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2022 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

1. Introduction

Authors : Andreas Ortmann, Benoît Walraevens

Published in: Adam Smith’s System

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

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Abstract

Over the last couple of decades, there has been a considerable re-appreciation of Smith’s work. It was fueled by the Glasgow edition of Smith’s then known complete works and its popularization by the Liberty Fund at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s.

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Footnotes
1
The Adam Smith problem is the claim that the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations started from different basic assumptions about human nature. Tribe (2008) has summarized masterfully the relevant literature and makes a persuasive case why the problem is ultimately the result of a lack of acknowledgment of biographical details that happen to matter.
 
2
Puzzlingly, in particular in light of Bryce’s excellent introduction in which he stressed that (even) “Smith’s students must have noted the multi-faceted relationship between the ethics and rhetoric” (Bryce 1985, p. 9), the editors of the Glasgow edition decided to remove it from the place that Smith had intended for it, for good reason: “Just as we act under the eye of an impartial spectator within ourselves, the creation of an imaginative self-projection into an outsider whose standards and responses were constructed by sympathy or ability to feel as he does, so our language is enabled to communicate our thoughts and ‘affections’ (i.e., inclinations) by our ability to predict its effect on our hearer. This is meant by seeing the Rhetoric and TMS as two halves of one system, and not merely at occasional points of contact. The connection of ‘sympathy’ as a rhetorical instrument with the vision of speech and personality as an organic unity need not be labored. Again, it should be obvious how often Smith’s concern is with the sharing of sentiments and attitudes rather than mere ideas or facts. The art of persuasion are close to his heart for this reason” (Bryce 1985, pp. 18–19). The main edition and translation of TMS in French by Biziou, Pradeau, & Gauthier also does not reproduce Smith’s essay on the origin and evolution of language. A notable exception is Hanley’s Penguin Classics edition of TMS which includes that essay.
 
3
Tony Aspromourgos (personal communication) expressed his reservation about our claim as follows: “book V as the ‘central chapter’ and ‘key Book’ of WN. I’m very skeptical of that being AS’s intention. If he really believed that, it’s a strange rhetorical strategy to place it at the end of what is, altogether, a very big book. How many readers did he expect would actually read the whole book (which is more or less what would be required, in order for a reader to be exposed to the rhetorical strategy you subsequently propose)?” Fair enough. It bears remembering though that the book distilled, and expanded, on lectures that in total were as long (e.g., recall LRBL), and that when Smith wrote the book, it did compete with significantly fewer alternatives for interested readers’ attention. Plus the issue of the American question was the topic of the day in British politics, so surely interested parties (including those that knew that Smith advised some important politicians) (see Hill 2021) were curious to hear what the famous author of the TMS had to say about it. The point is that our conjecture about his rhetorical strategy makes sense of observations by the likes of Pack (2010) and Sagar (2021) who stress that, discussing a topic like the conspiracy of merchants, one has to make sense of seemingly contradictory statements about them that are located in very different parts of the book. Our explanation provides a simple explanation that makes sense of this dispersion of observations.
 
4
Binmore uses these terms in his various writings to describe broadly two classes of game theory. One, the eductive one, is typically taught in standard social sciences classes, normal-form, extensive-form, and all. The other, the evolutive one, starts with normal-form formulations of, say, a principal-agent game and defines on it evolutionary processes involving repeated interactions of principals and agents under various conditions. One of the key insights from the resultant literature is that the fixed points of such constructed evolutionary processes, under reasonable restrictions on the dynamics, are the Nash equilibria of the underlying normal-form game that was used to define the evolutionary process. A classic paper demonstrating this result is Friedman (1991).
 
5
For the record, Schelling was less than forthcoming in acknowledging what he—clearly—owed Smith.
 
6
Smith considered himself first and foremost a moral philosopher, as attested for example by his willingness to sign his WN as “Adam Smith, Formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow” (Smith 1981, p. 1). And it bears repeating that Smith saw himself, maybe even more so, from the very beginning as a philosopher: As Stewart reported famously (after Smith had died), Smith thought that “[t]he best method of explaining and illustrating the various powers of the human mind, the most useful parts of metaphysics, arises from an examination of the several ways of communicating our thoughts by speech, and from an attention to the principles of those literary compositions which contribute to persuasion or entertainment” (Stewart 1795 in Smith 1982, p. 274).
 
7
To avoid misunderstandings, we note here and make clear in the chapter in detail that we see these three reasoning routines, in particular the first and the third, to be on the same level. The first is the discovery of the laws of motion of the machine called natural and/or social world. This discovery—for the social world in particular—requires evolutionary processes whose beginnings can only be reconstructed through historical theorizing. The second reasoning routine or, maybe better, set of reasoning routines, rides on the first and/or the third in that it highlights the interactive nature of the interactions that we consider. The numbering of the reasoning routines is therefore just a convention without deep meaning.
 
8
See, as mentioned earlier, Smith’s early use, reported by Stewart, of the method of “conjectural and theoretical history” in his analysis of the origin of languages and moral sentiments.
 
9
“Questions of the origins of society led to imaginative debates throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Two main camps were in evidence: (1) those who believed that humans formed societies because they were induced by ‘social contracts’ to do so (Locke) and (2) those who believed they were coerced or induced into societies by powerful sovereigns (Hobbes)” (Kennedy 2010 [2008] p. 18). Kennedy points out that these competing views of society’s origin were supported by travelers’ accounts of “savage” societies in America, Africa, and the Pacific Islands that left considerable room for historical historizing, or “theoretical or conjectural history” (Stewart 1795 in Smith 1982, pp. 292‒293). Contra Kennedy, we believe that Scots such as Hume and Smith really constituted a third and indeed very consequential and rather revolutionary camp.
 
10
Sagar (2017) argues that Smith rejected Hume’s moral theory but for our purpose here—which focuses on the acquisition of self-command and the evolutionary process of learning socially acceptable behavior on which the acquisition of self-command surfs—this is not of consequence, as “Smith was in fact in broad agreement with Hume’s theoretical position regarding sociability, even if he thought that technical aspects of Hume’s argument needed alteration” (p. 691).
 
11
This is the appropriate place to mention that West (1976) is equally excellent. We find it puzzling that many alleged Smith scholars either ignore, or really do not know, the book which provides a very good discussion of Smith last but not least because West traces—somewhat similar to what the equally outstanding Nicholson and Kennedy have done—some of Smith’s ideas to specific phases in Smith’s life (e.g., the Canal du Midi discussion; see West 1976, pp. 156‒158).
 
12
This is not news to those who have followed the literature on Smith closely post-Glasgow/Liberty edition in the late seventies and early eighties but it remains a prominent point of view among those that have not and that, maybe for political reasons, claim Smith to be the father of their understanding of modern economics. It is the latter kind of people that people like Kennedy (2005, 2010 [2008], 2017) have taken on. See also Huehn & Dierksmeier (2016).
 
13
“[T]hat is, I interpret Smith’s writings in light of each other.”
 
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Metadata
Title
Introduction
Authors
Andreas Ortmann
Benoît Walraevens
Copyright Year
2022
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-99704-5_1