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Grant number: AQ-228774-15

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University of North Carolina, Asheville (Asheville, NC 28804-3251)
Robert Charles Tatum (Project Director: September 2014 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on Morality and Material Progress

The development and teaching of a new undergraduate seminar on the relationship between morality and material progress.

Modern mainstream economics portrays itself as an amoral, positive science. Yet, issues of morality cannot be separated from issues of material well-being and progress. In fact, the moral philosopher Adam Smith is widely understood to be the "father of economics" precisely because he explained how the virtue of rational self-interest can improve material well-being in a free-market economy. Sixty-two years before Smith wrote "The Wealth of Nations" though, Bernard de Mandeville depicted self-love in "The Fable of the Bees" not as a virtue, but rather as a vice that nonetheless brings about material progress. This raises the question: Can the good life be lived in both moral and material terms? Historic thinkers have answered this question in many different ways. Accordingly, the course I seek to develop through this grant will examine the various answers to this question over the ages.

Project fields:

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$22,000 (approved)
$21,091 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2015 – 5/31/2018