Reason, the Passions, and Political Liberty


The connection between human nature and social order is a long-running, central theme in political theory. Fundamental to many of the arguments is a distinction between two aspects of human nature: the passions and reason. The purpose of this colloquium was to explore these connections between reason, the passions, and a political order that preserves and enhances human liberty.


From Liberty Fund

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (vol. 1)

by By Adam Smith
Edited by R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner
William B. Todd, Textual Editor

First published in 1776, the year in which the American Revolution officially began, Smith’s Wealth of Nations sparked a revolution of its own. In it Smith analyzes the major elements of political economy, from market pricing and the division of labor to monetary, tax, trade, and other government policies that…

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Additional Readings

Carey, George W. and James McClellan, eds. The Federalist, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2001.

Frank, Robert H. Passions Within Reason: The Strategic Role of the Emotions. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988.

Hirschman, Albert O. The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.

Hobbes, Thomas. "Leviathan." Liberty Fund, Inc. (August 7, 2009).

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature [reprinted from the original edition in three volumes]. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, M. A. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896.

Hume, David. Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary. Edited by Eugene F. Miller. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985.

Scanlon, James. "The Federalist and Human Nature." Review of Politics 21 (1959): 657-677.

Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Edited by D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1982.

Spinoza, Benedict de. “Tractatus-Theologico-Politicus and Tractatus Politicus (1670).” Liberty Fund, Inc. (August 7, 2009).