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Adam Smith on Sympathy: From Self-Interest to Empathy

Is the assumption of self-interested behavior assumed in economics at odds with altruism and compassion? I believe that this question—which has been formulated in various ways in the literature for the past two centuries—is the thorn that often turns us away from reconciling the Adam Smith of the Wealth of Nations (hereinafter WN) with the…

Adam Smith on Sensory Perception: A Sympathetic Account

The aim of this chapter is to propose an account of sensory perception from the known writings of Adam Smith, chiefly his juvenile work, “On the External Senses.” This account asserts that when we perceive an object we simulate its painful or pleasurable effects on our body—we imaginatively place ourselves in proximity to the object and…

Adam Smith: Eighteenth-Century Polymath

Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a polymath with several of his key concepts and theories either having modern counterparts and/or “enjoying” empirical support. Smith wrote about the origin and proper use of language, grammar, the history of astronomy and ancient physics, moral philosophy, music, dance, and poetry, and; economics. Despite the very wide variety of topics…

Adam Smith as Scottish Philosopher

Was Adam Smith a Scottish philosopher? The question seems an odd one. He was a philosopher and he was Scottish. What more could we need to know, in order to arrive at the simple answer ‘yes.’ And in any case, why does it matter? On reflection, however, neither the question nor the answer seems so…