Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, Adam Smith, Jane Austen


In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Adam Smith notes the importance of "little department[s]"-those smaller circles of social contact: "By Nature the events which immediately affect that little department in which we ourselves have some little management and directions, which immediately affect ourselves, our friends, our country, are the events which interest us the most, and which chiefly excite our desires and aversions, our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows:' Alasdair MacIntyre would agree with this idea of one's sphere of influence, especially in the works of Jane Austen. Clearly, this concern with self, others, and country might well define Austen's corpus, which has sometimes been criticized for ignoring the political in England; yet these spheres of influence move outward, as with a pebble dropped in a puddle: the tiny waves of concentric circles radiate to affect more than the initial point of impact. Similarly, the effects of Austen's work continue to ripple outward.