Adam Smith's Moral and Political Philosophy

Adam Smith's Moral and Political Philosophy

Adam Smith's Moral and Political Philosophy

Adam Smith's Moral and Political Philosophy

Excerpt

Four intellectual evironments shaped the mind of Adam Smith: the University of Glasgow, where he went as a student at the age of 14 in 1737 and where he was a professor from 1749-1763; Oxford University, whither he was sent in 1740 by his parents to prepare for orders in the church and where he apparently spent his six years studying, instead, rhetoric and belles-lettres; pre-Revolutionary France, where he visited for the greater part of three years (1764- 1766); and Edinburgh, where he gave public lectures (1747-1748), where he was appointed to the Board of Customs in 1778, and where he spent much of his leisure during the closing years of his life (he died in 1790) in the private company of a distinguished and enlightened circle of friends and scholars, among them David Hume and Lord Kames.

At Glasgow his professor of Moral Philosophy was Francis Hutcheson, to whose chair Smith succeeded in 1752. In addition to moral philosophy he studied at Glasgow rational or logical philosophy and a little natural philosophy. His studies in logic and rhetoric were continued at Oxford, and his first appointment at Glasgow (1749) was to the chair of Logic. According to John Millar, soon after his appointment Smith "saw the necessity of departing widely from the plan that had been followed by his predecessors, and of directing the attention of his pupils to studies of a more interesting and useful nature than the logic and metaphysics of the schools. Accordingly, after exhibiting a general view of the powers of the mind, and explaining so much of the ancient logic as was requisite to gratify curiosity with respect to an artificial method of reasoning, which had once occupied the universal attention of the learned, he dedicated all the rest of his time to the delivery of a system of rhetoric and belles lettres.... The most useful part of metaphysics arises from an examination of the several ways of communicating our thoughts by speech." In other words, Smith reproduced and expanded what he had learned . . .

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