Liberty and the Limits of Constructivist Rationality


Arguments from Cartesian rationalist principles have long been used to justify foundational approaches to politics and social action as well as various forms of central planning, all of which tend to represent onerous restrictions on individual liberty. Friedrich Hayek offers up a comparison of two views of the order of civil institutions: One claims that complex human institutions should be explained by the emergence of spontaneous order, and the other views constructivist rationality as the only legitimate source for good social and political order. The central project of this conference was to consider this Hayekian argument, both by looking backward to its roots in the traditional debates between Humean empiricism and Cartesian rationalism and by looking forward from Hayek to the experimental economics of Vernon Smith.


Conference Readings

Burczak, Theodore A. Socialism After Hayek. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006.

Descartes. Discourses on Method. Translated by Kennington, Richard. Newburyport, MA: Focus, 2007.

Hayek, F. A. Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1: Rules and Order [Phoenix series]. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Hayek, F. A. Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Midway Reprint Series). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding [The Clarendon Edition]. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Smith, Vernon. “Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics.” The American Economic Review 93 (June 2003): 502-561.

Sowell, Thomas. Knowledge and Decisions. New York: Basic Books, 1996.