Political Theory

Human Nature, Civility, and Mores


This colloquium was designed to address a central question in Western political thought: What is the relation between civil liberty, political constitutions, civility, and mores in shaping individual and national character? Is civility essential—or averse—to individual happiness? Is it a product of a free constitution or the result of its absence? Is it an instrument of individual freedom, of individual autonomy, or rather a “by-product” of political (and social) servitude? To what extent are sense and sensibility inherent to human nature and how much do they owe to acquired education?


Conference Readings

Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.

Hume, David. Essays: Moral, Political and Literary. Edited by Eugene F. Miller. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985, 1987.

Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat. The Spirit of the Laws. Translated by Anne M. Cohler, Basia Carolyn Miller, and Harold Samuel Stone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. d’Alembert on the Theatre. Translated by Alan Bloom. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1960.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Edited by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.