SEIS Academic Forum Series （No.744）
Forum on British and American Literature Studies
“The Computational Origins of English: Adam Smith and Rise of a Discipline”
Speaker: Prof. Mike Hill
Time: 15:00-17:00 p.m.
Date: 12th Nov. 2019 (Tuesday)
Venue: Seminar Hall, Third Floor, BFSU Library
Students of Adam Smith’s epistemology have commented at length on the importance he gives to the imagination. According to Smith, our knowledge of the world is riddled with what he calls “gaps.” The philosopher must think creatively in order to make bridges between what appear to be disparate kinds of objects. However, Smith is not making the idealist claim that empirical knowledge is impossible, or that—according to the forms of scholasticism that so bothered the Enlightenment figures of Bacon and Newton—reality is whatever way we merely say or believe that it is. Rather, Smith is making a more complicated claim: we can know the world in ways that are better than what Johnson (contra Berkeley) called “ingenious sophism,” but what is “real” is precisely that which retains “a tendency to absence.” There is always more-than-meets-the-eye in Smith’s theory of knowledge, and it is precisely this empirical vastness—often disruptive and even painful—that solicits new ways of knowing things and acting better.
About the speaker:
Mike Hill’s research focuses on contemporary questions of race and whiteness, social movement theory, materialist reconceptions of identity, war and peace studies, and most recently, Adam Smith, the history of eighteenth-century writing, and the emergence of the public sphere.
His primary publications to date are: Whiteness: A Critical Reader (New York University Press, 1997), which won the Gustavas Myers Award for Best Book of 1997; (co-ed) Masses, Classes, and the Public Sphere (Verso: 2001); After Whiteness: Unmaking an American Majority (New York University Press, 2004); and The Other Adam Smith (Stanford University Press, 2015). An additional book, Ecologies of War: Racial Complexity in an Age of Failed States, will be published on the University of Minnesota Press.