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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. added 2020-06-02
    T Raffaelli, La Ricchezza Delle Nazioni di Adam Smith. Introduzione Alla Lettura. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2002 - European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 9 (1):148-149.
  2. added 2020-05-24
    Honour, Face and Reputation in Political Theory.Peter Olsthoom - 2008 - European Journal of Political Theory 7 (4):472-491.
    Until fairly recently it was not uncommon for political theorists to hold the view that people cannot be expected to act in accordance with the public interest without some incentive. Authors such as Marcus Tullius Cicero, John Locke, David Hume and Adam Smith, for instance, held that people often act in accordance with the public interest, but more from a concern for their honour and reputation than from a concern for the greater good. Today, most authors take a more demanding (...)
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  3. added 2020-05-11
    L Dumont, 'From Mandeville to Marx'. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1980 - Rivista Internazionale di Scienze Sociali 89 (2):743-748.
    Alongside the aspects of interest in the history of ideas in general, this text is of great interest to the economist and the philosopher of economics. The parts on Smith and Marx are a demonstration of how it is possible to make a history of scientific thought that explains the incongruities of the history of thought in front of which Schumpeter stops: these incongruities cease to be mysterious, and indeed they acquire full meaning if we accept the idea of considering (...)
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  4. added 2020-04-25
    S Rashid, The Myth of Adam Smith. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1999 - European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 6 (1):314-316.
    My objections are: first, we may ask whether the achievement of The Wealth of Nations has been that of creating a new and more encompassing conceptual framework where already existing theoretical elements could be integrated and whether the growth of knowledge could have originated from a growth in the consistency of a theoretical framework which synthesized already existing individual elements; secondly, we may ask whether Smith's "tendentious" presentation of the positions of both predecessors and opponents might be some kind of (...)
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  5. added 2020-04-24
    R Calderón Cuadrado, Armonía de Interéses y Modernidad. Radicales Del Pensamiento Económico. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1999 - European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 6 (4):652-653.
    I suggest that the image of Adam Smith suffers from an emphasis on the role of “utilitarian calculus”, besides on overlooking the role of a “Stoic” point of view from which vanity, selfishness, and even enlightened self-interest are ultimately valueless, and finally a restricted view of prudence.
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  6. added 2020-04-23
    JB Davis, The Theory of the Individual in Economics. Identity and Value. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2004 - History of Economic Ideas 12 (3):125-129.
    I argue that Adam Smith does more than providing an account of competitive behavior loosely linked to an underlying psychology since the joint between the complex psychology of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and the invisible hand pages in The Wealth of Nations explains why some of the basest affections, greed and ambition, prevail over other tendencies in certain social groups, namely merchants and manufacturers, in a commercial and urban society.
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  7. added 2020-04-17
    Review of M. Bessone and M. Biziou (Eds.), Adam Smith Philosophe. De la Morale À L’Économie Ou Philosophie du Libéralisme. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2011 - The Adam Smith Review 6:359-364.
    A discussion of a collection of essays by French scholars on Adam Smith, mainly but not exclusively, on his political theory.
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  8. added 2020-03-29
    La teoria dei sentimenti morali. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1996 - Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche 3 (1):199-206.
    A discussion of the Italian edition of Adam Smith's moral work edited by Eugenio Lecaldano.
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  9. added 2020-03-27
    Merchants, Master-Manufacturers and Greedy People. [REVIEW]Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2007 - History of Economic Ideas 15 (2):143-154.
    A discussion of McCloskey's argument for a bourgeois virtue ethics. I criticize his opposition of Adam Smith's and Kant's ethics, arguing that they share much more than the author believes. I criticize the idea that what is most respectable in modern liberal-democratic societies is a gift of Capitalism.
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  10. added 2020-03-04
    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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  11. added 2020-02-11
    Virtue by Consensus: The Moral Philosophy of Hutcheson, Hume and Adam Smith.Paul Russell - 1991 - Ethics 101 (4):873-875.
  12. added 2020-02-11
    A System of Social Science: Papers Relating to Adam Smith. Andrew S. Skinner.Warren J. Samuels - 1981 - Ethics 91 (4):689-691.
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  13. added 2020-02-06
    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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  14. added 2019-12-29
    Sviluppo economico.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi, Gianni Vaggi & Manfredo Araùjo de Oliveira - 2006 - In Virgilio Melchiorre (ed.), Enciclopedia Filosofica. Milan, Italy: Bompiani. pp. 11253-11257.
    A discussion of the origins of the very notion of development, its role in eocnomic thoery, and its discussion in applied ethics.
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  15. added 2019-12-29
    Steuart, James.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2006 - In Virgilio Melchiorre (ed.), Enciclopedia Filosofica. Milan, Italy: Bompiani. pp. 11087-11088.
    A short presentation of James Steuart's neglected philosophical publications as well as of his well-known economic contribution.
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  16. added 2019-12-29
    Smith, Adam.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2006 - In Virgilio Melchiorre (ed.), Enciclopedia Filosofica. Milan, Italy: Bompiani. pp. 10726-10730.
    A presentation of Adam Smith's epistemology, ethics, political theory and economics.
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  17. added 2019-12-26
    L'illuminismo scozzese e il newtonianismo morale.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1992 - In Maria Luisa Pesante & Marco Geuna (eds.), Interessi, passioni, convenzioni. Milano: Franco Angeli. pp. 41-76.
    The paper describes how a simple idea, that of a new foundation taking Galilean new natural philosophy as a model for moral philosophy, lead to unforeseen developments once the competition between a Cartesian and a Newtonian paradigm emerged. Those developments are reconstructed in Hume, Smith, Ferguson.
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  18. added 2019-12-26
    Adam Smith, l'economia politica e la filosofia morale.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1982 - In Luigi Ruggiu (ed.), Genesi dello spazio economico. Napoli, Italy: Guida. pp. 147-184.
    The paper discusses the relationship between Adam Smith’s economic doctrines and his ethical doctrines in the light of the “Lectures on Jurisprudence”. The main claim is a comparatively autonomous status of economic discourse, an autonomy granted not by dismissal of ethical claims but instead precisely by a given constellation of claims, on liberty, justice, equality, prudence and benevolence.
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  19. added 2019-12-11
    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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  20. added 2019-09-19
    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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  21. added 2019-09-12
    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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  22. added 2019-09-10
    Ordinamento del sapere, modelli metodologici ed economia politica in Adam Smith.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1981 - In Riccardo Faucci (ed.), Gli italiani e Bentham. Dalla felicità pubblica all'economia del benessere. Volume 1. Milano, Italy: Franco Angeli. pp. 153-163.
    A discussion, based on Pownall's reading of ‘The Wealth of Nations’, of the Newtonian heritage in Adam Smith's project of a moral science encompassing political economy as one of its sub-disciplines and refusing any essentialist grounding of the theory in ultimate characteristics of human nature.
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  23. added 2019-09-09
    Adam Smith.Aaron Garrett & Ryan Hanley - 2015 - In Aaron Garrett & James A. Harris (eds.), Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, Volume I: Morals, Politics, Art, Religion. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter provides an overview of the philosophy of Adam Smith by examining the place of history and the role of impartiality in his philosophy. A brief introduction to Smith and his writings is followed by discussions of impartiality and Smith’s engagement with the philosophical role of history and the historian. The section that follows focuses on Smith’s discussion of rights as providing a connection between his moral theory and history via the role of the impartial spectator. The chapter concludes (...)
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  24. added 2019-09-08
    Adam Smith e il concetto di ricchezza.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1986 - In Francesco Fagiani & Gabriella Valera (eds.), Categorie del reale e storiografia. Milano, Italy: Franco Angeli. pp. 289-299.
    The novelty in Smith’s way of looking at the economy is the discovery of a social character of wealth, something new in comparison with its definition in physical terms by the Physiocrats. The possibility of carrying out such an idealization was a result of the adoption of a Newtonian, as opposed to a Cartesian, epistemology, where an intermediate and provisional character of theoretical entities is explicitly accepted, dropping Cartesian strong epistemological realism.
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  25. added 2019-08-29
    Etica ed economia.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1986 - Il Progetto 6 (33):33-40.
    I sketch a history of the evolving relationship between ethics and economics as discourse, and I venture a few conjectures on interactions between such evolution and the evolving relationship between economic subsystem and moralities qua sub-systems in ancient, early modern and modern societies.
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  26. added 2019-08-29
    Adam Smith, Newtonianism and Political Economy.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1981 - Manuscrito. Revista Internacional de Filosofia 5 (1):117-134.
    The relationship between Adam Smith's official methodology and his own actual theoretical practice as a social scientist may be grasped only against the background of the Humean project of a Moral Newtonianism. The main features in Smith's methodology are: (i) the provisional character of explanatory principles; (ii) 'internal' criteria of truth; (iii) the acknowledgement of an imaginative aspect in principles, with the related problem of the relationship between internal truth and external truth, in terms of mirroring of 'real' causes. Smith's (...)
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  27. added 2019-08-25
    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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  28. added 2019-08-25
    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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  29. added 2019-08-06
    La herencia newtoniana en la economía política del siglo XVIII.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1998 - In Alberto Elena, Javier Ordóñez & Mariano Colubi (eds.), Después de Newton: ciencia y sociedad durante la Primera Revolución Industrial. Barcelona: Anthropos. pp. 77-101.
    The chapter reconstructs the developments of a basic idea, namely the physical-moral analogy, in the works of the Scottish Enlighteners. The opposition of a 'Newtonian' to a 'Cartesian' approach yields the program of an 'experimental' moral science. This program, in turn, was never implemented but yielded nonetheless an unintended result the shaping of political economy as an empirical science, distinguished to a point from moral philosophy and theology.
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  30. added 2019-08-06
    Il commercio, le passioni, la virtù. Discussioni su etica ed economia fra Seicento e Settecento.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 1993 - In Mauro Magatti (ed.), La porta stretta. Etica ed economia negli anni '90. Milan, Italy: Franco Angeli. pp. 33-60.
    The chapter reconstructs the eighteenth-century discussion on commerce and virtue in the light of Hirschman's, Pocock's, Polanyi's, and Viner's interpretations of that discussion. The claims put forth are: the history of the emerging of modern market society has been heavily conditioned by a teleological and deterministic interpretation of history; the eighteenth-century discussion cannot be read neither in terms of ideologies nor in terms of the history of economic analysis; a 'strategic' reading is fruitful in so far as it allows two-ways (...)
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  31. added 2019-07-25
    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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  32. added 2019-06-06
    Adam Smith’s Bourgeois Virtues in Competition.Thomas Wells & Johan Graafland - 2012 - Business Ethics Quarterly 22 (2):319-350.
    Whether or not capitalism is compatible with ethics is a long standing dispute. We take up an approach to virtue ethics inspired by Adam Smith and consider how market competition influences the virtues most associated with modern commercial society. Up to a point, competition nurtures and supports such virtues as prudence, temperance, civility, industriousness and honesty. But there are also various mechanisms by which competition can have deleterious effects on the institutions and incentives necessary for sustaining even these most commercially (...)
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  33. added 2019-06-06
    Pablo Sánchez Garrido: Raíces intelectuales de Amartya Sen. Aristóteles, Adam Smith y Karl Marx, Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, 2008, 574 pp. [REVIEW]Javier Iguíñiz - 2010 - Areté. Revista de Filosofía 22 (1):149-157.
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  34. added 2019-06-06
    Adam Smith and the Great Mind Fallacy: James R. Otteson.James R. Otteson - 2010 - Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (1):276-304.
    Adam Smith raised a series of obstacles to effective large-scale social planning. In this paper, I draw these Smithian obstacles together to construct what I call the “Great Mind Fallacy,” or the belief that there exists some person or persons who can overcome the obstacles Smith raises. The putative scope of the Great Mind Fallacy is larger than one might initially suppose, which I demonstrate by reviewing several contemporary thinkers who would seem to commit it. I then address two ways (...)
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  35. added 2019-06-06
    Review: Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue. [REVIEW]Robert S. Fudge - 2010 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 8 (2):213-216.
  36. added 2019-06-06
    Martin J. S. Rudwick, Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Pp. Xxii+614. ISBN 978-0-226-73128-5. £23.50. [REVIEW]Claudine Cohen - 2009 - British Journal for the History of Science 42 (3):434.
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  37. added 2019-06-06
    Review of The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith. [REVIEW]Vivienne Brown - 2008 - Economics and Philosophy 24 (2):259-265.
  38. added 2019-06-06
    “Tumultuous Combinations”: Transindividuality in Adam Smith and Spinoza.Warren Montag - 2007 - Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 28 (1):117-158.
  39. added 2019-06-06
    Review: The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith. [REVIEW]Robert Fudge - 2007 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 5 (2):213-217.
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  40. added 2019-06-06
    Sympathy, Disenchantment, and Authority: Adam Smith and the Construction of Moral Sentiments.Michael Bray - 2007 - Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 28 (1):159-193.
  41. added 2019-06-06
    Metastandards in the Ethics of Adam Smith and Aldo Leopold.Patrick Frierson - 2007 - Environmental Ethics 29 (2):171-191.
    Adam Smith is not an environmentalist, but he articulated an ethical theory that is increasingly recognized as a fruitful source of environmental ethics. In the context of this theory, Smith illustrates in a particularly valuable way the role that anthropocentric, utilitarian metastandards can play in defending nonanthropocentric, nonutilitarian ethical standpoints. There are four roles that an anthropocentricmetastandard can play in defending an ecocentric ethical standpoint such as Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. First, this metastandard helps reconcile ecocentrism with theodicy, either of (...)
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  42. added 2019-06-06
    Review: Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian. [REVIEW]Douglas Uyl - 2007 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 5 (2):221-227.
  43. added 2019-06-06
    Samuel Fleischacker, On Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion. [REVIEW]John Bishop - 2006 - Philosophy in Review 26 (1):30-33.
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  44. added 2019-06-06
    Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life. [REVIEW]Jon Mahoney - 2005 - International Studies in Philosophy 37 (4):155-156.
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  45. added 2019-06-06
    Wonder in the Face of Scientific Revolutions: Adam Smith on Newton's ‘Proof’ of Copernicanism 1.Eric Schliesser - 2005 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (4):697.
    (2005). Wonder in the face of scientific revolutions: Adam Smith on Newton's ‘Proof’ of Copernicanism. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 697-732. doi: 10.1080/09608780500293042.
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  46. added 2019-06-06
    Adam Smith's Imperfect Invisible Hand: Motivations to Mislead.William Keep - 2003 - Business Ethics 12 (4):343-353.
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  47. added 2019-06-06
    Review: Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. [REVIEW]Jack Russell Weinstein - 2003 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 1 (2):181-184.
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  48. added 2019-06-06
    Attaining Rogers Smith's Civic Ideals.David J. Lorenzo - 2002 - Political Theory 30 (3):357-383.
  49. added 2019-06-06
    The Physiology of Political Economy: Vitalism and Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations".Catherine Packham - 2002 - Journal of the History of Ideas 63 (3):465.
  50. added 2019-06-06
    Beyond Positive and Negative Liberty: Samuel Fleischacker’s Personal Freedom of Judgment.Shawn D. Kaplan - 2001 - Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 22 (2):165-183.
    It is widely acknowledged that Isaiah Berlin’s seminal essay “Two Concepts of Liberty” has to a large extent set the tone and determined the content of the debates within political philosophy in the English-speaking world. Berlin maintains that the conceptual and institutional history of liberty can be understood in terms of the various responses to the logically distinct questions: “Who governs me?” and “How far does government interfere with me?”. In Berlin’s first question, the salient issue is whether the valid (...)
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