Propriety and Prosperity: New Studies on the Philosophy of Adam Smith

Now that the ms has been shipped off to the publisher here is the finalized lineup:

Foreword — Vernon Smith

Adam Smith as a Scottish Philosopher — Gordon Graham

Friendship in Commercial Society Revisited: Adam Smith on Commercial Friendship — Spyridon Tegos

Adam Smith and French Political Economy: Parallels and Differences — Laurent Dobuzinskis

Adam Smith: 18th Century Polymath — Roger Frantz

 One Adam Smith — David Brat

Indulgent Sympathy and the Impartial Spectator — Joshua Rust

 Adam Smith on Sensory Perception: A Sympathetic Account — Brian Glenney

Adam Smith on Sympathy: From Self-Interest to Empathy — Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo

What My Dog Can Do: On the Effect of The Wealth of Nations I.ii.2 — Jack Weinstein

Metaphor Made Manifest: Taking Seriously Smith’s “Invisible Hand” — Eugene Heath

The ‘Invisible Hand’ Phenomenon in Philosophy and Economics — Gavin Kennedy

Instincts and the Invisible Order: The Possibility of Progress — Jonathan B. Wight

The Spontaneous Order and the Family — Lauren K. Hall

Smith, Justice and the Scope of the Political — Craig Smith

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Aside

Rummaging around in Adam Smith’s brain

Here’s an interview with Jack Weinstein whose Adam Smith’s Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments will be the subject of an upcoming symposium for Cosmos + Taxis. Also, Jack is contributing to my Propriety and Prosperity: New Studies on the Philosophy of Adam Smith scheduled to appear this year.

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Aside

Adam Smith’s Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments

My chum Jack Weinstein’s book that I trailed some six months ago is garnering some amazing press coverage — amazing not only because it’s an academic philosophy book — but because it’s on Adam Smith and in the LA Times — and certainly not the Adam Smith of the ideologues or their “anti-liberty” vulgarian counterparts. Anyway, I’m so pleased that Jack has agreed to be a part of a symposium on his book for Cosmos + Taxis. (Oh yes, and another plug for the fact that he’s a part of this project — my co-authored contribution (not with Jack) is not out of tune with the sentiment expressed by the LA Times reviewer):

There are worse fates. Consider Adam Smith. His philosophy — indeed, the fact he was a philosopher — has been obscured by the “invisible hand.” That phrase occurs just three times in his entire corpus and only once in his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations. Nevertheless, it has become a symbol for the “caricaturish libertarian” whose philosophy (if we may call it that) has supplanted the “holistic picture of human agency” Smith spent his adult life describing.

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The Avuncular David Hume

Hume is on my mind especially in regard to my current work on Adam Smith. To this end, I’ve been re-watching Bryan Magee’s series The Great Philosophers from ’87. I’ve especially enjoyed the Hume discussion with John Passmore. Magee is an expositor second to none despite the fact that his expert guests are more intimate with- and have produced more distinguished work on- any of the target thinkers. In this Passmore interview (see below) one has the distinct sense that Magee is getting a great deal of pleasure by letting Passmore rattle on and then with utmost clarity and brevity restating the issue. This is not to put Passmore down – it is more to highlight Magee’s very special talent. I think Tony Quinton had that expository talent in writing but even he got flustered in his chat with Magee on Spinoza and Leibniz. Hume has a special place amongst my intellectual furniture. He speaks to me as the first modern: his discussion of personal identity, political philosophy, epistemology and ethics seem so germane to me as a so-called situated theorist. In any event, anyone who considers themselves a well-read person and who has not read Hume, is really quite impoverished, stylistically and substantively.

Moreover, what I particularly like about Hume is his even temperament and good nature along with his cutting wit. I’d have him by my side at my imaginary dinner party which wouldn’t be comprised by self-ascribed “intellectuals”: only people who love food, wine, conversation and laughter would be there.

He built a house in Edinburgh’s New Town, and spent his autumnal years quietly and comfortably, dining and conversing with friends, not all of whom were “studious and literary,” for Hume also found that his “company was not unacceptable to the young and careless.” One young person who found his company particularly “acceptable” was an attractive, vivacious, and highly intelligent woman in her twenties — Nancy Orde, the daughter of Chief Baron Orde of the Scottish Exchequer. One of Hume’s friends described her as “one of the most agreeable and accomplished women I ever knew.” Also noted for her impish sense of humor, she chalked “St. David’s Street” on the side of Hume’s house one night; the street still bears that name today. The two were close enough that she advised Hume in choosing wallpaper for his new home, and rumors that they were engaged even reached the ears of the salonnières in Paris. Just before his death, Hume added a codicil to his will, which included a gift to her of “ten Guineas to buy a Ring, as a Memorial of my Friendship and Attachment to so amiable and accomplished a Person.”

He also become the rage of the Parisian salons, enjoying the conversation and company of Diderot, D’Alembert, and d’Holbach, as well as the attentions and affections of the salonnières, especially the Comtesse de Boufflers. (“As I took a particular pleasure in the company of modest women, I had no reason to be displeased with the reception I met with from them.”)

From The Hume Society

Hume himself:

With regard to politics and the character of princes and great men, I think I am very moderate. My views of things are more conformable to Whig principles; my representation of persons to Tory prejudices. Nothing can so much prove that men commonly regard more persons than things, as to find that I am commonly numbered among the Tories.

Cited in Ernest Mossner classic biography The Life of David Hume (Clarendon Press, 2001), p. 311.

Let’s give the final word to his dear friend:

Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.

Adam Smith