Enlightened Experiments: Adam Smith and the Market in the Brain
That Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was first published in 1776 is emblematic, suggests Peter C. Whybrow in his new book, The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived. The U.S. is the grand experiment in Enlightenment thinking: a democracy founded amidst 18th-century preoccupations with mercantilism, Newtonian science and moral philosophy to be validated in its ideals by individual freedom, initiative and hard work rather than by arbitrary authority. In constructing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson--well versed in the writings of Locke, Hume, Hutcheson and Smith, among others--spoke eloquently for what the leaders of the American colonists thought they were or could be. Today, the U.S. has been the commercial world's economic leader and its richest nation for more than a century.
But, there is paradox. In the shadow of this affluence and extraordinary achievement, we live now with a demand-driven, stress-filled workplace, epidemic levels of obesity, and educational system that is stumbling, and a growing disparity in wealth between rich and poor. So how may we better understand this conundrum of "progress"? In tackling these challenges, are there principles that may guide us, going forward? In his lecture, Whybrow will argue that our affluent environment is compelling but does not fit easily with our biological heritage, generating a mismatch that threatens to disrupt both mind and body. By harnessing modern neuroscience to better understand who we are, the nature of markets and how we make choices, and by returning to ancient human truths that in our frenzy we now overlook, Whybrow will assert that we not only can live better individual lives, but also build together a thriving future that serves the common good.
Whybrow is the Judson Braun Distinguished Professor and Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. Born in England, Dr. Whybrow received his medical training in London and was a member of the scientific staff of the British Medical Research Council before migrating to American, where he taught at Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania before being recruited to UCLA in 1997. A man of eclectic tastes, he is a founding member and Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Knight of the Order of St. John, and a Fellow of the Mont Pelerin Society. A frequent advisor to universities, foundations, and government agencies, Whybrow has lectured widely across the U.S. and Europe, and is the recipient of many awards. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and six books, including the prize-winning American Mania: When More is Not Enough, which explores America's migrant culture and the impact on everyday living of the nation's extraordinary material achievements. Whybrow's provocative books have been translated and published widely in many languages, including German, Polish, Dutch, Italian, Finnish, Russian, and Chinese. (www.peterwhybrow.com)
This lecture will be repeated at 4:30 p.m. at the Costa Mesa Community Center at 1845 Park Ave. Hosted by the CFI Community of Orange County.
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