James R. Otteson, John Meadowcroft's Adam Smith PDF

By James R. Otteson, John Meadowcroft

ISBN-10: 0826429831

ISBN-13: 9780826429834


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Smith’s students would have been young men, many teenagers, the former fact revealed in a handful of remarks that remained in the book form in which Smith speaks of “our” sex as opposed to the other, “fair” sex. It is also repetitive in parts, presumably reflecting the need to remind students of what went on earlier in the course; it employs many examples to make its points, when one might have sufficed; it includes several digressions and even, on occasion, attempts at humor; and it contains regular exhortations to virtue and even to proper religion, as would have been expected and appropriate for the chair of moral philosophy in his instruction of university students.

Some contexts allow for wider latitude than others—think of poetry as opposed to college term-paper writing, for example—but there must always be rules, or, to repeat, the purpose of language, which Smith says is to allow effective communication, would be frustrated. One may not like the rules of one’s language, or one might wish to change the pronunciation or usage of words or terms, but one had better exercise care in attempting to make unilateral changes: linguistic entrepreneurs, like economic entrepreneurs, probably fail many more times than they succeed, even if change and progress are the result primarily of such risk-takers.

17 What we can expect to characterize Smith’s investigations, then, is a reliance on actual, real-world examples, on observations, and on experiences; we should expect him to introduce principles that unite as many disparate phenomena as possible but that are hypothetical and always subject to revision or rejection based on future observation. We will find these features in all Smith’s investigations. Self-interest Before leaving the discussion of HA, I wish to register one more aspect of Smith’s argument that will bear on an issue we explore later.

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Adam Smith by James R. Otteson, John Meadowcroft


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