What We Are Reading Today: Our Great Purpose by Ryan Patrick Hanley

Updated 18 September 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Our Great Purpose by Ryan Patrick Hanley

Adam Smith is best known today as the founder of modern economics, but he was also an uncommonly brilliant philosopher who was especially interested in the perennial question of how to live a good life. 

Our Great Purpose is a short and illuminating guide to Smith’s incomparable wisdom on how to live well, written by one of today’s leading Smith scholars, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

In this inspiring and entertaining book, Ryan Patrick Hanley describes Smith’s vision of “the excellent and praiseworthy character,” and draws on the philosopher’s writings to show how each of us can go about developing one. For Smith, an excellent character is distinguished by qualities such as prudence, self-command, justice, and benevolence — virtues that have been extolled since antiquity. 

Yet Smith wrote not for the ancient polis but for the world of market society — our world — which rewards self-interest more than virtue. Hanley shows how Smith set forth a vision of the worthy life that is uniquely suited to us today.


What We Are Reading Today: Widen the Window

Updated 13 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Widen the Window

  • Why an event that is stressful for one person can be traumatizing for another

Stress is our internal response to an experience that our brain perceives as threatening or challenging. Trauma is our response to an experience in which we feel powerless or lacking agency. Until now, researchers have treated these conditions as different, but they actually lie along a continuum. 

Dr. Elizabeth Stanley explains the significance of this continuum, how it affects our resilience in the face of challenge, and why an event that is stressful for one person can be traumatizing for another.

This groundbreaking book examines the cultural norms that impede resilience in America, especially our collective tendency to disconnect stress from its potentially extreme consequences and override our need to recover, according to a review published on goodreads.com.

It explains the science of how to direct our attention to perform under stress and recover from trauma.

With stories from men and women Dr. Stanley has trained in settings as varied as military bases, health care facilities, and Capitol Hill, as well as her own striking experiences with stress and trauma, she gives readers hands-on strategies they can use themselves.