Adam Smith

Adam Smith : Systematic Philosopher and Public Thinker

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Eric Schliesser's Adam Smith is the product of two decades' reflection by the author on the great Scottish Enlightenment. Unique among treatments of Adam Smith, Schliesser's book treats him as a systematic philosopher. Smith was a giant of the Scottish Enlightenment with polymath interests; Schliesser thus explores Smith's economics and ethics in light of his other commitments on the nature of knowledge, the theory of emotions, the theory of mind, his
account of language, the nature of causation, and his views on methodology. He places Smith's ideas in the context of a host of other philosophers, especially Hume, Rousseau, and Newton; and he draws on the reception of Smith's ideas by Sophie de Grouchy, Mary Wollstonecraft, and other philosophers and economists
to sketch the elements of, and the detailed connections within, Smith's system.

Adam Smith traces the outlines of Smith's intellectual system and situates it in the context of his highly developed views on the norms that govern responsible speech. In particular, the book articulates Smith's concerns about the impact of his public policy recommendations, especially on the least powerful in society. In so doing, Schliesser offers new interpretations of Smith's views on the invisible hand, the Wealth of Nations, his treatment of virtue, the nature of freedom, the
individual's relationship to society, his account of the passions, the moral roles of religion, and his treatment of the role of mathematics in economics.

While the book does offer a single argument, it is organized in a modular fashion and includes a helpful index; readers with a more focused interest in Smith's achievements can skip to their section of interest.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 432 pages
  • 165 x 238 x 35mm | 708g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0190690127
  • 9780190690120
  • 1,513,446

Table of contents

List of abbreviations
Bibliographic note

1. Introduction: Systematic Philosopher & Public Philosopher
a. Systems in Adam Smith
b. Smith's Corpus as Two Systems of Philosophy
c. A Bibliographical Interlude
d. Methodological Remarks
e. Brief Summary

Part 1. Propensities and Passions
2. Passionate Human Nature
a. Human Propensities & Smithian Social Explanation
b. Mind, Language, and Society
3. The Passions, Rationality, and Reason
a. Natural Passions
b. Proto-Passions, or Preconceptions and why Smith is not an Empiricist
c. Causation, Sound Judgment, and Environmental Rationality
d. Reason as an Active Principle
e. Natural unexpected passions: the intellectual sentiments.
f. Derived Passions
4. From Natural Sentiments to General Rules and Moral Sentiments
a. Natural Sentiments
i. Smith's criticisms of Hume's account of Property
ii. The Natural Sentiments and General Rules
b. Moral Faculties; the moral Sense and conscience
5. The Sympathetic Process & Judgments of Propriety
a. Sympathetic process (feelings)
b. Sympathy and Knowledge of Causal Relations
c. Judgments of Proportionality
d. Counterfactual reasoning in the Sympathetic Process
e. The Piacular, or On Seeing Oneself as a Moral Cause in Adam Smith
i. We (Ought to) See Ourselves as Causes!
ii. Norms of Appeasement, or on experts and Smith's Embrace of Fortune
iii. Superstition and Grandeur
iv. Natural Sentiments and Enlightenment, or Nature vs Reason
f. The Impartial Spectator

Part 2: Society
6. Society and Political Taxonomy: Individuals, Classes, Factions, Nations, and Governments
7. Adam Smith's Foundations for Political Philosophy
a. "A New Utopia"
b. Even the Humane Smith
c. Belonging to Society
i. The Genealogy of Property
ii. Original and Derived Property
iii. The Turn to History: the Enlightenment Imperative
8. Institutions and Social Consequentialism
a. Society, Justice, and group-Selection
b. Utility and Social Institutions
c. The Measure of Real Price: Adam Smith's Science of Equity
d. Progressive Taxation
e. On Theoretical Partiality Toward the Working Poor
f. The role of the legislator; private virtue, public happiness.
g. Liberty
h. Regulating Markets
9. Virtue
a. Virtue as Excellence or Virtue in Common Life?
b. Excellent-in-Virtue-of Character
10. Three Invisible Hands
a. The Invisible Hand of Jupiter, and Miracles.
b. The "Vain and Insatiable Desires" of the Rich
c. Promoting Unintended Ends in WN
d. Comparing the three Invisible Hands.
11. Philosophy of Science
a. Philosophy Within the Division of Labor
b. Social Epistemology & the Impartial Spectator
c. Copernicus & Newton: Modest Scientific Realism
d. Magnanimous Superstition
12. The Methodology of Wealth of Nations
a. Reflexivity
b. Natural and Market Prices
c. Deviations from Nature, "The Price of Free Competition"
i. Newton's Fourth Rule of Reasoning
ii. Descartes and Kepler's Irregularities
d. The Role of Institutions
e. Model, Cause, Process; Smithian Social Explanation
f. Hume vs. Smith on the Introduction of Commerce
g. Hume's Natural Rate of Propagation and Smith's Digression on Silver
13. Smith and Anti-Mathematicism
a. Adam Smith's Newtonianism Reconsidered
b. The Road to True Philosophy
c. Anti-mathematicism and Proportionality in Hume and Smith
d. Adam Smith and Proportions (as well as good judgment)

Part 3: Philosophers
14. Religion
a. Biblical Revelation & Christian Theology
b. Anti-Clericalism & Freedom of Religion
15. A Cheerful Philosophical Life
a. The Commercial Philosopher
b. Hume's exchange with Charon
c. Friendship, Sincerity, and Real Happiness

Part 4: Conclusion
16. Conclusion

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Review quote

Schliesser has done a masterful job putting his work together into a logical progression, and tying together loose ends...It is a brilliant accomplishment. All serious Smith scholars will want to give it a careful read. * Jeffrey T. Young, St. Lawrence University emeritus and Gordon College, Oeconomia * Schliesser's account of Smith's philosophy of science is most certainly the best yet. Better, it is safe to say that Schliesser's whole account of Smith is the best yet. There is no doubt we will not see its better in our generation. It is not just detailed, it is lovingly, carefully detailed ... For everyone engaged in, or even just interested in, the eighteenth century, this book is essential reading. * George Gale, Metascience * Eric Schliesser's new book, the culmination of two decades of research, is a scholarly feat of the first order and an asset to Adam Smith's expansive readership across disciplinary divides. * Perspectives on Politics * This book is required reading for anyone hoping to understand Smiths thought. Highly recommended. * J. H. Spence, Choice * This is a comprehensive Adam Smith, by a philosopher for philosophers and other scholars in pursuit of the roots of humanity in sentiment, and its functional developments that specify how we have become who we are. A rich intellectual treatment for scholars interested in the enduring insights of Adam Smith, a system thinker, into understanding the social, psychological, political and economic features that have emerged in the modern world. * Vernon L. Smith, Chapman University, 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics * Eric Schliesser's welcome book displays an impressive command of Smith's texts, offering careful readings of passages to show there is more to these than often thought. It also displays a remarkable command of Smith's intellectual context, helpfully illuminating anticipations of his ideas in previous thinkers, and resonances of his ideas in later thinkers. And it displays a striking command of the voluminous secondary literature. As such, it not only makes
important contributions to several current debates but also opens up new questions concerning Smith as both a philosopher and 'public thinker.' * Ryan Patrick Hanley, Mellon Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Marquette University * Schliesser's book on Adam Smith is simply fabulous. There has never been a book until now that makes the case for Smith as a systematic thinker. I read the whole with great delight. It will get an enormous amount of attention since Schliesser is the only authority who is comfortable with so many aspects of Smith's work. * David Levy, Professor of Economics, George Mason University * This is a work by a professional academic philosopher for other philosophers, and as such, it is certain to be received with the respect that it deserves. * Henry C. Clark, History and Philosophy of Economics *
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About Eric Schliesser

Eric Schliesser is Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. He is editor of The Oxford Handbook of Newton (OUP, forthcoming), Ten Neglected Classics of Philosophy (OUP, 2016), and Sympathy: A History (OUP, 2015).
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