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Summary Adam Smith (1723-1790) is one of the key philosophical figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. Best known for his An Inquiry of into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), considered the first work in modern political economy, his philosophical contribution lies mainly with his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). Here he develops a sentimentalist view of moral judgment as based on sympathy, and which includes the central regulative concept of an impartial spectator - a notion that much subsequent moral philosophy will build on (or critically oppose). The main issues covered in the category, besides editions of Smith's works, relate mainly to (1) the relation between his economical theory and his moral philosophy (known as the "Adam Smith problem"); (2) scholarly work on his moral philosophy, and its relation to other major figures such as David Hume, on whom Smith heavily draws but also crucially differs from.
Key works Some editions of Smith's main works: Smith 2002 (1759), Smith 1976 (1776), Smith 1978. For a classical 20th century meta-ethical reprisal (with significant differences) of Smith's impartial spectator, see Firth 1951. In recent years Smith's philosophy has received a great deal of attention. Key scholarly works include: Raphael 2007, a well-rounded exposition of Smith's moral philosophy; Montes 2003, centering on the notion of sympathy and Smith's methodology. Still relevant is Haakonssen 1981, an extended comparison between Smith and Hume on justice. On the 'Adam Smith problem', key works are Otteson 2002 and Fleischacker 2004: both originally and exhaustively connect Smith's economical theory with his moral philosophy and psychology.
Introductions On Smith's moral and political philosophy Fleischacker 2013 is a good starting point. Depending on focus, various essays contained in Brown & Fleischacker 2010 and in Berry et al 2013 can provide comprehensive guidance on different aspects of Smith's work, his context, and his influence.
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  1. Fraternity From Smith to Tawney.Colin Bird - manuscript
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  2. The Judgment of Adam.Wayne Martin - manuscript
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  3. Smith, Adam.Author unknown - manuscript
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  4. Adam Smith's Theory of the Impartial Spectator as Distinct From Ideal Observer Theories: A Reply to Allan Gibbard?Jon Petty - unknown - Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 20.
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  5. Empathy and the Value of Humane Understanding.Olivia Bailey - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  6. The Affective Extension of ‘Family’ in the Context of Changing Elite Business Networks.Zografia Bika & Michael L. Frazer - forthcoming - Human Relations.
    Drawing on 49 oral-history interviews with Scottish family business owner-managers, six key-informant interviews, and secondary sources, this interdisciplinary study analyses the decline of kinship-based connections and the emergence of new kinds of elite networks around the 1980s. As the socioeconomic context changed rapidly during this time, cooperation built primarily around literal family ties could not survive unaltered. Instead of finding unity through bio-legal family connections, elite networks now came to redefine their ‘family businesses’ in terms of affectively loaded ‘family values’ (...)
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  7. Active Powers of the Human Mind.Ruth Boeker - forthcoming - In Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, vol. 2. Oxford:
  8. Adam Smith's Model of Man.Manfred J. Holler, Juhana Lemetti & Eva Piirimae - forthcoming - Acta Philosophica Fennica: Human Nature as the Basis of Morality and Society in Early Modern Philosophy.
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  9. Adam Smith: 18th Century Sentimentalist or 20th Century Rationalist?Matthias Hühn - forthcoming - Business Ethics Journal Review:22-27.
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  10. The Historical Adam.A. McIntyre - forthcoming - Perspectives on Science And.
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  11. On the Liberty of the English: Adam Smith’s Reply to Montesquieu and Hume.Paul Sagar - forthcoming - Political Theory:009059172110397.
    This essay has two purposes—first, to identify Adam Smith as intervening in the debate between Montesquieu and Hume regarding the nature, age, and robustness of English liberty. Whereas Montesquieu took English liberty to be old and fragile, Hume took it to be new and robust. Smith disagreed with both: it was older than Hume supposed, but not fragile in the way Montesquieu claimed. The reason for this was the importance of the common law in England’s legal history. Seeing this enables (...)
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  12. Adam Smith as Sociologist.Albert Salomon - forthcoming - Social Research: An International Quarterly.
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  13. Adam Smith’s Relevance for Contemporary Moral Cognition.Sarah Songhorian - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology:1-22.
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  14. A Diagrammatic Presentation of Adam Smith's Growth Model.William O. Thweatt - forthcoming - Social Research: An International Quarterly.
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  15. Achtung in Kant and Smith.Michael H. Walschots - forthcoming - Kant-Studien.
    Although it is clear that Kant read Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (TMS) soon after it was translated into German in 1770, work remains to be done in order to determine whether or not Smith had a lasting influence on Kant’s moral philosophy, and in what way. One of Kant’s main reasons for reading Smith would have been the latter’s careful analysis of the passions and human motivation and in this paper I illustrate a fairly substantial, but underappreciated, way (...)
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  16. The Art of Being in the Eighteenth Century: Adam Smith on Fortune, Luck, and Trust.Sylvana Tomaselli - 2022 - History of European Ideas 48 (1):33-44.
    ABSTRACT This article offers some reflections on the importance Adam Smith accorded to luck in The Wealth of Nations. While the place of moral luck in The Theory of Moral Sentiments has been the subject of some scholarly attention, this has not been the case for luck in his best-known work. It focuses on what Smith thought particularly striking about our estimation of our own good fortune and argues that it accentuated the need for trustworthiness and trusted friends.
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  17. Adam Smith.Samuel Fleischacker - 2021 - Routledge.
    "Adam Smith is widely regarded as the founder of political economy and one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment period. Best-known for his founding work of economics, The Wealth of Nations, Smith's thought engaged equally with the nature of morality, above all in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith's brilliance leaves us with an important question, however: Was he first and foremost a moral philosopher, who happened to turn to economics for part of his career? In this outstanding philosophical (...)
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  18. The Role of Empathy in Moral Inquiry.William Kidder - 2021 - Dissertation, State University of New York, Albany
    In this dissertation, I defend the view that, despite empathy’s susceptibility to problematic biases, we can and should cultivate empathy to aid our understanding of our own values and the values of others. I argue that empathy allows us to critically examine and potentially revise our values by considering concrete moral problems and our own moral views from the perspective of another person. Appropriately calibrated empathy helps us achieve a critical distance from our own moral perspective and is thus tied (...)
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  19. Trendsetters and Imagination: Adam Smith’s Views on Change in Fashion.Anna Markwart - 2021 - Aisthema, International Journal 8 (1).
    This paper presents a reconstruction and interpretation of the process of change in Adam Smith’s philosophy basing on the example of changes in fashion. I shall focus on the role of imagination, as well as on the role of the wealthy in the process. I shall analyse how sympathy, respect and cognitive errors result in looking up to and mimicking the great. Something introduced by a small number of people becomes fashionable, as others follow. However, the processes of change will (...)
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  20. Adam Smith: By Craig Smith, Cambridge, Polity, 2020, Viii, 210 Pp., £16.99 (Paperback), £55 (Hardback), ISBN 9781509518234. [REVIEW]R. J. W. Mills - 2021 - History of European Ideas 47 (5):811-812.
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  21. Adam Smith´s Homo Oeconomicus.Nara Lucia Rela - 2021 - Manuscrito 44 (3).
    Despite the fact that the discussion on the economic man flourishes in John Stuart Mill’s work, this does not mean that this issue has not been previously discussed, at least, not in clear terms. The aim of this article is to demonstrate that even if Adam Smith never specifically characterized the person who deals with economic affairs, he pointed out some of his characteristics in his writings. We can find some clues to his thoughts on that issue in Theory of (...)
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  22. Adam Smith’s Genealogy of Religion.Paul Sagar - 2021 - History of European Ideas 47 (7):1061-1078.
    ABSTRACT This paper has three main aims. First, to make good on recent suggestions that Adam Smith offers a genealogy of the origins of religious belief. This is done by offering a systematic reconstruction of his account of religion in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, demonstrating that Smith there offers a naturalised account of religious belief, whilst studiously avoiding committing himself to the truth of any such belief. Second, I seek to bring out that Smith was ultimately less interested in (...)
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  23. Review of Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life by Ryan Patrick Hanley. [REVIEW]Michael L. Frazer - 2020 - Perspectives on Politics 18 (2):596-597.
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  24. In Adam Smith’s Own Words: The Role of Virtues in the Relationship Between Free Market Economies and Societal Flourishing, A Semantic Network Data-Mining Approach.Johan Graafland & Thomas R. Wells - 2020 - Journal of Business Ethics 2020 (1):31-42.
    Among business ethicists, Adam Smith is widely viewed as the defender of an amoral if not anti-moral economics in which individuals’ pursuit of their private self-interest is converted by an ‘invisible hand’ into shared economic prosperity. This is often justified by reference to a select few quotations from The Wealth of Nations. We use new empirical methods to investigate what Smith actually had to say, firstly about the relationship between free market institutions and individuals’ moral virtues, and secondly about the (...)
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  25. Adam Smith's Sentimentalist Conception of Self-Control.Lauren Kopajtic - 2020 - The Adam Smith Review 12:7-27.
    A recent wave of scholarship has challenged the traditional way of understanding of self-command in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments as ‘Stoic’ self-command. But the two most thorough alternative interpretations maintain a strong connection between self-command and rationalism, and thus apparently stand opposed to Smith’s overt allegiance to sentimentalism. In this paper I argue that we can and should interpret self-command in the context of Smith’s larger sentimentalist framework, and that when we do, we can see that self-command is (...)
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  26. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith: A Philosophical Encounter by Charles L. Griswold. [REVIEW]Lauren Kopajtic - 2020 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (4):819-820.
    In this intricate, careful, and compelling book, Griswold stages an extended encounter between two towering figures of Enlightenment thought: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith. While Rousseau and Smith were known to each other, they had nothing like the "encounter" that Rousseau and David Hume had, for example. Smith commented on Rousseau's views, particularly those found in the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, in his 1756 "Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review" as well as in his The Theory (...)
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  27. Review of Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy. [REVIEW]Lauren Kopajtic - 2020 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    Samuel Fleischacker's book is a very welcome addition both to scholarship on Adam Smith and to the burgeoning field of empathy studies. Fleischacker brings decades of excellent and influential work on Smith to the popular topic of empathy to show that Smithian empathy (Smith uses the term "sympathy" for this capacity), with some updates, has a crucial role to play in our ethical practices. In doing so, Fleischacker offers important responses to some perennial objections to Smith's empathy-based moral theory, and (...)
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  28. Adam Smith and the Stoic Principle of Suicide.Getty L. Lustila - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (2):350-363.
    A substantial portion of Adam Smith's discussion of Stoicism in TMS VII is dedicated to the Stoic “principle of suicide,” according to which suicide is sometimes morally required. While scholars agree that Stoicism exercised considerable influence over Smith, no recent work has explored his views on suicide, despite the central role it plays in his treatment of Stoicism. I argue that Smith opposes the principle of suicide on both epistemic and moral grounds, providing an important critique of Stoicism. I also (...)
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  29. Speech, the Affective, and the Insult in Not Being Believed: Rousseau and Adam Smith.Byron Davies - 2019 - The Adam Smith Review 11:53-66.
    In this paper, I investigate under-explored moments in Rousseau’s and Adam Smith’s writings in which each presents speech, and particularly testimony, as a manifestation of the desire for others’ recognition. I begin by considering some features of Rousseau’s understanding of amour-propre (or the desire for recognition from others) as well as that desire’s relevance for the conception of vocal speech (as in its nature passional) at the center of Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages. Since a feeling of insult (...)
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  30. The Vicegerent of God? Adam Smith on the Authority of the Impartial Spectator.Lauren Kopajtic - 2019 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 17 (1):61-78.
    It has been claimed that Adam Smith, like David Hume, has a ‘reflective endorsement’ account of the authority of morality. On such a view, our moral faculties and notions are justified insofar as they pass reflective scrutiny. But Smith's moral philosophy, unlike Hume's, is also peppered with references to God, to divine law, and to our being ‘set up’ in a specific way so as to best attain what is good and useful for us. This language suggests that there is (...)
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  31. The Ideological Matrix of Science: Natural Selection and Immunity as Case Studies.Agustin Ostachuk - 2019 - Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 15 (1):182-213.
    The modern concept of ideology was established by the liberal politician and philosopher Destutt de Tracy, with the objective of creating an all-embracing and general science of ideas, which followed the sensualist and empiricist trend initiated by Locke that culminated in the positivism of Comte. Natural selection and immunity are two key concepts in the history of biology that were strongly based on the Malthusian concept of struggle for existence. This concept wrongly assumed that population grew faster than the means (...)
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  32. The Routledge Guidebook to Smith's Wealth of Nations.Maria Pia Paganelli - 2019 - Routledge.
    Adam Smith is famous around the world as the founding father of economics, and his ideas are regularly quoted and invoked by politicians, business leaders, economists, and philosophers. However, considering his fame, few people have actually read the whole of his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations - the first book to describe and lay out many of the concepts that are crucial to modern economic thinking. The Routledge Guidebook to Smith's Wealth of Nations provides an accessible, clear, and concise (...)
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  33. Reasoning with the Exclusionary Other: Classical Scenes for a Postradical Horizon.Carlos Palacios - 2019 - Critical Inquiry 46 (1):97-117.
    Thanks to Michel Foucault, one might say it has become possible to conceive that the political relevance of humanity in modern thought does not have to do with its “philosophical essence” but rather with its “nonessence.” Yet this very idea surfaced earlier in Western thought, at the time of the revolutionary turn towards a politicized humanitarianism, and helped to shape some crucial political strategies making up modern liberal democracy. Its potential eluded even Foucault. I contend that tracing the contours of (...)
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  34. The Limits of Sympathetic Concern and Moral Consideration in Adam Smith.Ryan Pollock - 2019 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 36 (3):257-277.
    Smith thinks it possible to sympathize with certain non-sentient beings, such as the human dead. Consequently, some commentators argue that Smith’s theory supports ecocentrism. I reject that Smith’s theory has this implication. Sympathizers in Smith’s theory can imagine themselves as non-sentient beings, but they will lack the relevant evaluative concerns. The situation of a non-sentient being, as that being confronts the situation, remains inaccessible to the sympathizer. I will also address the limits of sympathetic concern within Smith’s theory,; highlight a (...)
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  35. Vanité, orgueil et self-deceit : l’estime de soi excessive dans la Théorie des Sentiments Moraux d’Adam Smith.Benoît Walraevens - 2019 - Revue de Philosophie Économique 20 (2):3-39.
    This paper studies how in his Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith answered to Mandeville on the role of pride and vanity in the economic and social dynamics of commercial societies. We show why vanity supersedes pride in his analysis and how he offers a more positive view of these two passions. We study in particular the economic and social consequences of pride and vanity and describe the psychological foundations of excessive self-esteem that these passions entail.
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  36. What Adam Smith Really Thought Should Not Matter.Thomas R. Wells - 2019 - Business Ethics Journal Review 7 (7):40-46.
    Hühn and Dierksmeier argue that a better understanding of Adam Smith’s work would improve business ethics research and education. I worry that their approach encourages two scholarly sins. First, anachronistic historiography in which we distort Smith’s ideas by making him answer questions about contemporary debates in CSR theory. Second, treating him as a prophet by assuming that finding out what Smith would have thought about it is the right way to answer such questions.
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  37. The Ethics and Epistemology of Empathy.Olivia Bailey - 2018 - Dissertation, Harvard University
    Empathy is a familiar form of emotionally charged imaginative perspective taking. In this dissertation I offer an account of empathy’s moral importance that emphasizes the special value of its unique epistemic functions. Specifically, I defend what I call the humane understanding thesis: empathy is the source of a distinct epistemic good, humane understanding, which consists in the appreciation of the intelligibility of others’ emotional perceptions, and humane understanding is necessary for fully virtuous relations with other people. Adam Smith held that (...)
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  38. Ape Imagination? A Sentimentalist Critique of Frans de Waal’s Gradualist Theory of Human Morality.Paul Carron - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):22.
    This essay draws on Adam Smith’s moral sentimentalism to critique primatologist Frans de Waal’s gradualist theory of human morality. De Waal has spent his career arguing for continuity between primate behavior and human morality, proposing that empathy is a primary moral building block evident in primate behavior. Smith’s moral sentimentalism—with its emphasis on the role of sympathy in moral virtue—provides the philosophical framework for de Waal’s understanding of morality. Smith’s notion of sympathy and the imagination involved in sympathy is qualitatively (...)
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  39. Invisible Beings. Adam Smith’s Lectures on Natural Religion.Sergio Cremaschi - 2018 - In Fonna Forman (ed.), The Adam SMith Review 10. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 230-253.
    I intend to dismantle a piece of historiographic mythology created by self-styled ‘Revisionists’ (Hill, Alvey, Oslington, etc.). According to the myth, Adam Smith endorsed several of the traditional proofs of God’s existence; he believed that the order existing in the world is a morally good order implemented by Divine Providence; he believed that evil in the world is part of an all-encompassing Divine Plan; and that the ‘invisible hand’ is the hand of the Christian God who leads the rich to (...)
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  40. Jalousie.Frédéric Minner - 2018 - Encyclopédie Philosophique.
    On conçoit souvent la jalousie comme une émotion ayant pour objet les relations de proximité (amour, amitié, fratrie, etc.). Elle a généralement mauvaise presse et est typiquement envisagée comme une émotion moralement condamnable, voire comme un vice. Or, la jalousie ne porte pas uniquement sur les relations de proximité : elle peut également porter sur divers biens (prestige, richesses, biens matériels, privilèges, etc.). Par ailleurs, certains auteurs soutiennent que des cas de jalousie pourraient être moralement justifiés, voire que la jalousie (...)
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  41. Moral Tuning.Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen, Jill Halstead & Rasmus T. Slaattelid - 2018 - Metaphilosophy 49 (4):435-458.
    Can a set of musical metaphors in a treatise on ethics reveal something about the nature and source of moral autonomy? This article argues that it can. It shows how metaphorical usage of words like tone, pitch, and concord in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments can be understood as elements of an analogical model for morality. What this model tells us about morality depends on how we conceptualise music. In contrast to earlier interpretations of Smith's metaphors that have seen (...)
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  42. A Comparison between Aristotle and Adam Smith on the Concepts of Justice.Elena Yi-Jia Zeng - 2018 - Shih Yuan, Journal of NTU History Department 9:33-61.
    The concept of Justice constitutes a requisite foundation in Aristotle’s and Adam Smith’s (1723-1790) moral thought. This essay examines Smith’s understanding and application of the Aristotelian concept of justice through a comparative study, which elucidates the prima facie resemblance between Smith’s and Aristotle’s moral thought. It also attests that both the thinkers acknowledge the external and internal meaning of justice, namely, the harmony of the whole society and the moral agent’s state of character. Smith’s commitment to the theory of justice (...)
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  43. A Review of Alexander Broadie's A History of Scottish Philosophy. [REVIEW]Elena Yi-Jia Zeng - 2018 - NTU Philosophical Review 56:177-202.
    Scottish philosophy and intellectual history have become the increasingly fashionable fields of academic studies. Alexander Broadie, one of the pioneers and an accomplished scholar of the Scottish Enlightenment, returns to the basic question, namely, “what is Scottish philosophy?”, and presents a comprehensive work on the history of Scottish philosophy. Broadie successfully elucidates the nature and significance of Scottish philosophy both historically and philosophically. He argues that Scottish philosophy must be studied in its historical context, for it is not only a (...)
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  44. Adam Smith on Savages.Sergio Cremaschi - 2017 - Revue de Philosophie Économique 18 (1):13-36.
    I argue that (i) even though Adam Smith’s four stages theory has been criticized with good reasons as both vitiated by undue generalization from modern Europe to the first stage and made bottom-heavy by assumptions of modern episteme, yet, in his writings an alternative view emerges where the savage is not just crushed under the weight of want and isolation but is endowed with imagination and sympathy; (ii) his picture of the fourth stage is, far from a triumphal apology of (...)
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  45. Adam Smith’s Irony and the Invisible Hand.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2017 - Iberian Journal of the History of Economic Thought 4 (1):43-62.
    I reconstruct Adam Smith’s theory of irony and its application. I illustrate how he defines it as a combination of something “grand” with something “mean” and how this is consistent with his anti-Cartesian and post-skeptic epistemology. I suggest that, for Smith, “systems” of any kind, from Cartesian physics to philosophical monotheism, Stoic ethics, and the “mercantile system” draw their apparent plausibility from some disease of human imagination. I argue that in every field, including political economy, in his view, the philosopher’s (...)
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  46. Recovering Adam Smith’s Virtue Ethics for Commercial Society.J. J. Graafland & Thomas R. Wells - 2017 - In A. J. G. Sison (ed.), Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. Dordrecht, Netherlands:
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  47. Love’s Enlightenment: Rethinking Charity in Modernity.Ryan Patrick Hanley - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
    A number of prominent moral philosophers and political theorists have recently called for a recovery of love. But what do we mean when we speak of love today? Love's Enlightenment examines four key conceptions of other-directedness that transformed the meaning of love and helped to shape the way we understand love today: Hume's theory of humanity, Rousseau's theory of pity, Smith's theory of sympathy, and Kant's theory of love. It argues that these four Enlightenment theories are united by a shared (...)
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  48. Philosophy and Science in Adam Smith’s ‘History of Astronomy’: A Metaphysico-Scientific View.Kwangsu Kim - 2017 - History of the Human Sciences 30 (3):107-130.
    This article casts light on the intimate relationship between metaphysics and science in Adam Smith’s thought. Understanding this relationship can help in resolving an enduring dispute or misreading concerning the status and role of natural theology and the ‘invisible hand’ doctrine. In Smith’s scientific realism, ontological issues are necessary prerequisites for scientific inquiry, and metaphysical ideas thus play an organizing and regulatory role. Smith also recognized the importance of scientifically informed metaphysics in science’s historical development. In this sense, for Smith, (...)
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  49. Adam Smith.Lewis Powell - 2017 - In Benjamin Hill Margaret Cameron (ed.), Sourcebook in the History of Philosophy of Language. pp. 853-858.
    Smith proposes an account of how languages developed. He did so not as historian, but as a philosopher with a special concern about how a nominalist could account for general terms. Names for individuals are taken as fairly unproblematic – say ‘Thames’ and ‘Avon’ for each of the respective rivers. But whence the word ‘river,’ applicable to more than one, if all that exist are particular objects? Smith’s view is not the usual one, according to which people deploy a powerful (...)
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  50. Love Redirected: On Adam Smith's Love of Praiseworthiness.Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen - 2017 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 15 (1):101-123.
    Why be moral? Why, in the language of Adam Smith, act on what you think is praiseworthy even when it does not get you praise from other people? Because, answers Smith, you love praiseworthiness. But what is this love of praiseworthiness, and where does it come from? In this article, 1) I argue that we start to love praiseworthiness when we redirect our love of praise away from other people toward the ‘impartial spectator’-aspect of ourselves, and 2) show how this (...)
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