Advanced Topics in Liberty

The Scottish Enlightenment (Fall 2010)

Discussion Leader: James Otteson , Yeshiva University

For fifty years Scotland was home to a concentrated burst of intellectual activity we now call the Scottish Enlightenment. The Scottish Enlightenment, which flowered in the small, impoverished country from 1740 to 1790, is unique in modern history. Great strides were made in establishing the disciplines of philosophy, economics, chemistry, geology, and within the social and natural sciences. Through the accomplishment of the luminaries of the period, many of the foundations of modern society were laid.

The modern understanding of liberty draws upon a number of historical and philosophical traditions, but one of the most important influences on the evolution of liberty was the Scottish Enlightenment. This conference will consider some of the most significant thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Session 1: Adam Smith and the Theory of Moral Sentiments

Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments . Edited by D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1982.

Session 2: Conscience and Duty

Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Edited by D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1982. 

Session 3: Human Knowledge and Action

Hume, David. “Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy.”  An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding . Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. p 112-123

Hume, David. “That Politics May be Reduced to a Science.”  Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary . Edited by Eugene F. Miller. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985, 1987. p 14-31

Session 4: Justice and Exchange

Hume, David. “Of the origin of justice and Property.”  A Treatise of Human Nature . Edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. p 311-322

Hume, David. “Of Justice.”  An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. p 13-27

Smith, Adam. “Of Justice and Beneficence.”  The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Edited by D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1982. p 78-91

Session 5: Virtue, Morality, and Progress in Civil Society

Ferguson, Adam. An Essay on the History of Civil Society . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Millar, John. “The Changes Produced in the Government of the People by their Progress in Arts and in Polished Manners.”  The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks: Or, An Inquiry into the Circumstances Which Give Rise to Influence and Authority, in the Different Members of Society.  Edited by Aaron Garrett. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2006. p 229-243

Session 6: Civilization is the Result of Human Action

Ferguson, Adam. “Of the General Characteristics of Human Nature.”  An Essay on the History of Civil Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. p 7-73