The Vanity


The Philosopher

Fall 2007


Day and Date

Class #1

Wednesday August 29


Introduction and overview of the class

Reading assignment for Wednesday September 5:

  • Prefaces
  • Nazi Socialism and Reader Reports
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 10

Class #2

Wednesday September 5


Order of Topics for Class #2: The Road to Serfdom

  • Prefaces
  • Nazi Socialism and Reader Reports
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 10

Class #3

Wednesday September 12

Servile State

Class #4

Wednesday September 19


Socialism after Hayek? Burczak

Class #5

Wednesday September 26

In lieu of our regular class meeting we will attend an evening lecture on Mondragon (please see the particulars below). Please write a seminar brief on the lecture. This brief should provide an overview of the major points of the talk (@2 pages) in your own words and should then be followed by a discussion/analysis (@2 pages). This brief is due Wednesday October 3.

From the Economcs Department page:
September 26, 2007 - "Alternatives to the Capitalist Corporation" - Mikel Lezamiz of Mondragon Corporation, with 300 plants on the four continents, will speak on the history, structure and organization of this unique cooperative. This will take place from 7-9 PM in Rubendall Recital Hall. The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation is a group of global manufacturing and retail companies based in the Basque Country, Spain that has been in operation since 1956. It serves as a non-traditional model of business that focuses on community development and sustainable job creation, rather than profit maximization. Entirely owned by workers with a unique democratic organizational structure.

Start reading about eugenics

From Kevles

pp. vii-70

Original topics planned for this class:

Eugenics Kevles

Readings on Eugenics

Part 1

Part 2

Class #6

Wednesday October 3

Discussion about lecture on Mondragon

Discussion about possible final project topic topics


Eugenics lecture


Continue with your reading about Eugenics from Kevles

pp.71- 147

Eugenics GKC

The next classes will be more difficult as we read some orignal pieces by George Berkeley.

Class #7

Wednesday October 10

Wiki Training 1:30 pm for half of class time

other half of class: Conspiracy (96minutes)

Class #8

Wednesday October 17

Berkeley and Swift

Berkeley's "The Querist"

Paper on Berkeley's Querist

Wednesday's reading: Readings from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. The introductory essay will help you with this reading.

Interesting background readings. Read if you are so inclined.

Blaug on the status of history of economic thought and the state of the discipline.

Medema and Samuels on Adam Smith

Rothschild on Smith

Class #9

Wednesday October 24

Smith TMS


We will discuss any lingering questions you may have about Levy's and Peart's work. I will discuss important themes in classical political economy and romantic political economy. We then move on to some readings by Amartya Sen.

Reading Assignment

  • Reading demonstrating the power of Adam Smith's model developed in The Theory of Moral Sentiments and applied in the Wealth of Nations.
    • The point of this reading is to show that we can reach all the way back to our classical roots in economics to improve the economic models that we use. Indeed this is being done in the field of experimental economics. Later in the semester we will read some material on experimental economics demonstrating that the classical model was broader than the narrow, asocial model of homoeconomicus.
  • Moral Standing of the Market
  • The Profit Motive
  • Adam Smith's Prudence

Readings from the Wealth of Nations

Part 1

Part 2

Class #10

Wednesday October 31

reading 1

reading 2

reading 3

reading 4

reading 5





Smith WN

This piece by Plato was well known to Smith. Read it and keep Plato's argument in mind while reading Smith.


After having read Plato read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (WN)Chapters 1-4. I have provided links to the Liberty Fund on line edition of The Wealth of Nations. This is the Cannan edition. This reading is about 37 pages of the Cannan edition.

Volume One: Introduction and Plan of the Work

Book I, Chapter I: Of the Division of Labor

Book I, Chapter II: Of the Principle which gives Occasion to the Division of Labour

Book I, Chapter III: That the Division of Labour is Limited by the Extent of the Market

Book I, Chapter IV: Of the Origin and Use of Money

Here is another background piece for Smith by Sam Fleischacker. Recall the arguments made in Vanity and the Sen pieces you have already read. Think about the points they raise while reading Smith.

Economics and the Ordinary Person

Class #11

Wednesday November 7

How the dismal science got its name and Vanity of the Philosopher I

Discussion of Levy and Peart articles:

  • What are the elements of the debate?
  • Who are the players?
  • Who are the classical economists?
  • Who are the romantic poets?
  • Some key concepts
    1. homogeneity
    2. reciprocity
    3. paternalism
    4. hierarchy
    5. democracy
    6. the vanity of the philosopher
  • The Vanity of the Philosopher by David Levy and Sandra Peart

Class #12

Wednesday November 14

How the dismal science got its name and Vanity of the Philosopher II

No Class

Wednesday November 21

Thanksgiving Break

Class #13

Wednesday November 28


Class #14

Wednesday December 5