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Summary Adam Smith (1723-1790) is one of the key philosophical figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. Best known for his An Inquiry of into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), considered the first work in modern political economy, his philosophical contribution lies mainly with his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). Here he develops a sentimentalist view of moral judgment as based on sympathy, and which includes the central regulative concept of an impartial spectator - a notion that much subsequent moral philosophy will build on (or critically oppose). The main issues covered in the category, besides editions of Smith's works, relate mainly to (1) the relation between his economical theory and his moral philosophy (known as the "Adam Smith problem"); (2) scholarly work on his moral philosophy, and its relation to other major figures such as David Hume, on whom Smith heavily draws but also crucially differs from.
Key works Some editions of Smith's main works: Smith 2002 (1759), Smith 1976 (1776), Smith 1978. For a classical 20th century meta-ethical reprisal (with significant differences) of Smith's impartial spectator, see Firth 1951. In recent years Smith's philosophy has received a great deal of attention. Key scholarly works include: Raphael 2007, a well-rounded exposition of Smith's moral philosophy; Montes 2003, centering on the notion of sympathy and Smith's methodology. Still relevant is Haakonssen 1981, an extended comparison between Smith and Hume on justice. On the 'Adam Smith problem', key works are Otteson 2002 and Fleischacker 2004: both originally and exhaustively connect Smith's economical theory with his moral philosophy and psychology.
Introductions On Smith's moral and political philosophy Fleischacker 2013 is a good starting point. Depending on focus, various essays contained in Brown & Fleischacker 2010 and in Berry et al 2013 can provide comprehensive guidance on different aspects of Smith's work, his context, and his influence.
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  1. Fraternity From Smith to Tawney.Colin Bird - manuscript
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  2. The Judgment of Adam.Wayne Martin - manuscript
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  3. Smith, Adam.Author unknown - manuscript
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  4. Adam Smith's Theory of the Impartial Spectator as Distinct From Ideal Observer Theories: A Reply to Allan Gibbard?Jon Petty - unknown - Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 20.
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  5. Empathy and the Value of Humane Understanding.Olivia Bailey - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  6. The Affective Extension of ‘Family’ in the Context of Changing Elite Business Networks.Zografia Bika & Michael L. Frazer - forthcoming - Human Relations.
    Drawing on 49 oral-history interviews with Scottish family business owner-managers, six key-informant interviews, and secondary sources, this interdisciplinary study analyses the decline of kinship-based connections and the emergence of new kinds of elite networks around the 1980s. As the socioeconomic context changed rapidly during this time, cooperation built primarily around literal family ties could not survive unaltered. Instead of finding unity through bio-legal family connections, elite networks now came to redefine their ‘family businesses’ in terms of affectively loaded ‘family values’ (...)
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  7. Active Powers of the Human Mind.Ruth Boeker - forthcoming - In Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, vol. 2. Oxford:
  8. Adam Smith's Model of Man.Manfred J. Holler, Juhana Lemetti & Eva Piirimae - forthcoming - Acta Philosophica Fennica: Human Nature as the Basis of Morality and Society in Early Modern Philosophy.
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  9. Adam Smith: 18th Century Sentimentalist or 20th Century Rationalist?Matthias Hühn - forthcoming - Business Ethics Journal Review:22-27.
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  10. The Historical Adam.A. McIntyre - forthcoming - Perspectives on Science And.
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  11. To Disorder and Discompose the Whole Machine of the World: Adam Smith, Epicurus and Lucretius.Warren Montag - forthcoming - Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia.
  12. Adam Smith as Sociologist.Albert Salomon - forthcoming - Social Research.
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  13. A Diagrammatic Presentation of Adam Smith's Growth Model.William O. Thweatt - forthcoming - Social Research.
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  14. Achtung in Kant and Smith.Michael H. Walschots - forthcoming - Kant-Studien.
    Although it is clear that Kant read Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (TMS) soon after it was translated into German in 1770, work remains to be done in order to determine whether or not Smith had a lasting influence on Kant’s moral philosophy, and in what way. One of Kant’s main reasons for reading Smith would have been the latter’s careful analysis of the passions and human motivation and in this paper I illustrate a fairly substantial, but underappreciated, way (...)
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  15. Adam Smith.Samuel Fleischacker - 2021 - Routledge.
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  16. Review of Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life by Ryan Patrick Hanley. [REVIEW]Michael L. Frazer - 2020 - Perspectives on Politics 18 (2):596-597.
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  17. In Adam Smith’s Own Words: The Role of Virtues in the Relationship Between Free Market Economies and Societal Flourishing, A Semantic Network Data-Mining Approach.Johan Graafland & Thomas R. Wells - 2020 - Journal of Business Ethics 2020.
    Among business ethicists, Adam Smith is widely viewed as the defender of an amoral if not anti-moral economics in which individuals’ pursuit of their private self-interest is converted by an ‘invisible hand’ into shared economic prosperity. This is often justified by reference to a select few quotations from The Wealth of Nations. We use new empirical methods to investigate what Smith actually had to say, firstly about the relationship between free market institutions and individuals’ moral virtues, and secondly about the (...)
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  18. Adam Smith's Sentimentalist Conception of Self-Control.Lauren Kopajtic - 2020 - The Adam Smith Review 12:7-27.
    A recent wave of scholarship has challenged the traditional way of understanding of self-command in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments as ‘Stoic’ self-command. But the two most thorough alternative interpretations maintain a strong connection between self-command and rationalism, and thus apparently stand opposed to Smith’s overt allegiance to sentimentalism. In this paper I argue that we can and should interpret self-command in the context of Smith’s larger sentimentalist framework, and that when we do, we can see that self-command is (...)
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  19. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith: A Philosophical Encounter by Charles L. Griswold. [REVIEW]Lauren Kopajtic - 2020 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (4):819-820.
    In this intricate, careful, and compelling book, Griswold stages an extended encounter between two towering figures of Enlightenment thought: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith. While Rousseau and Smith were known to each other, they had nothing like the "encounter" that Rousseau and David Hume had, for example. Smith commented on Rousseau's views, particularly those found in the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, in his 1756 "Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review" as well as in his The Theory (...)
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  20. Adam Smith and the Stoic Principle of Suicide.Getty L. Lustila - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (2):350-363.
    A substantial portion of Adam Smith's discussion of Stoicism in TMS VII is dedicated to the Stoic “principle of suicide,” according to which suicide is sometimes morally required. While scholars agree that Stoicism exercised considerable influence over Smith, no recent work has explored his views on suicide, despite the central role it plays in his treatment of Stoicism. I argue that Smith opposes the principle of suicide on both epistemic and moral grounds, providing an important critique of Stoicism. I also (...)
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  21. Speech, the Affective, and the Insult in Not Being Believed: Rousseau and Adam Smith.Byron Davies - 2019 - The Adam Smith Review 11:53-66.
    In this paper, I investigate under-explored moments in Rousseau’s and Adam Smith’s writings in which each presents speech, and particularly testimony, as a manifestation of the desire for others’ recognition. I begin by considering some features of Rousseau’s understanding of amour-propre (or the desire for recognition from others) as well as that desire’s relevance for the conception of vocal speech (as in its nature passional) at the center of Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages. Since a feeling of insult (...)
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  22. The Vicegerent of God? Adam Smith on the Authority of the Impartial Spectator.Lauren Kopajtic - 2019 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 17 (1):61-78.
    It has been claimed that Adam Smith, like David Hume, has a ‘reflective endorsement’ account of the authority of morality. On such a view, our moral faculties and notions are justified insofar as they pass reflective scrutiny. But Smith's moral philosophy, unlike Hume's, is also peppered with references to God, to divine law, and to our being ‘set up’ in a specific way so as to best attain what is good and useful for us. This language suggests that there is (...)
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  23. The Ideological Matrix of Science: Natural Selection and Immunity as Case Studies.Agustin Ostachuk - 2019 - Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 15 (1):182-213.
    The modern concept of ideology was established by the liberal politician and philosopher Destutt de Tracy, with the objective of creating an all-embracing and general science of ideas, which followed the sensualist and empiricist trend initiated by Locke that culminated in the positivism of Comte. Natural selection and immunity are two key concepts in the history of biology that were strongly based on the Malthusian concept of struggle for existence. This concept wrongly assumed that population grew faster than the means (...)
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  24. The Routledge Guidebook to Smith's Wealth of Nations.Maria Pia Paganelli - 2019 - Routledge.
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  25. Reasoning with the Exclusionary Other: Classical Scenes for a Postradical Horizon.Carlos Palacios - 2019 - Critical Inquiry 46 (1):97-117.
    Thanks to Michel Foucault, one might say it has become possible to conceive that the political relevance of humanity in modern thought does not have to do with its “philosophical essence” but rather with its “nonessence.” Yet this very idea surfaced earlier in Western thought, at the time of the revolutionary turn towards a politicized humanitarianism, and helped to shape some crucial political strategies making up modern liberal democracy. Its potential eluded even Foucault. I contend that tracing the contours of (...)
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  26. The Limits of Sympathetic Concern and Moral Consideration in Adam Smith.Ryan Pollock - 2019 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 36 (3):257-277.
    Smith thinks it possible to sympathize with certain non-sentient beings, such as the human dead. Consequently, some commentators argue that Smith’s theory supports ecocentrism. I reject that Smith’s theory has this implication. Sympathizers in Smith’s theory can imagine themselves as non-sentient beings, but they will lack the relevant evaluative concerns. The situation of a non-sentient being, as that being confronts the situation, remains inaccessible to the sympathizer. I will also address the limits of sympathetic concern within Smith’s theory,; highlight a (...)
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  27. Vanité, orgueil et self-deceit : l’estime de soi excessive dans la Théorie des Sentiments Moraux d’Adam Smith.Benoît Walraevens - 2019 - Revue de Philosophie Économique 20 (2):3-39.
    This paper studies how in his Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith answered to Mandeville on the role of pride and vanity in the economic and social dynamics of commercial societies. We show why vanity supersedes pride in his analysis and how he offers a more positive view of these two passions. We study in particular the economic and social consequences of pride and vanity and describe the psychological foundations of excessive self-esteem that these passions entail.
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  28. What Adam Smith Really Thought Should Not Matter.Thomas R. Wells - 2019 - Business Ethics Journal Review 7 (7):40-46.
    Hühn and Dierksmeier argue that a better understanding of Adam Smith’s work would improve business ethics research and education. I worry that their approach encourages two scholarly sins. First, anachronistic historiography in which we distort Smith’s ideas by making him answer questions about contemporary debates in CSR theory. Second, treating him as a prophet by assuming that finding out what Smith would have thought about it is the right way to answer such questions.
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  29. The Ethics and Epistemology of Empathy.Olivia Bailey - 2018 - Dissertation, Harvard University
    Empathy is a familiar form of emotionally charged imaginative perspective taking. In this dissertation I offer an account of empathy’s moral importance that emphasizes the special value of its unique epistemic functions. Specifically, I defend what I call the humane understanding thesis: empathy is the source of a distinct epistemic good, humane understanding, which consists in the appreciation of the intelligibility of others’ emotional perceptions, and humane understanding is necessary for fully virtuous relations with other people. Adam Smith held that (...)
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  30. Ape Imagination? A Sentimentalist Critique of Frans de Waal’s Gradualist Theory of Human Morality.Paul Carron - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):22.
    This essay draws on Adam Smith’s moral sentimentalism to critique primatologist Frans de Waal’s gradualist theory of human morality. De Waal has spent his career arguing for continuity between primate behavior and human morality, proposing that empathy is a primary moral building block evident in primate behavior. Smith’s moral sentimentalism—with its emphasis on the role of sympathy in moral virtue—provides the philosophical framework for de Waal’s understanding of morality. Smith’s notion of sympathy and the imagination involved in sympathy is qualitatively (...)
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  31. Invisible Beings. Adam Smith’s Lectures on Natural Religion.Sergio Cremaschi - 2018 - In Fonna Forman (ed.), The Adam SMith Review 10. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 230-253.
    I intend to dismantle a piece of historiographic mythology created by self-styled ‘Revisionists’ (Hill, Alvey, Oslington, etc.). According to the myth, Adam Smith endorsed several of the traditional proofs of God’s existence; he believed that the order existing in the world is a morally good order implemented by Divine Providence; he believed that evil in the world is part of an all-encompassing Divine Plan; and that the ‘invisible hand’ is the hand of the Christian God who leads the rich to (...)
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  32. Jalousie.Frédéric Minner - 2018 - Encyclopédie Philosophique.
    On conçoit souvent la jalousie comme une émotion ayant pour objet les relations de proximité (amour, amitié, fratrie, etc.). Elle a généralement mauvaise presse et est typiquement envisagée comme une émotion moralement condamnable, voire comme un vice. Or, la jalousie ne porte pas uniquement sur les relations de proximité : elle peut également porter sur divers biens (prestige, richesses, biens matériels, privilèges, etc.). Par ailleurs, certains auteurs soutiennent que des cas de jalousie pourraient être moralement justifiés, voire que la jalousie (...)
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  33. Moral Tuning.Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen, Jill Halstead & Rasmus T. Slaattelid - 2018 - Metaphilosophy 49 (4):435-458.
    Can a set of musical metaphors in a treatise on ethics reveal something about the nature and source of moral autonomy? This article argues that it can. It shows how metaphorical usage of words like tone, pitch, and concord in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments can be understood as elements of an analogical model for morality. What this model tells us about morality depends on how we conceptualise music. In contrast to earlier interpretations of Smith's metaphors that have seen (...)
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  34. A Comparison between Aristotle and Adam Smith on the Concepts of Justice.Elena Yi-Jia Zeng - 2018 - Shih Yuan, Journal of NTU History Department 9:33-61.
    The concept of Justice constitutes a requisite foundation in Aristotle’s and Adam Smith’s (1723-1790) moral thought. This essay examines Smith’s understanding and application of the Aristotelian concept of justice through a comparative study, which elucidates the prima facie resemblance between Smith’s and Aristotle’s moral thought. It also attests that both the thinkers acknowledge the external and internal meaning of justice, namely, the harmony of the whole society and the moral agent’s state of character. Smith’s commitment to the theory of justice (...)
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  35. A Review of Alexander Broadie's A History of Scottish Philosophy. [REVIEW]Elena Yi-Jia Zeng - 2018 - NTU Philosophical Review 56:177-202.
    Scottish philosophy and intellectual history have become the increasingly fashionable fields of academic studies. Alexander Broadie, one of the pioneers and an accomplished scholar of the Scottish Enlightenment, returns to the basic question, namely, “what is Scottish philosophy?”, and presents a comprehensive work on the history of Scottish philosophy. Broadie successfully elucidates the nature and significance of Scottish philosophy both historically and philosophically. He argues that Scottish philosophy must be studied in its historical context, for it is not only a (...)
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  36. Adam Smith on Savages.Sergio Cremaschi - 2017 - Revue de Philosophie Économique 18 (1):13-36.
    I argue that (i) even though Adam Smith’s four stages theory has been criticized with good reasons as both vitiated by undue generalization from modern Europe to the first stage and made bottom-heavy by assumptions of modern episteme, yet, in his writings an alternative view emerges where the savage is not just crushed under the weight of want and isolation but is endowed with imagination and sympathy; (ii) his picture of the fourth stage is, far from a triumphal apology of (...)
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  37. Adam Smith’s Irony and the Invisible Hand.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2017 - Iberian Journal of the History of Economic Thought 4 (1):43-62.
    I reconstruct Adam Smith’s theory of irony and its application. I illustrate how he defines it as a combination of something “grand” with something “mean” and how this is consistent with his anti-Cartesian and post-skeptic epistemology. I suggest that, for Smith, “systems” of any kind, from Cartesian physics to philosophical monotheism, Stoic ethics, and the “mercantile system” draw their apparent plausibility from some disease of human imagination. I argue that in every field, including political economy, in his view, the philosopher’s (...)
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  38. Recovering Adam Smith’s Virtue Ethics for Commercial Society.J. J. Graafland & Thomas R. Wells - 2017 - In A. J. G. Sison (ed.), Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. Dordrecht, Netherlands:
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  39. Love’s Enlightenment: Rethinking Charity in Modernity.Ryan Patrick Hanley - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
    A number of prominent moral philosophers and political theorists have recently called for a recovery of love. But what do we mean when we speak of love today? Love's Enlightenment examines four key conceptions of other-directedness that transformed the meaning of love and helped to shape the way we understand love today: Hume's theory of humanity, Rousseau's theory of pity, Smith's theory of sympathy, and Kant's theory of love. It argues that these four Enlightenment theories are united by a shared (...)
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  40. Adam Smith.Lewis Powell - 2017 - In Benjamin Hill Margaret Cameron (ed.), Sourcebook in the History of Philosophy of Language. pp. 853-858.
    Smith proposes an account of how languages developed. He did so not as historian, but as a philosopher with a special concern about how a nominalist could account for general terms. Names for individuals are taken as fairly unproblematic – say ‘Thames’ and ‘Avon’ for each of the respective rivers. But whence the word ‘river,’ applicable to more than one, if all that exist are particular objects? Smith’s view is not the usual one, according to which people deploy a powerful (...)
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  41. Love Redirected: On Adam Smith's Love of Praiseworthiness.Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen - 2017 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 15 (1):101-123.
    Why be moral? Why, in the language of Adam Smith, act on what you think is praiseworthy even when it does not get you praise from other people? Because, answers Smith, you love praiseworthiness. But what is this love of praiseworthiness, and where does it come from? In this article, 1) I argue that we start to love praiseworthiness when we redirect our love of praise away from other people toward the ‘impartial spectator’-aspect of ourselves, and 2) show how this (...)
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  42. Alokacyjne konsekwencje wprowadzenia prywatnych dodatkowych/równoległych ubezpieczeń zdrowotnych w społeczeństwach kierujących się egoizmem, altruizmem lub zawiścią – perspektywa ekonomiczna.Christoph Sowada - 2017 - Diametros 51:90-112.
    Assessing the implementation of various instruments and solutions in a healthcare system, we cannot limit ourselves to examining their impact on the fulfillment of the criteria of justice and equity alone. Another important social objective is to maximize social welfare under the conditions of the scarcity of resources. The aim of the article is to analyze the impact on social welfare of the implementation of private insurance into the existing system of public security, with a view to the following factors: (...)
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  43. Hume on Church Establishments, Secular Politics and History.Aaron Szymkowiak - 2017 - Diametros 54:95-117.
    In the third volume of the History of England, David Hume considers the political ramifications of the Protestant reformation with a “Digression concerning the ecclesiastical state.” He advocates the establishment of a state church, believing it will dampen religious “enthusiasm” in the polity. Unlike later secularization theorists, Hume assumes an intractable basis for religion in the human passions. Tensions in Hume’s “cooptation” strategy are evident from Adam Smith’s famous attack upon it in section five of The Wealth of Nations, and (...)
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  44. The Concept of Need in Adam Smith.Toru Yamamori - 2017 - Cambridge Journal of Economics 2 (41):327-347.
    There is no room for the concept of need in the prevailing neoclassical school of economics. Not so, however, in classical political economy. Through close analysis in this paper, I wish to trace the concept’s prominence in Adam Smith’s thought and to fine-tune its definitional aspects. The thrust of Smith’s argument is to delineate the mechanism via which the needs of the poorest in society are satisfied. Grounded in an understanding of need as limited and exhaustive rather than infinite, like (...)
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  45. De Dicto Moral Desires and the Moral Sentiments: Adam Smith on the Role of De Dicto Moral Desires in the Virtuous Agent.Archer Alfred - 2016 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 33 (4):327-346.
    What role should a motivation to do the right thing, read de dicto, play in the life of a virtuous agent? According to a prominent argument from Michael Smith, those who are only motivated by such a desire are moral fetishists. Since Smith’s argument, a number of philosophers have examined what role this desire would play in the life of the morally virtuous agent. My primary aim in this paper is an historical one. I will show that much of this (...)
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  46. Stoicism and the Scottish Enlightenment.Christian Maurer - 2016 - In John Sellars (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition. Routledge. pp. 254-269.
  47. Moral Sense Theory and the Development of Kant's Ethics.Michael Walschots - 2016 - Dissertation, University of Western Ontario
    This dissertation investigates a number of ways in which an eighteenth century British philosophical movement known as “moral sense theory” influenced the development of German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) moral theory. I illustrate that Kant found both moral sense theory’s conception of moral judgement and its conception of moral motivation appealing during the earliest stage of his philosophical development, but eventually came to reject its conception of moral judgement, though even in his early writings Kant preserves certain features of its (...)
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  48. Nature and Morality in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments.Abdullah Onur Aktaş - 2015 - Philosophical Inquiry 39 (2):105-109.
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  49. Modern Greatness of Soul in Hume and Smith.Andrew J. Corsa - 2015 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2.
    I contend that Adam Smith and David Hume offer re-interpretations of Aristotle’s notion of greatness of soul, focusing on the kind of magnanimity Aristotle attributes to Socrates. Someone with Socratic magnanimity is worthy of honor, responds moderately to fortune, and is virtuous—just and benevolent. Recent theorists err in claiming that magnanimity is less important to Hume’s account of human excellence than benevolence. In fact, benevolence is a necessary ingredient for the best sort of greatness. Smith’s “Letter to Strahan” attributes this (...)
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  50. The World as a Garden: A Philosophical Analysis of Natural Capital in Economics.C. Tyler DesRoches - 2015 - Dissertation, University of British Columbia
    This dissertation undertakes a philosophical analysis of “natural capital” and argues that this concept has prompted economists to view Nature in a radically novel manner. Formerly, economists referred to Nature and natural products as a collection of inert materials to be drawn upon in isolation and then rearranged by human agents to produce commodities. More recently, nature is depicted as a collection of active, modifiable, and economically valuable processes, often construed as ecosystems that produce marketable goods and services gratis. Nature (...)
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