Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Philosophical Chemistry: Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Prof Mads Qvortrup.

The paper seeks to determine the extend to which Adam Smith and Rousseau succeeded in overcoming the dichotomy between, on the one hand, pure self-interest (as developed by Helvévius, Mandeville and, recently, by Gary Becker) and the notion that humans are at heart sociable creatures (as argued by Aristotle, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson).

It is the working hypothesis that Rousseau and Smith (while often seen as opponents), were in fact in agreement on an alternative approach to human behaviour. Such a such a conclusion challenges the theoretical foundations of modern economics, history and philosophy. Equally important, perhaps, it shows that republicanism (the belief in democratic governance) is compatible with a defence of (regulated ) marked economics.


Prof Mads Qvortrup  (United Kingdom)
Professor, Chair
School of Applied Social Studies
The Robert Gordon University

Professor Mads H. Qvortrup, was educated at Brasenose College and Oxford University where he gained his D.Phil in politics in 1999. He taught at the London School of Economics and has recently been appointed to a new research chair at Robert Gordon University. He is the author of 'The Political Philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau" (2003), and A Comparative Study of Referendums (2002)—his research seeks to applied the insights of the humanities to the study of the social and political world.

  • Self interest
Person as Subject
  • Adam Smith Jean-Jacques Rousseau

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)