Adam Smith's ideas about self-interest should be understood as a precursor in some ways to John Stuart Mill's thinking on utilitarianism. Professor Szelényi discusses, but does not resolve, the complexities of Adam Smith's moral and ethical positions staked out in The Theory of Moral Sentiments--including a focus on sympathy--and the most widespread economic interpretation of Smith and The Wealth of Nations that he is the economist of self-interest. One way to reconcile these so-called "two Smiths" is that, as social beings, it is in our self-interest to express benevolence and sympathy toward others. Mill, the student of Bentham since a very young age, humanizes the theory of utilitarianism. Perhaps he should be best remembered for his staunch views on liberty: liberty must never be compromised for the sake of expediency.
Mill, Utilitarianism, On Liberty
- Chapter 1, pp. 69-83
- Chapter 2, "What is utilitarianism," pp. 6-27
- Chapter 4, pp.143-162
- Chapter 5, "Of the connection between Justice and Utility," pp. 43-67
Mill, The Subjection of Women
This course provides an overview of major works of social thought from the beginning of the modern era through the 1920s. Attention is paid to social and intellectual contexts, conceptual frameworks and methods, and contributions to contemporary social analysis. Writers include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.