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Recommended Reading on Faith and Economics – William Cavanaugh

William Cavanaugh - What Do I Want? Augustine and Milton Friedman on Freedom of Choice

On March 10, Dr. William Cavanaugh, a theologian and a Professor of Catholic Studies at DePaul, visited campus to deliver a fascinating lecture on the relationship between desire, freedom, and economics. Entitled “What Do We Want? Augustine and Milton Friedman on Freedom of Choice,” Cavanaugh’s talk contrasted Augustine’s theological anthropology—his Christian vision of the human person—with the assumptions about humanity that informed Friedman’s economic theories.

Cavanaugh’s talk is available on YouTube and Soundcloud. If you’re interested in learning more, Cavanaugh recommends the following books:

Cavanaugh adds:

One way or another, all of these books question the idea that economics is a hard science, and see it rather as a kind of theology.

William Cavanaugh's recommended books on theology and economics

(Also check out our recent blog series on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a—yes, it happens from time to time—best-selling book about economics, which explores the relationship between capital accumulation and economic inequality.)

I’d be interested to know what you think about Cavanaugh’s talk and, more broadly, the relationship between theology and social sciences like economics—leave a comment below. A couple of our summer 2015 reading groups will be exploring related topics—particularly the Theology and Economics group and the group reading Christian Smith’s Moral, Believing Animals—if you’re interested and able, we’d love to have you join us.

An Introduction to William Cavanaugh

William Cavanaugh - What Do I Want? Augustine and Milton Friedman on Freedom of Choice


William Cavanaugh, our guest next Thursday, is a familiar face to many of you. For many years, he was a professor of theology here at St. Thomas and has spoken for MacLaurin before.

Lecture Details

Cavanaugh’s lecture for us will be a fascinating addition to our year-long series on the theme of freedom and the free society. Free market ideology generally assumes that what people want is transparent to them. In his lecture, Cavanaugh will question that assumption and show that underlying it is a distorted view of the way people really are. He’ll examine some empirical research and show that Augustine’s theological anthropology anticipated this research by many centuries. He will then argues that aspects of Augustine’s theology are needed to adequately account for human desire and human freedom.

While he’s here, Cavanaugh will be participating in a fascinating multi-day event at St. Thomas entitled “The Church in the Modern World: Teaching and Understanding Gaudium et Spes after 50 Years.” He’s also widely known for his books and essays, which explore in compelling ways the intersections of theology, economics, and politics:

He’s also written many articles and given many talks that are available online:

Cavanaugh and Brad Littlejohn had an interesting debate about liberalism, violence, and legitimacy; you can find the exchange at the Political Theology Today blog:

Can’t wait for the lecture? Check out our archive of talks on theology and Biblical studies:

Lecture Details