Adam Smith is rediscovered every few generations by philosophers surprised by his subtlety, originality, and relevance. Smith’s status as mythical father of economic science and his role as canonical defender of free trade is secure within economics, but few philosophers have been more often misrepresented and underestimated. Because he is well known as an advocate of commercial society, many scholars, public intellectuals, commentators, and journalists are happy to implicate him automatically in its successes and failures, or to enlist him in one side or another of the various ideological battles surrounding the utility and dangers of market economics.
This book is an accessible and engaging introduction to Smith’s most important contributions to philosophy. Beginning with an introductory chapter on Smith’s life, writings and readings, Eric Schliesser locates Smith in his immediate social (Scottish and European) and philosophical (Hume, Hutcheson, Mandeville, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Butler, Hobbes, Spinoza, Newton, Voltaire) context. Later chapters analyse key concepts in his core moral, political and metaphysical theories (sympathy, self-interest, division of labor), before turning to Smith's contribution to areas of ongoing philosophical interest, especially philosophy of science, and the metaphysics of mind and self. Schliesser concludes by summarising Smith's complicated legacy in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, and explores how Smith is being 're-discovered' in contemporary moral philosophy.
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