Ethical Perspectives 7 (1):52-72 (2000)

William Desmond
Villanova University
William Desmond: It is a pleasure to welcome Professor Charles Griswold today. I thank him for his willingness to present us with an overview of his new book Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment , and to participate in a discussion. Professor Griswold is professor of philosophy at Boston University, where he is also the chair of the philosophy department. His new work on Adam Smith might seem like something of a departure from the concerns of many of his prior publications. In particular I mean his writings on Plato and Platonic themes generally. I refer especially to his book Self-Knowledge in Plato's Phaedrus, first published by Yale University Press, and recently reprinted by Pennsylvania State University Press.This book is a close reading and interpretation of the Phaedrus, and was awarded the Matchette prize by the American Philosophical Association in 1987. Needless to say, Professor Griswold has written extensively on classical philosophy. This, however, cannot be separated from a concern with pressing problems of more contemporary currency, especially the role of philosophy in society, and with respect to ethical and political considerations. Hence his concern with the moderns, by contrast with the ancients, implies no slighting of the former, though the question persists as to what both have to say to us today. So it is not surprising to find him engaged with a very influential modern, Adam Smith: an influential, but also complex modern, in that themes from ancient thought receive their own distinctive configuration in Smith's thought.Enlightenment is often marked by a certain turn from the past, oriented to a putatively better future, via a reformed or revolutionized present. But the contrast with the past is sometimes less stark. This one might guess perhaps from the subtitle to the book, emphasizing the virtues of enlightenment. While Smith now is often remembered first as an economist, Professor Griswold's interest is directed to his work as a philosopher, especially his moral and political thought. Many of the themes that Adam Smith explored, and to which Griswold draws our attention, are still very live issues: the virtues, ethical reasoning, sympathy, moral education, the importance of ordinary life and the role of philosophical theory, to name but a few issues.Let me then welcome Charles again, and ask him to first offer us an account of his new work, its purposes and its claims. After that we will begin the discussion with the other participants here
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DOI 10.2143/ep.7.1.503792
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