Adam Smith's treatment of the Greeks in The theory of moral sentiments: the case of Aristotle

Temple-Smith, Richard (2007) Adam Smith's treatment of the Greeks in The theory of moral sentiments: the case of Aristotle. In: New perspectives on Adam Smith's The theory of moral sentiments. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited , Cheltenham, United Kingdom , pp. 29-46. ISBN 978 1 84542 480 0


To question the role of nature and virtue in The Theory of Moral Sentiments is to question Adam Smith's reliance on the classical authors who integrated a concept of nature into their teaching on moral virtue. Given that Smith was
well versed in the classics and was a scholar of both Greek and Latin (Stewart, [1793] 1982, p. 10; Smith, [1759] 1984, Introduction, p. 5; Foley, 1974, p. 220; Vivenza, 2001, p. 36), it is not surprising that he refers to Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. What is surprising is the quite brief treatment that he gives to them; in particular to Aristotle, whose doctrine
of moral and intellectual virtue depends upon definitive concepts of nature and human nature. Why does Smith treat Aristotle in this manner? Is his reference to Aristotle's doctrine a means to an end, a device chosen to lend authority to his own (McNamara, 2004, p. 185)? Is it an example of the 'indirect' influence of the classics on Smith (Vivenza, 2001, p. 2)? Could it be that Smith is presenting a radical theory with no foundation in a theory of human nature (Rothschild, 2004, p. 116)? Finally, could it be that Smith, as he asserts, adopts wholly, or in part, Aristotle's concept of nature and thereby implies correspondence of his teaching with it? The purpose of this chapter is to seek answers to such questions by comparing the relationship between nature and virtue in The Theory of Moral Sentiments with that evident in Aristotle. While important, Smith's treatment of Plato and the Stoics is not addressed.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to chapter due to publisher copyright restrictions. Print copy held in USQ Library at call no. 170 New.
Depositing User: ePrints Administrator
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - School of Accounting, Economics and Finance
Date Deposited: 12 May 2010 04:44
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2010 07:22
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adam Smith, Aristotle, moral sense
Fields of Research : 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220399 Philosophy not elsewhere classified
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields > 220209 History of Ideas
16 Studies in Human Society > 1606 Political Science > 160609 Political Theory and Political Philosophy
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

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