Ryan Patrick Hanley
|Ryan Patrick Hanley is Professor of Political Science at Boston College. Prior to joining the faculty at Boston College, he was the Mellon Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Marquette University, and held visiting appointments or fellowships at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Chicago. A specialist on the political philosophy of the Enlightenment period, he is the author of Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue (Cambridge, 2009), Love's Enlightenment: Rethinking Charity in Modernity (Cambridge, 2017), and Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life (Princeton, 2019). His most recent books are The Political Philosophy of Fénelon, and a companion translation volume, Fénelon: Moral and Political Writings, both published by Oxford in 2020.
Adam Smith is famous today as a champion of free markets. But on what grounds did he, in fact, defend market society? My lecture will focus on Smith’s moral defense of the market economy on account of its capacity to generate “universal opulence” and thereby alleviate poverty. At the same time, even as Smith defended the market’s capacity to alleviate poverty, he also argued that markets have the potential to corrupt our characters. Smith’s sophistication as a social thinker – and his continuing relevance to us today – ultimately lies in his unique capacity to appreciate both the potential benefits and the potential costs of modern commercial society.