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Noted Authors To Present Lecture on the Defense of Wisdom on Oct. 30

October 13, 2008

Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

MACON -- Mercer University will host a lecture by two noted authors titled “The War on Wisdom and How to Fight It,” on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Newton Chapel on Mercer’s Macon campus. The presenters are Dr. Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, and Dr. Kenneth Sharpe, author of Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial.  The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Mercer Commons, a University initiative on vocation. 


In their lecture, Schwartz and Sharpe will discuss the contemporary social forces that war against practical wisdom and the consequences of a shortage of practical wisdom. Both Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Sharpe focus on contemporary ethics, in particular the apparent decline in our capacity for “practical wisdom.” The ability to choose the right thing to do in complex and conflicting situations—and the ability then to do it in the right way at the right time—is the key, they argue, to happiness in everyday life, leadership in politics and business, and success in the professions. This ability, which Aristotle called practical wisdom, “is in many respects the master virtue—the virtue without which all other virtues or character strengths fail to produce effective action.”


Dr. Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College.  His book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, was named a top business book in 2004 by Forbes Magazine and Business Week and translated into 20 languages. Dr. Schwartz has published articles in sources as diverse as The New York Times Magazine, Parade Magazine, Scientific American, and the Harvard Business Review. He has also been interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, the Lehrer News Hour, and CBS Sunday Morning, among many others.


Dr. Sharpe is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College and an expert on Latin American politics and on U.S. narcotics policy.  He has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and published widely, including in The Washington Post, The Nation, The American Prospect, and The Atlanta Constitution.


The lecture is the keynote address for a two-day symposium to be held Oct. 30-31 at Mercer University on the topic of “Practical Wisdom: The Character of the Professions?” This cross-disciplinary symposium is the third in a series for Mercer faculty members, which explores the civic dimensions of the professions and the values that underlie professional practice.


Co-sponsored by the Walter F. George School of Law and the Tift College of Education, the symposium will bring together teams of professionals from across Mercer’s 11 schools and colleges to analyze a difficult case study. The participants will attempt to discover what virtues are necessary for the professionals involved to succeed in identifying the crucial interests in the case.  Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Sharpe will lend their expertise to this exercise and help the participants think of ways to encourage the development of practical wisdom by students training for the professions. The event is part of Mercer’s Quality Enhancement Plan­ ­- a five-year effort to enhance Mercer students’ moral and ethical development through a focus on service learning, leadership training, and professional ethics.


About Mercer Commons:

Mercer Commons was created in 2000 with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. for the "Theological Exploration of Vocation." The Commons is focused on helping students recognize their life's calling in light of their faith, education, and abilities. It aims to bring all of the 11 colleges and schools of Mercer together across diverse disciplines over their common concerns and to help refocus all units on our unique institutional character and ethos. The Commons sponsors meetings and symposia and supports academic scholarship and publication. It infuses faith and vocation perspectives into orientation, the curriculum and advising.


About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has more than 7,500 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit

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