chapter  3
15 Pages

Smith and Condorcet on instruction and the Rawlsian opposition: Jean-Daniel Boyer and Charlotte Le Chapelain


Classification is a practice that is commonly used by sciences in general and more particularly by the history of economic thought. We may think of the setting up of schools of thought that are effective in one discipline, as is the case for example with the classics in economic thought, but that are much less effective when it comes to drawing links between authors whose work is on different subjects. One way of doing it is to set up a classification grounded on the authors’ nationality. This kind of typological classification is partly arbitrary because it does not take into account the diversity of their ideas. Rawls expounds one other possibility by distinguishing between two forms of liberalism. He writes that

The tradition of the liberalism of freedom started at least with the Reformation and gives special priority to certain basic liberties: liberty of conscience and freedom of thought, liberties of persons and the free choice of vocation – freedom from slavery and serfdom – to mention several basic cases. Political liberalism is also a liberalism of freedom. Moreover, it assures all citizens adequate all-purpose means (primary goods) so that they can make intelligent use of the exercise of their freedoms. Their happiness, though, is not guaranteed, for that is a matter for citizens themselves. The liberalism of the (classical) utilitarians – Bentham, James Mill, and Sidgwick – is distinct from the liberalism of freedom. Its first principle is that of the greatest happiness summed over all individuals. If it confirms the liberal freedoms, it is a liberalism of happiness; yet if it doesn’t confirm these freedoms, it is not a liberalism at all. Since its basic ideal is that of maximizing happiness, it is a contingent matter whether doing this will secure the basic freedoms.