Self-command: Learn this powerful thinking tool | Emily Chamlee-Wright

Self-command: Learn this powerful thinking tool | Emily Chamlee-Wright


Self-censorship is neither inherently bad,
nor is it inherently good. And one of the things that I’ve been thinking
about recently is what Adam Smith had to tell us about this. Adam Smith is an 18th century moral philosopher. Most people know him for The Wealth of Nations,
but I think that his work from The Theory of Moral Sentiments is really helpful in this
— in helping us to figure out when it is appropriate, and when it is not appropriate
to engage in self-censorship. Think, for example, of — you’re in a live
exchange with a conversation partner. You’re in front of an audience, and your conversation
partner starts acting like an arrogant jerk. What do you do? Our first impulse might be to mirror that
behavior — to jump in, and start being an arrogant jerk back. But, if we’re wise to the ways of the world,
we tend to say, maybe that’s not the right thing to do, and what we’re doing here is
we’re engaging what Smith called the impartial spectator. And we start to view our own conduct not through
our own eyes, which tends to be partial — we tend to be too forgiving of ourselves — but
through the eyes of somebody else. And the really wise scholar, or the really
wise person in this conversation, is not going to just look at our conduct from the vantage
point of our conversation partner, who’s being such an arrogant jerk, we’re going to be looking
at our conduct from the standpoint of the audience. If it’s in an academic setting, it would be
that general academic audience. And we would imagine ourselves switching places
with them, right? And then looking at our prospective conduct
— doing the gut check: Is what I’m about to say appropriate? Is it proper? Is it in alignment with what’s expected of
me as a student, or as a scholar? And that helps us. By switching, by imagining that we’re switching
places, that helps us to find the right thing to do, which is to say, I want to continue
to be in alignment with what’s expected within the general academic public. But also, it helps us to muster up the restraint
to dampen down our emotions. And this is what Smith called self-command. So that’s one thing that we need to recognize
is that, in that moment, we’re engaging in a form of self-censorship there. We’re censoring, we’re dampening down what
would have been our immediate response. That’s a good thing. This is really important. I mean, Smith’s entire theory of how we are
able to live in a world where we are governed by moral principles depends on us being able
to align our conduct with what’s expected in society generally. So this is really, really important. But let’s imagine a different scenario, where
you’re, again, in an exchange with a fellow scholar, or a classmate, and there are onlookers. And this time, you’re getting challenged in
ways that are really confrontational, not just by your conversation partner, but by
the whole audience, the whole classroom. Perhaps the Twittersphere is lighting up with
condemnation of you, and your position, right? What do you do in that case? And that’s a time where, again, Smith understood
that the clamor — he called it the clamor and vehemence of public opinion — may be
so strong that you start to — even the seasoned scholar might say, ‘You know, I want to take
a pause here, because I’m worried that my impartial spectator may be off kilter a little
bit. So I’m going to pause. I’m going to think really hard about what’s
being said there.’ But, if after considering it carefully, if
I really am aiming at truth-seeking, in this case — if I’m really aiming at doing that
which is praiseworthy, and not simply chasing praise itself — if I’m going to then make
my argument at that point, after I’ve had that thoughtful deliberation, then it’s something
that the impartial spectator will approve of. Even if there is a lot of clamor and vehemence
from the crowd, I can trust that impartial judge who’s looking at my behavior and saying,
‘Nope, you were sincerely aiming at truth. You think that you’re advancing the conversation
in a way that is going to expand knowledge, and you’re doing it in a way that’s in keeping
with civility, then you have pleased me,’ says the impartial spectator. But here’s the thing: You don’t just arrived
onto the stage of academic discourse, or the arena of public discourse, fully formed in
this way. It takes a lot of practice to get there. And Smith called this — by engaging in the
bustle of the business of the world, we acquire that self-command that we need to adhere to
what is proper, to be sure to do whatever is possible to do that which is praiseworthy,
and not simply chasing praise. And so that, to me, suggests that we need
to be really thoughtful about developing in our students, with our colleagues, in ourselves,
that sense of self-command that allows us to take a breath, really assess whether or
not what we’re about to say is in alignment with, or in opposition to, what would be expected
of any civil scholar who’s out there in the world, whether it’s a student or whether it’s
a professor. But then, when we decide that, no, this is
what we should be doing, because I am sincerely moving forward with an argument that I believe
is going to expand truth. From there, we need to summon that courage
to do the right thing, which, in that case, would be to speak up. And that takes reps. It’s like an athlete. An accomplished athlete drills so many times,
they get that muscle memory where, when it’s really difficult to do something in the moment
of the big game day, it feels actually pretty easy to do because they’ve done it so many
times before. So similarly, we need to become practiced
in exercising this skill of switching places, and really assessing our conduct from the
vantage point sometimes of the general public, but also sometimes from that impartial, well-informed
judge that is going to give us an honest assessment of our conduct, despite what the clamor and
vehemence of the crowd might say.

44 thoughts on “Self-command: Learn this powerful thinking tool | Emily Chamlee-Wright

  1. I notice a slight change in the intro of the videos you guys have been uploading, and I'm not liking the change. I am hearing both the song intro and the speaker speaking at the same time, which disrupts the first few sentences of the speakers when they talk. I have to replay the video several times just to catch what the speakers said over the intro song, and it isn't fun.

    I honestly prefer the previous videos where the intro song plays, ends, then the speaker speaks. I find it very distracting and disruptive when I really am here to listen to the speaker. I hope future videos will consider reverting back to how the format was.

    Enjoying the contents as always.

  2. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19
    Easier said than done; mastery requires practice.

  3. Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.

    So does man thinks that he is been created useless ?

  4. Yeah Adam Smith would load a gun and shoot Trump in his balls … then say … "how the fuck did you get to be so freaking stupid, huh American people? what the fuck is wrong with you? Why is this moron your President ??"
    After observing Trump didn't actually win the election he would go on saying
    "Oh, he actually did not win the vote of the people … So fucked up!!
    Yeah … I knew it would happen one day.
    Well, now that I shot him, you can … WHAT PENCE IS VP??????????????"

    Smith would then proceed and shoot Pence in his ass.

    "Ok Well now that I shot him too, you can … WHAT, A WOMAN IS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE? WHY IS SHE NOT BLINKING HER EYES
    SHE SCARES ME …. WHAT HAPPENED TO HER ????
    HHHAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA IT'S A NIGHT MARE !!!"

    He would then proceed to board his time machine and soon after a new book by Adam Smith would appear in the bookshelf

    Adam Smith, "Mental Onanism in the American Politics of the Future"
    With the subtitle
    "Believe it or not the world will be lead by a criminally insane sexually inadequate child, (I shot him his tiny balls just under his mushroom dick) surrounded by a psychopath (I didn't shoot him, but I should go back and do so) , a gay bigot (he is shot too) and a plastic surgery maniac woman, who never blinks (I was not able to shoot her, she was too scary)"

  5. This sounds like part of a drawn-out college lecture. The impartial spectator is a good idea, though.

  6. the idea is good, her reasoning is a bit weird. you dont just do it for being in alignment with what is expected, theres so many other reasons why you would stay calm and collected and not get emotional

  7. Self-command is good for working together and working more precisely. But this could go wrong if you think yourself what to do and what not to do. Sometimes it results in arrogance which is bad for your way of describing the truth.

  8. I don't believe true impartiality exists. Every human being has a reference point based on their past experiences, even if the topic is novel it is colored in by that person's. It's like saying think like an unbiased person. Being human means being biased, this is silly

  9. Adam Smith would disavow modern capitalism. He also was one of the originators of the Labor Theory of Value. Not super relevant to the video, just something good to know.

  10. Having a filter is good shows some intelligence. Nobody likes loose lips and someone who embarasses them or gets you or someone trouble. In the street it can be dangerous for your health if you dont think before you talk.

  11. This is an important point to talk about these days imo. Thank you for this thought Emily Chamlee-Wright.

  12. The ability to be able to stand back from a situation and analyze, is available to print-based culture. Even with a rifle in their hand, print people remain emotionally detached.
    No such civilization is possible in electric culture.

  13. So – why exactly should someone care about "what society expects" and "how other people will see them"? You want to live your lives by pretending to be someone you are really not. Just because what you say is nice and considerate, does not make you a better person. People will think you are, but you yourself will always know whats going on in your head. I think it causes more trouble that people are this fake. Always pretending to be nice, pretending to be friends, pretending to care while being honest and direct would cut all the bullshit, maybe upset some people but in the end it seems more moral to me than lying and pretending for your own personal gain – namely trying to seem like someone else, like someone likable. fuck that. I wanna be myself, and I am going to tell you directly if you are being a dick or talking shit 🙂

  14. Good stuff. Reminds me of the mindfulness component of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – except in DBT the “impartial spectator” is called the “wise mind”.

  15. The concept seems interesting and something I've been doing myself to some degree. But the structure of her expressing her thoughts resembles incoherent rambling. I've tried to watch this 4-5 times now and every time I doze off at some point.

  16. Self censorship is not the same as being polite and affable. It's a malign sleight of hand to conflate the two in this way. The idea of connecting with neutral spectators is naive when so few people are impartial on any topic. Very weak speech.

  17. Had to listen twice but this is awesome. Looks like Adam Smith gave us way more than just capitalism. I can see why this is going over everyones heads though, she didn't really translate Adam Smith's terms to modern terms. I am glad she kept it that way! Not for the masses but neither is philosophy

  18. It is horse crap that one should to even address this. It's clear that a woman's ovaries (girl nuts?) and ALL OTHER INTERNAL ORGANS are being squeezed WHILE the baby's exit path is also being physically damaged. This should never have been a serious debate. Thanks for the info, though! 🤣😁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *