|James R. Otteson|
June 19, 1968|
Albuquerque, New Mexico
|Political philosophy · Scottish Enlightenment · Classical Liberalism · Political Economy · History of Economic Thought · Adam Smith|
James R. Otteson is an American philosopher and political economist. He is currently executive director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism, and Teaching Professor of Political Economy, at Wake Forest University. He is also a Senior Scholar at The Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C., a Research Professor in the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and in the Philosophy Department at the University of Arizona, a Visitor of Ralston College, a Research Fellow for the Independent Institute in California, and a director of Ethics and Economics Education of New England. He has taught previously at Yeshiva University, New York University, Georgetown University, and the University of Alabama.
Otteson earned his Bachelor of Arts from the Program of Liberal Studies—the "Great Books Program"—at the University of Notre Dame. His senior essay, "The Therapeutic Philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein," won PLS's Otto A. Bird Award for best senior essay. He spent his sophomore year abroad, studying at the Universität Innsbruck, in Innsbruck, Austria.
Otteson then attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, earning an MA in philosophy in 1992. His paper "A Problem in Wittgeinstein's Philosophy of Language" won the department's 1991 Richard M. Peltz Memorial Award for Excellence in Philosophy. His master's thesis, "Locke's Arguments for the Existence of Natural Law," was directed by William Wainwright.
Otteson then joined the philosophy department at the University of Chicago, receiving a PhD in 1997. His dissertation, "The Unintended Order of Morality: Adam Smith and David Hume on the Origins of Morality," was directed by Daniel Garber (now at Princeton University), with readers Ted Cohen and Ian Mueller. Knud Haakonssen (then at Boston University; now at the University of Sussex) was an outside reader.
Upon graduating from Chicago, Otteson took a position in the philosophy department at the University of Alabama. In 2007, he accepted a position as joint professor of philosophy and economics at Yeshiva University. He moved to Wake Forest University in 2013.
He has held visiting scholar positions at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University, at the Centre for the Study of Scottish Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and at Georgetown University.
Otteson lectures widely on Adam Smith, classical liberalism, political economy, and related issues, including for the Foundation for Economic Education, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and the Fund for American Studies.
Otteson first became known for his writings on the ethics of Adam Smith. In his book, Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life (Cambridge University Press, 2002), he argued that Smith's moral philosophy proposed a "marketplace model" for the creation, development, and maintenance of large-scale human social orders, including morality. He also argues that this "market model" unifies Smith's two books, his 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments and his 1776 Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, thereby providing a resolution to the long-standing "Adam Smith Problem."
In 2005, Otteson won a prize from the Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Order, sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. This award is for scholars working outside the traditional areas of economics whose work is informed by an Austrian economic perspective.
Otteson's book Actual Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2006) was named the first-prize winner of the 2007 Templeton Enterprise Award, an award sponsored by the Templeton Foundation and administered by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The award goes to "the very best that has been written ... to advance the cause of ordered liberty around the world" by an author under the age of forty, and it carries with it a $50,000 cash prize, more than what accompanies a Pulitzer Prize or a National Book Award.
Actual Ethics defends a classical liberal political order, based on a fusion of Kantian and Aristotelian moral themes. After developing and defending the moral basis of the position, he goes on to show how a classical liberal state would address several vexing moral and political issues, including wealth and poverty, affirmative action, same-sex marriage and adoption, speech codes, public education, and the treatment of animals.
His most recent book is The End of Socialism which has just been published by Cambridge University Press. His next project is a book tentatively entitled The Birth of Political Economy: Social Theory in the Scottish Enlightenment.
- Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
- The Levellers: Overton, Walwyn, and Lilburne, 5 vols. (ed.). Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2003.
- Adam Smith: Selected Philosophical Writings (ed.). Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2004.
- Actual Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
- Adam Smith. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
- The End of Socialism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- What Adam Smith Knew (ed.). New York: Encounter, 2014.
Selected articles and essays
- "The Recurring ‘Adam Smith Problem.’” History of Philosophy Quarterly 17, 1 (January 2000): 51–74.
- "Freedom of Religion and Public Schooling.” The Independent Review 4, 4 (Spring 2000): 601–13.
- "Limits on Our Obligation to Give.” Public Affairs Quarterly 14, 3 (July 2000): 183–203.
- "Adam Smith’s First Market: The Development of Language.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 19, 1 (January 2002): 65–86.
- "Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Morals.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 84, 2 (September 2002): 190–211.
- "Private Judgment, Individual Liberty, and the Role of the State.” Journal of Social Philosophy 33, 3 (Fall 2002): 491–511.
- "Shaftesbury’s Evolutionary Morality and Its Influence on Adam Smith.” Adam Smith Review 4 (2008): 106–31.
- "Kantian Individualism and Political Libertarianism.” The Independent Review 13, 3 (Winter 2009): 389–409.
- "Adam Smith and the Great Mind Fallacy.” Social Philosophy and Policy 27, 1 (Winter 2010): 276–304.
- "The Inhuman Alienation of Capitalism.” Society 49, 2 (2012): 139–43.
- "An Audacious Promise: The Moral Case for Capitalism." The Manhattan Institute's Issues 2012, no. 12.
- “Unintended-Order Explanations in Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment.” In Liberalism, Conservatism, and Hayek’s Idea of Spontaneous Order, eds. Louis Hunt and Peter McNamara. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
- "Editor's Introduction." Journal of Scottish Philosophy 7, 1 (March 2009), a special edition of JSP on "The Scottish Enlightenment and Social Thought" edited by Otteson.
- “The Scottish Enlightenment and the Tragedy of Human Happiness.” In On Happiness, ed. Kelly James Clark. Beijing, China: The World Knowledge Press, 2010.
- “How High Does the Impartial Spectator Go?” In Adam Smith as Theologian, ed. Paul Oslington. New York: Routledge, 2011.
- “Adam Smith.” In the Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics, ed. Roger Crisp. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
- “Adam Smith and the Political Right.” In Adam Smith: The Princeton Guide, ed. Ryan Patrick Hanley. Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming in 2014 (est.).
- “Freedom and the Line between Justice and Beneficence.” In the Oxford Handbook of Freedom, ed. David Schmidtz. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2015 (est.).
Selected book reviews
- Charles Griswold's Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61, 3 (November 2000): 714-18.
- Samuel Fleischacker's A Third Concept of Liberty. The Review of Metaphysics 52, 2 (December 2000): 426-8.
- J.C. Lester's Escape from Leviathan. The Independent Review 6, 1 (Summer 2001): 129-32.
- Gordon Graham's The Case Against the Democratic State. The Independent Review 9, 1 (Summer 2004).
- Leonidas Montes's Adam Smith in Context. Journal of Scottish Philosophy 3, 1 (March 2005): 98-102.
- Samuel Fleischacker's On Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion. Mind 116 (January 2007): 161-5.
- Deirdre McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues. Azure 31 (Winter 5768/2008): 120-4.
- D. D. Raphael's The Impartial Spectator. Journal of the History of Philosophy 46, 2 (April 2008): 325-7.
- Craig Smith's Adam Smith's Political Philosophy. The Adam Smith Review 4 (2008).
- Garrett Cullity's The Moral Demands of Affluence. Journal of Value Inquiry (6 November 2010).
- G. A. Cohen's Why Not Socialism? The Independent Review 15, 3 (Winter 2011): 466-70.
- Alexander Broadie's History of Scottish Philosophy. Journal of Scottish Philosophy 9, 2 (September 2011): 244-9.
- David Rose's The Moral Foundation of Economics. The Independent Review 17, 2 (Fall 2012): 297-300.
Otteson appeared several times on Andrew Napolitano's Fox Business News television program, "Freedom Watch." He has also appeared in several short videos for Learn Liberty, all of which are available here.
Otteson is a bimonthly columnist for the Triad Business Journal.
- Personal website and blog of James Otteson
- Otteson's Learn Liberty Videos
- Otteson on Twitter
- One of Otteson's appearances on "FreedomWatch"
- One of Otteson's appearances on "Real News"
- Otteson discussing moral worries about the NSA on Mary Kissel's Opinion Journal Live
- Roberts, Russ (June 27, 2011). "Otteson on Adam Smith". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.
- Otteson discussing the moral status of capitalism on Mary Kissel's Opinion Journal Live
- Otteson's Triad Business Journal columns