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Adam Smith

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Adam Smith (baptized June 5, 1723 O.S. / June 16 N.S. Ð'- July 17, 1790) was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneering political economist. One of the key figures of the intellectual movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment, he is known primarily as the author of two treatises: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter was one of the earliest attempts to systematically study the historical development of industry and commerce in Europe, as well as a sustained attack on the doctrines of mercantilism. Smith's work helped to create the modern academic discipline of economics and provided one of the best-known intellectual rationales for free trade, capitalism, and libertarianism.

Contents

[hide]

* 1 Biography

o 1.1 Education

o 1.2 Career in Edinburgh and Glasgow

o 1.3 Tour of France

o 1.4 Later years

o 1.5 Personal character and views

* 2 Works

* 3 'The "Adam Smith-Problem"

* 4 Influence

* 5 Major works

* 6 References

* 7 See also

* 8 Bibliography

* 9 External links

[edit] Biography

Smith was a son of the controller of the customs at Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. The exact date of Smith's birth is unknown, but he was baptized at Kirkcaldy on June 5, 1723, his father having died some six months previously. At around the age of 4, he was kidnapped by a band of Gypsies, but he was quickly rescued by his uncle and returned to his mother. Smith's biographer, John Rae, commented wryly that he feared Smith would have made "a poor Gypsy."[citation needed] There is no record of Smith having had any siblings.

[edit] Education

At the age of fifteen, Smith entered the University of Glasgow, where he studied moral philosophy under "the never-to-be-forgotten" (as Smith called him) Francis Hutcheson. Here Smith developed his strong passion for liberty, reason, and free speech. In 1740 he was awarded the Snell Exhibition and entered Balliol College, Oxford, but as William Robert Scott has said, "the Oxford of his time gave little if any help towards what was to be his lifework," and he left the university in 1746. In Book V of The Wealth of Nations, Smith comments on the low quality of instruction and the meager intellectual activity at English universities when compared to their Scottish counterparts. He attributed this both to the rich endowments of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, which made the income of professors independent of their ability to attract students, and to the fact that distinguished men of letters could make an even more comfortable living as ministers of the Church of England.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith

[edit] Career in Edinburgh and Glasgow

In 1748 Smith began delivering public lectures in Edinburgh under the patronage of Lord Kames. Some of these dealt with rhetoric and belles-lettres, but later he took up the subject of "the progress of opulence," and it was then, in his middle or late 20s, that he first expounded the economic philosophy of "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty" which he was later to proclaim to the world in his Wealth of Nations. In about 1750 he met the philosopher David Hume, who was his senior by over a decade. The alignments of opinion that can be found within the details of their respective writings covering history, politics, philosophy, economics, and religion indicate that they both shared a closer intellectual alliance and friendship than with the others who were to play important roles during the emergence of what has come to be known as the Scottish Enlightenment[1]; he frequented The Poker Club of Edinburgh.

In 1751 Smith was appointed chair of logic at the University of Glasgow, transferring in 1752 to the Chair of Moral Philosophy, once occupied by his famous teacher, Francis Hutcheson. His lectures covered the fields of ethics, rhetoric, jurisprudence, political economy, and "police and revenue". In 1759 he published his The Theory of Moral Sentiments, embodying some of his Glasgow lectures. This work, which established Smith's reputation in his day, was concerned with how human communication depends on sympathy between agent and spectator (that is, the individual and other members of society). His analysis of language evolution was somewhat superficial, as shown only 14 years later by a more rigorous examination of primitive language evolution by Lord Monboddo in his Of the Origin and Progress of Language[2]. Smith's capacity for fluent, persuasive, if rather rhetorical argument, is much in evidence. He bases his explanation, not as the third Lord Shaftesbury and Hutcheson had done, on a special "moral sense", nor (as Hume did) on utility, but on sympathy.

Smith now began to give more attention to jurisprudence and economics in his lecture and less to his theories of morals. An impression can be obtained as to the development of his ideas on political economy from the notes of his lectures taken down by a student in about 1763 which were later edited by Edwin Cannan[3], and from what Scott, its discoverer and publisher, describes as "An Early Draft of Part of The Wealth of Nations", which he dates about 1763. Cannan's work appeared as Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms. A fuller version was published as Lectures on Jurisprudence in the Glasgow Edition of 1976.

[edit] Tour of France

In 1762 the academic senate of the University of Glasgow conferred on Smith the title of doctor of laws (LL.D.). At the end of 1763, he obtained a lucrative offer from Charles Townshend (who had been introduced to Smith by David Hume), to tutor his stepson, the young Duke of Buccleuch. Smith subsequently resigned from his professorship and from 1764-66 traveled with his pupil, mostly in France, where he came to know intellectual leaders such as Turgot, Jean D'Alembert, AndrÐ"©

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