» Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy

The Smith Institute was established to challenge the perceived tension between economics and the humanities and to blur the lines between faculty research and undergraduate teaching. Its dual mission is to:

  • reintegrate the study of the humanities and economics in the spirit of Adam Smith, the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and 
  • recombine research and undergraduate education as a discovery process in the spirit of Vernon Smith, the progenitor of experimental economics.

The faculty of the Smith Institute are creating new connections between the Argyros School of Business and Economics, the Economic Science Institute, the Institute for the Study of Economics, Religion and Society, the Schmid College of Science and Technology, and the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.


The Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy welcome the Class of 2026!

Please watch Prof. Katharine Gillespie's Aims of Education speech at Chapman's 2022 Convocation.

John Templeton Foundation Grant Project

 The Smith Institute has been awarded a grant from the John Templeton Foundation for the project "Markets in their Moral and Social Context” (2022-2025). 

Project Summery:

Markets rely on selfishness, or so we’re told. Economics models people as self-interested utility maximizers. Some argue commercial society oppresses women. Philosophers often see economic liberties and property rights as antagonistic or individualistic. Market society is seen as the realm of cold, calculating individuals. We propose to replace this story with a richer, more accurate one.

 Our main question is to what extent markets are pro- or anti-social. Using diverse disciplinary and ideological approaches from economics, literature, and philosophy, we ask to what extent economic models organized around maximizing agents reflect reality; whether feminist conceptions of virtue are consistent with commerce; and whether justifications of economic rights reflect selfish or atomistic models of the person.

 The project asks about the cultural, ethical, and social apparatus surrounding markets. A topic this complex cannot be adequately studied using a single disciplinary approach or ideology. What’s needed is a conversation using different methodologies and viewpoints. Our research, events, and teaching will bring together people from different disciplines and ideological backgrounds to openly investigate these questions. Our approach reintegrates the social sciences and humanities in the tradition of Adam Smith and others, yielding an analysis of commercial society that's descriptively more accurate and morally rich.

 Our outputs will be: (I) high-level research, including faculty-student collaborations; (II) PPE-workshops for graduate students; (III) teaching-research seminars for advanced undergraduates; (IV) faculty symposia; and (V) collaborations with post-docs and visiting scholars. The project will produce constructive engagement with a major concern about markets: the extent to which markets are pro or anti-social in nature.