Law 561A/B - The Theory of Moral Sentiments
Samuel L. Bray
The Great Recession of 2008-2010 caused many thoughtful observers to wonder whether modern economic thought has made a fundamental error: could individual self-interest serve adequately as a basis for social and economic organization? The villain in this tale is Adam Smith, considered the prophet of possessive individualism. Such a view is ironic, as Smith himself strongly advocated the need for moral behavior to underlie society. This seminar seeks to reveal this more complex Adam Smith by closely reading his great first (and unjustly neglected) work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which stresses the need for social responsibility. This book not only provides the basis for understanding classical ideas of ethics that underlay much of Anglo-American ethics and jurisprudence, but provides a crucial building block for developing lawyers. Smith’s account of how a successful society requires ethical behavior among people working closely together implies important lessons for legal ethics and the social role of the legal profession. Meeting dates: September 23, October 21, February 3, February 24, March 23 in room 1102.
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