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Description of the Course

Moral motivation is commonly understood as non-egoistic motivation. But how can people who are naturally selfish, driven by egoistic desires to secure their own survival and well-being, be motivated to be moral? This problem is at the centre of moral psychology. Adam Smith, one of the main figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, has given an answer to this question. Today, he is mainly remembered as an economist. But before he published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) which made him famous as a proponent of capitalism and liberalism, he published The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). His moral philosophy is currently attracting more and more attention partly because it is supposed to lay a moral foundation for his later theory of national economy. In the first part of the course (BA- and Master Course) we will be reading closely the main chapters of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, focusing both on his moral psychology and on his normative project of justifying moral principles. In the second part of the course we will turn to current debates in moral philosophy. We shall read selected passages from David Gauthier, T. M. Scanlon, Peter Railton and Alan Gibbard and then attempt at seeing Adam Smith’s theory in the light of these current contributions to moral philosophy.

The course will be taught in English.

Those who intend to attend this course are strongly recommended to start reading The Theory of Moral Sentiments before the course starts.

An additional essay-writing course will be offered (meeting on Mondays from 14.00 – 15.30). Attending this course is optional (but strongly recommended). Participants have to attend regularly, submit short ( ! ) texts to the other participants of this course and have these texts commented on and discussed.

Smith, Adam: The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Ed. by D.D. Raphael a. A.L. Macfie. Indianapolis 1984 (Liberty Fund)

A copy can be ordered (for 12 US dollars) at the following address:

An online version is available at:

Introductory (and other) texts about Smith’s TMS:

Ballestrem, Karl Graf, Adam Smith. München 2001 (Beck), [a very good introduction, unfortunately available only in German]. Griswold, Charles, Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment. Cambridge 1999 (CUP), [chapters 2, 3, 7]. Lindgren, J. Ralph, The Social Philosophy of Adam Smith. The Hague 1973 (Martinus Nijhoff), [chapter II, p. 20-38 – available as a copy]. Otteson, James, Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life. Cambridge 2002 (CUP), [chapters 1, 2, 3]. Tugendhat, Ernst: Vorlesungen über Ethik. Frankfurt 1993 u. ö. (Suhrkamp), esp. lecture 15; [the 15th lecture is available in an English translation: Ernst Tugendhat, “Universalistically Approved Intersubjective Attitudes: Adam Smith”, translated by Bernard Schriebl. In: The Adam Smith Review I, 2004. (in print), [a copy of this is available].

Current debates:

David Gauthier, Morals by Agreement. Oxford 1986 (Clarendon Press) Allan Gibbard, Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. A Theory of Normative Judgment. Cambridge/Mass 1990 (Havard University Press) Allan Gibbard, “Angemessenheit und Mittelmaß. Wie Gefühle und Handlungen aufeinander abgestimmt werden.” In. Christel Fricke und Hans-Peter Schütt (Hg.), Adam Smith als Moralphilosoph, Berlin 2005 (de Gruyter), in print, [English original available: “Propriety and Mediocrity. Coordinating Sentiments and Actions”]. Peter Railton, „Moral Realism.“. In: Peter Railton, Facts, Values, and Norms. Essays Toward a Morality of Consequence. Cambridge 2003 (CUP), p.3 – 42.. Peter Railton, „Facts and Values.” In: Peter Railton, Facts, Values, and Norms. Essays Toward a Morality of Consequence. Cambridge 2003 (CUP), p. 43 – 68. T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other. Cambridge/Mass. et al. 1998 (Belknap at Havard University Press)

Publisert 6. mars 2005 05:54