Vernon Smith’s Foreward to Propriety and Prosperity: New Studies on the Philosophy of Adam Smith

Here is the opening paragraph to Vernon’s Foreward to Propriety and ProsperityI would urge anyone interested in situated cognition to read his superb Rationality in Economics: Constructivist and Ecological Forms amazingly an unknown classic to those of an externalist non-Cartesian persuasion. Also worth a read is Vernon’s memoir.


This book is a welcome addition to the resurgent scholarly and practical interest in Adam Smith’s contributions to market economics and its antecedents in the social order of human culture. In Smith, propriety concerned the rules that govern human sociability by mutual consent in local group interactions. Out of this experience were fashioned the rules of property, justice and the liberal order of political economy, and thence to economic prosperity. It is a grand narrative alive with meaning for the contemporary world in which side-by-side with markets the demand for sociability has found new expression in the social media companies. No wonder that in a seminar Kenneth Boulding could refer to Adam Smith as the first great post-Newtonian scientist.

Mirrors of the mind


This from ABC in OZ

In the early 90s an Italian team of neuroscientists reported a new class of brain cells in the macaque monkey. These mirror neurons responded just as well during the monkey’s own actions as when the monkey watched someone else performing similar actions. The mirror neuron theory took off and has been used to explain many aspects of what it is to be human—such as language, empathy, imitation and even autism. We re-examine the mirror neuron theory—has been it applied too widely?


In defence of spontaneous order: Hayek and libertarianism

The Economist 


According to Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and everyone else who knows what he or she is talking about, well-functioning markets depend, inter alia, upon clear property rights and a judicial system that enforces agreements and resolve disputes.

It’s true that Friedrich Hayek, whom Mr Linker shamelessly abuses, is the most prominent 20th-century intellectual behind the concept of spontaneous order—the theory that systems, such as markets, naturally correct, and function best without human meddling. It’s true that Hayek is commonly lumped in with libertarians. It’s true that spontaneous order is an idea libertarians tend to promote. Yet spontaneous order is not a libertarian idea.


Probability is the Very Guide of Life

Bishop Butler’s quote “Probability is the Very Guide of Life” (Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature (Charlottesville: Ibis, n.d.), is one that I invoke from time to time in the most unlikeliest of contexts. (The other Butler quote I invoke from time to time in “identity talk” is “Everything is what it is, and not another thing.” Fifteen Sermons, Preface § 39). I confess that I haven’t read much Butler but if, like me, you appreciate a subtle mind, David E. White provides the best overview of the Bishop’s life and work.

Butler expressed distaste for Oxford’s intellectual conventions while a student at Oriel College; he preferred the newer styles of thought, especially those of John Locke, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson, leading David Hume to characterize Butler as one of those “who have begun to put the science of man on a new footing, and have engaged the attention, and excited the curiosity of the public. — David White

Butler, a respected clergyman and philosopher himself, influenced some of the greatest English-speaking thinkers of his time, including David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith. The Analogy of Religion is a work of apologetics, directed at a deist audience. Butler hopes to convince the many deist scholars and public figures of his day that returning to Christian orthodoxy is indeed rational. As he proceeds, he provides more and more evidence for orthodoxy over deism, arguing that a personal rather than a detached God is more likely to exist. Butler did not seek to embellish his language with flowery phrases, and his prose is very straightforward. — Christian Classics Ethereal Library