Erik W. Matson

Erik W. Matson
George Mason University | GMU · Mercatus Center

PhD in economics

About

38
Publications
1,354
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
74
Citations
Introduction
I study the history and philosophy of political economy. I focus on the ideas of Adam Smith and David Hume and their implications for contemporary method and discourse in political economy.

Publications

Publications (38)
Preprint
Full-text available
Carl Menger advanced a narrow definition of exact or theoretical economics. Theoretical economics is the study of the self-interested aspect of human efforts made to meet needs. One implication of this definition, Menger argues, is a strict demarcation between ethics and economics. Menger advances this demarcation against what he calls the “ethical...
Article
Adam Smith’s discourses aim to encourage mores, practices, and public policies in service to the common good, or that which a universally benevolent spectator would approve of. The Wealth of Nations illustrates how in pursuing our own happiness within the bounds of prudence and commutative justice, we may be said, literally or metaphorically, to co...
Article
Full-text available
David K. Lewis published his brilliant PhD dissertation in 1969, Convention; A Philosophical Study. With a lag, scholarship on David Hume has come to elaborate the similitude between Lewis and Hume on convention. Reading Hume along the lines of Lewis gives us a vocabulary with which we can better appreciate and articulate the innovativeness of Hume...
Preprint
Full-text available
This is a review of Margaret Schabas and Carl Wennerlind, 'A Philosopher's Economist: Hume and the Rise of Capitalism' (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020).
Article
Full-text available
This essay provides an overview of the major changes across the editions of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). It deals with two issues relating to Smith's theological and economic perspectives. Although Smith pares away some of the orthodox Christian theology in the later editions of TMS, even evincing a skeptical attitude in some mome...
Preprint
Full-text available
Smith’s discourses aim to encourage mores, practices, and public policies in service to the common good, or that which a universally benevolent spectator would approve of. The Wealth of Nations illustrates how in pursuing our own happiness within the bounds of prudence and commutative justice we may be said, literally or metaphorically, to cooperat...
Preprint
Full-text available
By the middle of the eighteenth century the word “liberal” had had multiple non-political meanings. Adam Smith famously advances “the liberal plan” of political economy. In The Wealth of Nations he indicates several ways that his liberal plan is “liberal” in a non-political sense. The liberal plan leads to economic growth, which, through extending...
Preprint
Full-text available
This chapter presents ethical and theological perspectives on commerce in Adam Smith through the lens of Bishop Joseph Butler. After discussing the context of Butler's political economy and Smith's and Butler's overlapping theological and psychological frameworks, I focus on three issues. The first is self-love. Against Hobbes, the French Jansenist...
Preprint
Full-text available
We draw on David Hume's essays on happiness to extend ideas about welfare, preferences, and the social role of behavioral welfare economists in Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman's (2020) Escaping Paternalism. Through literary dialogue, Hume illustrates that individuals have different perspectives on the good life. These perspectives cannot be resolved b...
Preprint
Full-text available
This essay uses concepts from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments to develop ideas about choice and welfare. Those ideas are used to offer several challenges to common approaches to behavioral welfare economics and new paternalist policy making. Drawing on Smith’s dialectical concept of practical reason, which he develops in expositing idea...
Article
Full-text available
This is an introduction to the symposium, "David Hume, Economic Rationality, and Policy." Topics treated in the symposium include the idea of true preferences; Hume's theory of preferences in relation to his economic philosophy; justice and markets as a joint coordination regime; the instability of general, inflexible rules; conservatism and libera...
Article
Full-text available
Hume's theory of preferences would, from a contemporary point of view, be labelled an endogenous theory. He sees preferences largely as comparative desires that are formed and affected by the psychological process of sympathy. His view of preferences relates to his economic philosophy. Despite his understanding of preferences, Hume is, unlike some...
Article
Full-text available
In this essay I consider the relationship between wealth and happiness in Adam Smith by a close reading of a famous section of The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS IV.i.8-10). I interpret Smith as presenting an open-ended dialectic between the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of happiness with the goal of contributing to his readers’ moral educatio...
Article
Full-text available
David K. Lewis published his brilliant PhD dissertation in 1969, Convention; A Philosophical Study. With a lag, scholarship on David Hume has come to elaborate the similitude between Lewis and Hume on convention. Reading Hume along the lines of Lewis gives us a vocabulary with which we can better appreciate and articulate the innovativeness of Hume...
Article
In one sense benevolence does not play a significant role in Adam Smith’s political economy. But in another sense, it does. The Wealth of Nations illustrates how in pursuing our own happiness within the bounds of commutative justice we further ends that a benevolent spectator would approve of. Drawing on Smith’s discussion of “universal benevolence...
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines some connections between Hume’s epistemology in his Treatise of Human Nature and his political economy. I make three claims: (1) First, I argue that it is the development of Hume’s account of the faculty of reason in Book I of the Treatise that leads him to emphasize social science—including political economy—and the humanities...
Article
Full-text available
We ambitiously reexamine Smith’s moral theory in relation to Hume’s. We regard Smith's developments as glorious and important. We also see them as quite fully agreeable to Hume, as enhancement, not departure. But Smith represents matters otherwise! Why would Smith overstate disagreement with his best friend? One aspect of Smith’s enhancement, an as...
Article
Full-text available
Adam Smith infused the expression ‘impartial spectator’ with a plexus of related meanings, one of which is a super-being, which bears parallels to monotheistic ideas of God. As for any genuine, identified, human spectator, he can be deemed impartial only presumptively. Such presumptive impartiality as regards the incident does not of itself carry e...
Article
Full-text available
I develop an interpretation of reason using the thought of David Hume and Adam Smith. I contend that reason in Hume and Smith can plausibly be interpreted as a kind of sensation. Reason is a sensation in that it is a sentimental conception of the relationship between two objects that impels certain interpretations. Reason is developed sympathetical...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper we seek to draw attention to some striking and heretofore unnoticed textual connections between Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature. We find significant textual parallels between the parable of the poor man's son of TMS 4.1 (TMS 4.1.8-4.1.10) and the famous conclusion to Book 1 of Hume's...
Article
Full-text available
This brief research memo collects quotations from David Hume’s works about reason as a passion — specifically, a calm passion. The collection shows that after "A Treatise of Human Nature", which Hume disavowed, the dichotomy between reason and passion pretty much falls away, and, instead, reason is, in the main, presented to be a sort of passion. T...