stewart who wrote the original biography on Smith and many other places. But so here's what I can kind of summarize is what was his experience and what we can still ask a lot of questions about.

So 1751 to 1764, they were 12 years the beginning of a 13th year when he exited, and he referred back to these years as the best years of his life on teaching, just the greatest thing. The beginning had to be a bit rocky, so he hadn't been a professor prior to this, although he'd given a bunch of lectures in Edinburgh where people paid to show up and we talked about that last time. But he was first hired into the University of Glasgow to teach logic and rhetoric, formal logic, which he didn't like. I know so little about that, but what I have read is that it's a lot about symbolic calculus. And anyway, he wasn't a fan of teaching it. He loved teaching rhetoric, his persuasive language and writing and speech and literary criticism, so much of what he taught the whole rest of his 13 years there.

But I've learned that how he moved into that moral philosophy position in just a year and a half later and no more logic was that his colleague was really sick. And so as a new professor there, he and some other professors had to constantly cover those classes. Now imagine that you're brand new, you have logic, you have rhetoric, you're doing your lesson plan. These other classes, like the life of the beginning teacher, this had to be tough. So sadly, this moral philosophy Ill professor did pass away, and then Smith stepped into that position of teaching moral philosophy and rhetoric. We know from many descriptions he was enthusiastic and didactic and all this knowledge that he had, but while he was a teacher too, he was also an administrator. We all have multiple duties you have to do. And he dealt with finances. He also dealt with developing the library for the University of Glasgow. And in his spare time toward the end, well not really toward the end, sort of mid teaching career, he published for the first time Theory of Moral Sentiments, his first book sentences. I couldn't spit that out.

So anyway, that description of those multiple things that he did, and he developed his essay and a host that he was writing back and forth to multiple people, including of course David Hume, who I hope will get to talk about in a whole another idea here. So again, hardly that absent-minded professor. This was a major undertaking. He taught some that later became very famous people. James Boswell, the great biographer of Samuel Johnson. He wrote, he taught John Millar, who was later a professor of which we get the notes from that become how we know about the lectures, and I'll come back to that in life though. Just read this about Glasgow professors at this time, he had to take attendance at lectures. These were recorded by professors who issued tickets for satisfactory performance and gave the prizes. I also found interesting, and it had to be interesting for Smith that to teach at the University of Glasgow, he did have to sign what was called the Westminster Confession of Faith, a really interesting Scottish Presbyterian document. That's obviously an oath to your faith, but it was very anti-Catholic and just an interesting document. So he had to sign that in order to be able to teach. That being said, it sounds like Glasgow was rather progressive in that not everybody that attended it came from a straight religious background or the same sort of Scottish Presbyterian ilk.

Okay, so this is great. His first class started at 7:30 AM It was the public class of moral philosophy. How would you have done with that, Juliette?

Juliette Sellgren 
I wouldn’t have done well, but imagine trying to get anyone else to show up… 

Alice Temnick (14.24)
What that's saying, because I have this real problem with late students, and I wonder if Smith also gave that lecture as they came in just probably. So 7:30 AM was the public class. There's public and private classes, which yeah…

Juliette Sellgren 
Maybe he wouldn't have noticed that they showed up late. I feel like he'd be so engrossed with what he did, but he had to take [attendance] he would not.

Alice Temnick 
That's true. Right? Yeah. 

Juliette Sellgren 
They forced him to pay attention. Exactly.

Alice Temnick 
I guess so. And I do too, and that's why I lose my mind. I get interrupted in class and update the attendance when you're late for class. So I imagine that maybe they just weren't late.

Juliette Sellgren 
Is Adam Smith particularly scary? Do you want to?

Alice Temnick 
Well, okay. Yeah, that I have a question about too, because I think not, but who wouldn't be annoyed with late students? Right? 

Juliette Sellgren
You can get pretty scary even if you're not typically the scary kind.

Alice Temnick (15.17)
Because nothing brings out yes, more scary in me than that. It's just a prudent, do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it, show up on time. Alright, so these public classes, moral philosophy is where he taught ethics and politics and jurisprudence. In other words, what later became the collection of all of his lectures that are captured in Belle Lettres, which we'll describe how that got captured. But after that public class at 11 o'clock there was an examination hour, and this was to make sure the lecture was understood. I'm thinking that was a Q and A hour. I can't find a real description of what examination hour was. But then at noon, three days a week was the private class, and the private class was only attended by people that had been to that public class two or three times.

Now, isn't that cool? You got to absorb these lectures multiple times before you could then be part of the private class, the deep dive into these 29 topics of lectures. And then, alright, so when the professors had their private classes for their class, they could teach on a subject that was of special interest to them. And so Smith made it his Rhetoric and Belle Lettres. the collection of his lectures. But I found this interesting- when Smith was a student, and remember he was a student at 14 at Glasgow. And so Smith was also teaching these elite young boys that are destined for the clergy. Many of them between the ages of 14 and 17. I mean, this is a relatively youthful audience. And so in the private class, when Smith was a student, of course Francis Hutchinson was his teacher, and Francis Hutcheson taught among other things, classical Greek stoicism.

Yeah, Marcus Aurelius, I'm sure, and of course this was Smith's favorite professor and very influential on him as their moral theories were very aligned. So Adam Smith chose his specialty particularly about communicating and speech, and he emphasized different forms of communication. He liked a straightforward style. He often talked about books and authors. He did a lot of comparison. He talked about the genius of the ancient historic writers. He was a fan of. He loved Swift, Jonathan Swift and talked about his clear, straightforward writing, and I'm sure it was the wit with that. And I often wonder at what age did he read Gulliver's Travels? And actually there's a few other books. I wonder at what age did he read these? And he goes out of his way several times to talk about how much he hated the pompousness of Shaftesbury, and he's called Shaftesbury’s writing that was writing that does not belong anywhere or to anyone.

He thought he was very, well pompous, I guess would sum that up. I also think that Smith had a thing against Shaftesbury because of his alignment with Hutcheson. Hutcheson and Shaftesbury were sort of, I guess contemporary earlier writers than him about their moral sense theory. But he really spoke harshly against Shaftesbury here. Okay, can I go on real quick? I'm sure you have a question, but he of course, 29 lectures that Smith gave. They had no titles, only numbers, and of course he was known as this great orator. He could speak with no gaps, clearly narrating a beautiful transitions and not a single note in front of him. But were they written in advance? So what is the Yes, they definitely were the way that they're recorded now. Right, right. So yeah, let me describe the way they're recorded now. But we know they were written in advance because his manuscripts of his rhetoric lectures were burned upon his orders when he died.

So they were definitely written. And what we know then about, and that is this collection of Lectures and Rhetoric and Belle Lettres published by Liberty Fund, and just a fantastic resource is that, so each of these lectures was about one of his central principles that informed they were separate topics, the 29 lectures, and they were discovered of a student's manuscript in get this 1958. 1958. You heard that? Right? So we go literally centuries where we know that a lot of people used information from Adam Smith's lectures and dissertations and excerpts. And he of course published many of his own essays about it referred to them. But the actual lecture notes were found by a gentleman called John Ian. He was an English professor at Aberdeen, and he truly happened upon them in a manner house library and found them and knew right away what they were.

I mean, there was a title on them called Notes on Dr. Smith's rhetoric, lectures from 1762 to 1763. Then he spent some years carefully editing these. He realized the notes were a compilation of three different authors, and there's this long description in the beginning of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, of student A, B, and C, and how they went back and forth between their notes and put together as carefully as he could, this collection of these student notes. And they were found over such a long period of time apart. This is also true of the Lectures on Jurisprudence, the collection that we have. This was another collection, set of student notes, two sets of notes that were found a hundred years apart and sort of put together to reimagine or well not even imagine, to re-put together what were these lectures. I find that so fascinating. But I finish real quick on telling you a daydream I have is unearthing the first of those lectures. We don't have a copy of the first lecture notes. They've never been found, and I think perhaps they came over in a trunk to New England from Scotland, and I'm going to find them in some New England estate sale one day. I'm going to find that first lecture. How do you like that?

Juliette Sellgren (22.14)
Yeah, I do like that. I mean, now I know there's something to be sought out to look for. So now I won't just be aimlessly wandering. It'll become my fantasy, too. And listen, you want to look for them. I beg of you. We need that first lecture!

Alice Temnick
And I don't think they're going to be found in Aberdeen and any other manor house that's all been scoured. I think they remained in somebody's trunk somewhere. 

Juliette Sellgren 
And yeah, it's going to be totally accidental again and not right away. We expect that.

Alice Temnick 
Oh, exactly, exactly. I imagine from, I mean from 1760 and not found until 1958, whole set of 'em. I love that.

Juliette Sellgren (22.56)
So you teach- wow, profound statement on my part. And I'm kind of wondering if there's anything to take away as an educator or even as a learner from Smith, there's only so much we really know, but are there any lessons that come through either in scholarship on how he was as a lecturer or what his lectures included that in part a sense of what his philosophy on teaching was, and I guess how else do we know that and what can you learn from that?

Alice Temnick (23.45)
I've been thinking a lot about that after yesterday and this morning plowing through a bunch of these student notes in Belle Lettres. And so there's some conflicting historic information out there. One is after Smith's death, the Gentleman's Magazine is the name of this publication. And I said it like that because Smith despised this magazine and referred prior to his death that he hated it. So this magazine wrote an obituary about Smith and it wasn't kind. I think it referred to the Dr. Smith as being extremely jealous of the property of his lectures and fearful that they would be published or transcribed or used and that the magazine claimed Smith hated Scribblers, that he would admonish students in his lectures that were taking notes and thought that students should only listen intently and then go home and write everything down verbatim that he said. And I've read that before too, but I never thought that that sort of equated to the human being that I think I'm figuring out about Smith from so much else that I have read and known.

So it's also been said by John Millar, who was a student of Smith's, and he also spoke directly this John Millar to D,ugald Stewart who wrote the original biography of Smith that students had permission to take notes. And that Smith's lectures, which were full of observations and opinions, he knew really weird quirky stuff about authors and would throw that stuff in, which is so cool. And that because a lot of those details were then referred to in other dissertations and other collections that people wrote about that had been in his lectures. So that kindly or generous Smith is certainly the one that I believe. And I think that that sort of addresses your question as to what kind of teacher was he.

And so of course, very important to Smith was the beauty, the delivery of his lectures and his combining of rhetoric with the theory of moral sentiments. So sharing of sentiments and attitude, the theme of sympathy, so constant to him of how we put ourselves in other shoes and how we like to have and imagine people to think of us and that we can predict the effect that we have when speaking on the listener or the hearer. But I do have other questions. Was he funny? But no, let me pause there and ask you what you think.

Juliette Sellgren (26.39)
I don't think he was funny in a way that maybe the majority of people would appreciate. I think he's probably funny if you get what he's talking about, but he's not really being funny to try to please you. It's more he's amused and so he's just making a joke that you may or may not understand.

Alice Temnick 

Juliette Sellgren 
You might not even realize it's an attempted joke is the way I kind of think.

Alice Temnick (27.04)
Yeah, a little bit. I think snarky humor, perhaps he did love, and he writes about this, I forget where, about the role that humor plays in literature. He especially liked talked about, sorry, ridicule and the ridiculous. And this is why I also imagined that he had to have loved Gulliver’s Travels, the making very large of something that's very little. And the diminution, did I say that right? Of the grand to the very small. So he must have loved that. But other than that, he liked really straightforward information. I also really wonder if he, at what age, I'm sure he read it, he refers to having read Defoe. When did he read Robinson [Crusoe]? And what would you think today of how every economics textbook used to begin with some butchering of that novel and in the effort to make the point of scarcity and comparative advantage.

And I've thought about that one because it's not at all the story. There were no coconuts and yams, and the actual story of Robinson Crusoe, I think Smith would've been deeply interested in, and it aligns much more with a better story like the I, Pencil story. Can I bore you with this? So Crusoe writes about bread making and you know how Russ Roberts did that It's a Wonderful Loaf not that long ago as a poem and then also as a video version. And it is essentially the story of I, Pencil- the impossibility of producing something yourself and where all of the parts come from to do that. Well, in Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe talks about this, but with bread making and also with pottery, but there's no story about yams and coconuts being traded. Oh, and Crusoe wasn't trading. I'm sorry, I didn't say Crusoe, Friday was not a trading partner, Crusoe enslaved Friday after rescuing them. I mean, there's so many things about that story that just never worked out in terms of how economics textbooks use them. But there were really good aspects of Robinson Crusoe that I think could be better used. Maybe I'll need to write those up one day. That's always…

Juliette Sellgren (29.32)
And maybe Smith did address this and thought about this, but maybe it was in the first lecture. Well, Juliet scarcity comes pretty early on in economics, doesn't it?

Alice Temnick 
Oh my goodness. Wow. Yeah, we're going to find that.

Juliette Sellgren
Yeah. Yep. So you have to write it. 

Alice Temnick 
Smith maybe would've said this, but we wouldn't know about Robinson Crusoe, that I'm willing to bet. He read at a young age along with Gulliver's Travels. Yeah, there's the title.

Juliette Sellgren 
So, Smith left the university, and last time you said you were kind of critical of him for this reason. 

Alice Temnick 
I regret that.

Juliette Sellgren
Why did he leave? Why are you critical? What did he do after that?

Alice Temnick (30.15)
Okay, yeah. So I'll start by not being critical. So his reputation, which was fantastic, caught the attention of the very wealthy Charles Townshend. I know nothing more about Charles except that he owned a ton of land, had a ton of money and a young son. And somehow I think because after 12 years of teaching that Smith had hit that cycle of burnout, that's a real thing when you're doing nine different things and being pulled in so many directions. And he was offered this with all that he had going on, Townsend said, Hey, can I hire you away from there? Pay you so much more than you're being paid now and be a traveling tutor to my young Henry Scott, the Duke of, and I don't know how to say his name, the Duke of Buccleigh. But anyway, Henry Scott turns out to sound like he's a wonderful young man, and the benefits would be unlimited expense account travel to the continent, to Europe.

You'll get a lifetime pension of 300 pounds a year, which was rather extraordinary. You only have to teach this one person and you get all the rest of your time for writing. What do you think Dr. Smith, would you like that deal? So he took it. Now, it was a new job, or was it a sellout or was it the burnout thing of leaving the best years he ever had? And here's my criticism. So he left mid-semester in February and he did a little work to try to find a replacement, someone to take over his classes. But my thinking is why couldn't this rich Charles Townsend simply send his young Henry Scott to Smith's amazing lectures at least till the end of the semester? I don't know. What was the circumstance that would let you stand up and walk out on your public, your private students? Remember he's taught them two, three years in the same lectures. And I just, when is a good time for teachers to exit? But I will have to say outside of extraordinary circumstances, February of a new semester is not, so that's my criticism.

Juliette Sellgren 
I agree.

Alice Temnick (32.42)
Now at the same time, no one's ever come to me in February of my spring semester given me this offer to, I don't know what it did to his salary and the lifetime pension, but I'm pretty sure I'll confidently say right now, I would say, no, you're going to have to wait until this is a better time. So there, now let's go on to what the opportunity was. No, go ahead. What do you have to say about that?

Juliette Sellgren 
Well, I was just going to ask, this pulls out this interesting trade-off in teaching where usually it ends up being more lucrative.

Alice Temnick 
Yeah, there you go.

Juliette Sellgren 
To do the private tutor, a few kids sort of situation. And what does that mean for educating as people who are generally into privatization? How are we supposed to not only react to Smith on this, but kind of approach education and private and public and all of that?

Alice Temnick (33.40)
My personal testament to it is that, yes, after almost 15 years of teaching in Arizona, one of the lowest paid states for teachers, I did cross the country to a private elite high school and triple my salary. So yeah, that's definitely a topic. And he was offered this opportunity. And here's what that opportunity then turned into some of the beginning months in France is where they went to. He was also in Switzerland for a bit, but he went to France, we're a little bit dry and dull. One account at said that is because of his, didn't completely have a command of the language, but that's not true. He had studied French and yeah, he knew French. So of course, while he is there, hangs out with the French Physiocrats and meets Aire and Turko and Ney and some famous women at the time. He's full of these incredible social circles. He's having a great relationship with this young Duke, with Henry Scott, who I guess was an amazing kid. And then really interesting, Henry's brother, Hugh joins them in France toward the very end of this, and he gets a fever and dies Hugh. And that's what,

Juliette Sellgren 
Oh, Hugh, how do you that Hugh in French? Well,

Alice Temnick 
It's HEW. How do you pronounce that?

Juliette Sellgren 

Alice Temnick (35.11)
That's Henry's brother. Yeah.

So then they came back to London right after that and Smith stayed there. He did a third rendition then of his Theory of Moral Sentiments. But he did stay in touch with the, and his 300 a year pension kicked in then. But he stayed in touch with this Duke, with Young Henry for a long time after that. He was managing his great wealth. Someone had to do it. So that was the end of that. It wasn't long that he was abroad for those two years. And Hugh was the reason, I guess for the end of that. And so after he came back to London, Smith, came back to London for a year with Henry Scott. Then he returned to Scotland after that year and revising that third edition and spent a good period of time, couple of years there, five years with mom and cousin Janet in Scotland.

And he began his work, which was already drafted while he was in France on Wealth of Nations. And then he moved back to England to finish, I'm sorry, to London to finish that. Between 1773 and 1776, when he then of course published that very big hit. And that's also when David Hume, his best friend died, who we've yet to mention. And all of it, he had to do with the influence on Smith, but that was why he left Glasgow and sort of what happened next, and a very exciting and very different part of Smith's life and his only experience abroad.

Juliette Sellgren 
And the thing is, I guess this is the tradeoff we see is that maybe we would not have Smith, we would not have the opportunity to learn from Smith as he is now and is now perceived by us if he hadn't left. The additions and the revisions and all that was really produced and that we read now kind of came out of his leaving, I think is what it seems like. And correct me if I'm wrong,

Alice Temnick (37.30)
Oh, dedicated years to writing this. And one of Smith's greatest regrets, I think many prolific authors have it as his death is there were so many works he didn't get to finish, hence the burning of manuscripts. But he had great intentions of finishing a few other master works that we never got. But your question of had he not left Glasgow University, would the Wealth of Nations been the incredible huge thing that it was? And then he wrote the two admit teams, 78, the length of this work…

Juliette Sellgren 
And then the addition of the end of TMS, which is…

Alice Temnick 
Right, right, right.

Juliette Sellgren (38.14)
Yeah. Super necessary. It's probably the glue that holds the thing together, the cap on the water bottle. Weird, weird analogy. But without all of that, we wouldn't today be able to experience and think about Smith's ideas. So I guess that's the tradeoff of the Thinker is yes, he got both. He got to educate and personally impart these ideas, but he also got to instill them in an eternal format. And so what are we supposed to learn from that? What is your take on this whole thing?

Alice Temnick (38.52)
Well, right when you were saying that, I was also thinking and realizing too, it's Theory of Moral Sentiments that he wrote and revised and added to and revised and revised all the way up till the end. And I mean, I think if he were to pick, which is the book that's most important, and what I wrote and what I did and who I am, I wonder if it would've been that, even though the big hit and the one that went down in all of infamy of course has been the Wealth of Nations. I'm curious to hear what you think about that.

But yeah, no, I have to agree with you that the course that his life took is what enabled so much of the great works that have become his posterity. And writing takes time. Everybody knows it. And how he originally did his first Theory of Moral Sentiments while teaching, I know many professors do write, and I hear about some that have these disciplined lives where they wake at four and they write from 4:00 AM till 9:00 AM and then they start their day. Well, Smith was teaching bright and early, and then with all those other things, he must have been an evening writer, I guess. And yeah, it's hard. And he did have dedicated time that began only after his time at Glasgow.

Juliette Sellgren (40.26)
I guess what we can take away is that as much as it maybe sucked for those students who got abandoned mid-semester by Smith, that we really benefited from it. And although that's probably not going to be every single person who up and walks away from a teaching position mid go, it's kind maybe overall not so bad because we ended up with Smith the way we know Smith. And that I think, to me makes it more…

Alice Temnick 
Okay. Well, we'll be all right with it. I'll stop my criticism then of that.

Juliette Sellgren 
Yeah. Well, I don't know. I admit it's a valid criticism, but I think in the context of, well, the rest of his life, I think he probably regretted it a little bit. But at the same time, he also regretted not finishing all his other works deeply. So you can never even have it half of both ways because it's always a tradeoff, especially with things that are good and right, like teaching, writing and all of that. I wish we could keep talking, but next time we should talk about Hume and IB and how to apply Smith or disagree with Smith or teach in the modern day.

Alice Temnick 
Smith's legacy. Yeah.

Juliette Sellgren 
Yes. But I have one last question for you today.

Which I guess we can see in Smith because of the amount that he edited TMS throughout the rest of his life, which is, obviously as you collect more knowledge, you learn more about how little you actually know. And usually what that does is it creates a yearning for more and more knowledge and learning as you have learned about the world and about teaching and experienced the world and being an educator. What is something that you have found yourself, I don't want to say lacking, but what is something you've learned you didn't know, and how did you realize just how little you did know in that respect? Maybe?

Alice Temnick 
Yeah, hard question. There's so much, I don't know. And yeah, you said that the more you teach and the longer you live, the more you should recognize how little…

Juliette Sellgren 
Or what is your TMS revision? What is that dear to you? That's maybe a harder question, but it might be an easier question.

Alice Temnick (43.04)
To not be so quick to judge. And I'm thinking now about ideas and education and that not everything needs my judgment and just observing changes and what I can learn from it. And I'm thinking now about just so much literature that's coming out, that's a lot of professors writing on it post-pandemic kids and their less reading that they're doing, how social media has interrupted everybody's train of thought. And being able to read two pages and taking a main point from it is a challenge for even our strong students. AI and its interruption and what that's going to be instead of trying to jump to what I think are going to be where we go next and the conclusions I learned to watch and recognize that really good things come out probably in a patient, whether it's solely based on AI or just a number of things. And I'm going to be busy watching for student strengths and what the generation of students born with a phone in their hand and how they will work with knowledge and make their way in the world from it with a more curious and open mind because I don't know, and I'm not going to try to know, I don't know if I answered that particularly well, except that I'm so aware of what I don't know on this topic that I'm just open to be fascinated by it and to really watch students.

Juliette Sellgren 
Once again, I'd like to thank my guests for their time and insight. I'd also like to thank you for listening to The Great Antidote Podcast; it means a lot. The Great Antidote is sound engineered by Rich Goyette. If you have any questions, any guests or topic recommendations, please feel free to reach out to me at Great Thank you.
Add a comment
Never shown anywhere
Sign in