Travis D. Smith

Travis D. Smith is Associate Professor of Political Science at Concordia University in Montreal. He is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press) and co-editor of Flattering the Demos (Lexington Books)

Bio last updated October 8th, 2021.

Travis D. Smith

Articles by Travis D. Smith

  • Coping With Covid’s Confusion

    In these days of pandemic disorientation and fatigue, uncertainty over the right thing is all right but failure to be good neighbours will be more toxic than the disease itself, Travis Smith writes.

    People who want to decline the vaccine don’t want those whom they think might be mistaken about it gaining advantages over them Social media in particular brings out the worst in people; it’s available to exacerbate whatever divisions arise In an environment such as that, where politics properly so-...

    Read more...

  • How COVID Leaves Trust In the Dust

    A severe social side effect of the pandemic is the disconnection between those in authority we must trust and our personal experiences that contradict what we’re told, Travis Smith writes.

    In higher education, where I work, we’re all now getting used to teaching via Zoom, but I don’t expect anyone to provide non-experts with the untold hours of online remedial to advanced and specialized instruction in the relevant sciences that would be required for people to obtain an understanding ...

    Read more...

  • Trusting COVID’s Novel Vaccines

    In the third of Convivium’s essays on the politics of the pandemic, Travis Smith argues reassurances about vaccine safety will convince only some of the people some of the time.

    That said, my hunch is that as disappointed as people would be if the vaccines aren’t as effective as advertised, they’ll be more forgiving of that outcome than if they prove less safe Even assuming that it is completely true that the vaccines for COVID are entirely safe and effective, as far as any...

    Read more...

  • The Political Spell COVID Casts

    The Ontario government’s methods to combat COVID-19 risks re-educating citizens in the Machiavellian art of compliance, political theorist Travis Smith writes.

    At the outset of modernity, political philosopher Thomas Hobbes told us exactly what kind of government we should expect—he would say “need”—if you’re willing to do anything to preserve yourselves: a totalizing, absolute government against which the public has no recourse Knowing the Machiavellian p...

    Read more...

  • The Necessary and Essential Difference Between Essential and Necessary

    Of all the things the COVID-19 crisis has meant, Travis Smith argues, its means to distinguish between what we necessarily need and what makes us essentially human.

    The current situation lends itself to magnifying our concern for what’s necessary, what pertains to us as animals in need of securing the basics of survival, and we may show disregard for what’s more essential to living well as human beings specifically I’d like to stay confident that the rest of us...

    Read more...

  • Worshipping Ourselves

    In Daniel Mahoney’s The Idol of Our Age, reviewer Travis Smith finds a commendably tough-minded but charitable critique of the Christian Church’s slide into the worship of man rather than God.

    At his harshest, Mahoney calls Francis “thoroughly blind to the multiple ways in which the humanitarian secular religion subverts authentic Christianity,” observing that “his unqualified appeals for us to ‘change the world’ have a tendency to ‘immanentize’ the Gospel, to emphasize this-worldly ameli...

    Read more...

  • Under Superhero Hoods

    In a conversation about his 2018 book Superhero Ethics, author Travis Smith guides Convivium’s Peter Stockland past the classical, Biblical and liberal-democratic sources of comic book characters, ending up at the existential chasm in the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen: “Hey, what else can we do now?”

    Superhero comics confusingly combine a tragicomic premise—the good guys always win, and innocent bystanders get saved, but human beings and the world never get any better—with a modern romantic-rationalistic confidence in progress A cynical person might say that the creators of superhero stories exp...

    Read more...

  • The Character of Love Fantastic

    In this excerpt from his new book Superhero Ethics, Travis Smith reveals how the comic book character Mister Fantastic, for all his physical and mental pliability, embodies the ascent to truth through love of family.

    Reed’s love for this family rivals his love of truth, and his solicitousness for the rest of humanity is a tertiary concern So, Reed’s being like water suggests a living, direct, and personal correspondence with the source of all that exists—a correspondence that might, in keeping with science under...

    Read more...

  • Travelling Toward Liberalism

    Political theorist Travis D. Smith maintains that liberalism as a credo is worth approaching if we do so with full awareness of its perpetual distance from reality.

    To sum up, whether from a Biblical perspective or one guided by classical political science, nobody is required to deny that there is such a thing as the good life and that such a life is not the explicit (or even likely) goal of liberalism in order to be a good liberal – one who recognizes that in ...

    Read more...

  • Tribute to a True North Teacher

    A single course taken years ago with McMaster University’s Janet Ajzenstat turned Travis Smith into a life-long lover of liberal democracy

    For 2014's annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, University of Calgary political scientist Rainer Knopff organized a round table in honour of Janet Ajzenstat, professor emeritus of political science at McMaster University, celebrating her distinguished career and the publicat...

    Read more...

  • On the Table

    Travis D. Smith discovers April is the surest month for taxes and tarts

    When I hear it alleged that those who contrived and cemented this tradition of confusion did so in order to marginalize Mary Magdalene's significance among the disciples — and by association, all women within the Church — all as a part of the propaganda of patriarchy, I cannot help but regard this a...

    Read more...

  • On the Table

    Travis D. Smith remembers political philosopher Sam Ajzenstat as a man of knowledge, wisdom and great counsel

    Luckily, at a time in my life when I sorely needed good counsel but barely realized it and wouldn't have admitted it, I enrolled in classes taught by the Ajzenstats, Sam and Janet It was also from Sam (and Janet, together) that I learned the rhetorical strategy of motivating someone to become better...

    Read more...

  • On the Table

    Travis Smith talks Kid'n Slave with his son; Julia Nethersole on growing up like Charlie Brown.

    Son: Dad? Dad: And is slavery good or bad? After all, if you work hard and don’t give up, you can do anything you want, right? Well, Charlie Brown may have a different view on things Dad: Well, do you think that slaves ever stop being slaves? Or do you think that they usually stay slaves their whole...

    Read more...

  • The Zombie Pantheist Apocalypse

    Hobbes gave us democracy as the walking dead. Tocqueville lit a candle. Travis Smith illuminates us on the implications for Canada

    Tocqueville knows that happiness is a greater good than social justice, and that there is neither happiness nor justice except among human beings whose character and intellect have been well developed, hence the priority of intellectual, religious and political freedoms Whereas a liberal in the Lock...

    Read more...

  • Batmessiah and Spider-Mensch

    Before there was Wonder Woman (1941), there was Batman (1939). After both of them, there was Spider-Man (1962). But before all of them, Travis Smith informed Convivium Readers in 2013, the world marvelled at Batmessiah and Spider-Mensch.

    Whereas the order that the modern technological project seeks to impose would absolve individuals of the need to practise personal and interpersonal responsibility, responsibility is the central theme of Peter Parker's story When the widowed Aunt May's new fiancé, Nathan Lubensky, and Peter first sp...

    Read more...

  • The Relatively Good Life

    Travis D. Smith ponders the introspective essays of Ray Robertson's Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live, written following the novelist's period of suicidal depression.

    Whereas Robertson is strong on the role of labour in a free and happy life, Why Not? is conspicuously silent regarding the significance of human communities that extend further than the close personal relationships one shares with parents, a spouse, loyal friends and one's dog Forgive me if my next ...

    Read more...

  • Liberality, Littles Caesars, & Value Statement 12

    Travis D. Smith advises conservatives to limit Machiavellian liberality by growing in generosity.

    It is, however, no less romantic to suppose that people who have hitherto not learned to take good care of themselves and others will spontaneously prove capable of doing so should drastic measures to cut taxes and spending be imposed rapidly in conformity withstrict principles.It is one thing for c...

    Read more...