Adam Smith: The Economic and Political Visionary Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1011 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Business - Ethics

Adam Smith: The Economic and Political Visionary

Adam Smith (1723-1790), was a professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow

University and a visionary economic political theorist who pioneered a capitalist theory that was to become known as laissez fair economics. His most influential written works were an Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, which he authored in 1776, fittingly, the same year as the birth of the United States, where his approach to economics was to be embraced and implemented more extensively than any other nation.

In some respects, later critics would suggest that Smith's economic philosophy was fundamentally inconsistent with his other views, most specifically, with his moral philosophy as expressed in his earlier work, the Theory of the Moral Sentiments, which he published much earlier in 1759. Smith emphasized social empathy for the poor and working classes, and utilitarianism, in general. In fact, the actual basis of Smith's economic philosophy were actually derived from the underlying sentiments of his utilitarian altruism, the apparent inconsistency only a function of later manifestations of capitalism that Smith never could have envisioned so shortly after the Industrial

Revolution.

Smith's Moral Philosophy:

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Smith was a contemporary and friend of philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), and (very likely) also influenced by Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, with whom Smith disagreed on the origin and fundamental nature of human moral consciousness (Magill, 1961). Whereas they considered human morality, or conscience, to be an inherent biological trait in the same manner that other senses like vision and hearing are natural senses, Smith maintained that compassion and sympathy arose from the psychological awareness that resulted from the familiarity of having had similar experiences as others (Magill, 1961).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Adam Smith: The Economic and Political Visionary Assignment

According to Smith, social passions such as sympathy arise because human beings are capable, through the process of imagination, of picturing themselves in the same position as another in unfortunate circumstances. Likewise, we are able to identify other human reactions, including positive reactions, to everything from the joy of personal achievement to the relief associated with surviving dangerous predicaments.

Long before Ayn Rand would write about objectivism in the middle of the twentieth century, Smith championed the concept of separating his intellectual awareness from his personal reactions and internal feelings:

When I endeavour to examine my own conduct... I divide myself, as it were, into two persons; and... [as] examiner and judge...The first is the spectator... whose sentiments with regard to my own conduct I endeavour to enter into, by placing myself in his situation, and by considering how it would appear to me... seen from that particular point-of-view. The second is the agent, the person whom I properly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a spectator, I was endeavouring to form some opinion." (Smith, 1759)

Contrary to the contentions of later critics who would describe Smith's capitalist economic philosophy as inconsistent with his profound moral focus on personal development and benevolent altruism, it was precisely Smith's moral focus that inspired the underlying thesis of the approach to economic theory… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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