A Little Lower than the Angels: What the American Founders Learned about Human Nature from Adam Smith

An Alpheus T. Mason Lecture on Constitutional Law and Political Thought:The Quest for Freedom
May 10, 2023, 4:30 pm6:30 pm
Aaron Burr Hall 219



Event Description

After surveying the historical evidence for Adam Smith's influence on James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, this lecture will consider ways in which the founders' nuanced view of human nature as a balance between virtue and selfishness may derive (in part) from Smith.

Professor Samuel Fleischacker studied at Yale University, receiving his PhD in 1989. He works in moral and political philosophy, the history of moral and philosophy,and the philosophy of religion. Among the issues that have particularly interested him are the moral status of culture, the nature and history of liberalism, the relationship between moral philosophy and social science, and the relationship between moral and religious values. His publications include The Ethics of Culture (Cornell, 1994), A Third Concept of Liberty (Princeton, 1999), On Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion (Princeton, 2003), A Short History of Distributive Justice (Harvard, 2004), Divine Teaching and the Way of the World (Oxford, 2011), What Is Enlightenment?  (Routledge, 2012), The Good and the Good Book (Oxford, 2015), and Being Me Being You:  Adam Smith and Empathy (Chicago, 2019). Professor Fleischacker has been a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the University Center for Human Values at Princeton, and the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities at Edinburgh University. He taught previously at Williams College.