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Adam Smith’s footnote to Plato

Alternative title: Is Smith’s wise and virtuous man an officious intermeddler? Alfred North Whitehead famously described the 2000-year European philosophical tradition as consisting of “a series of footnotes to Plato.” As we shall see, Adam Smith will be no exception … Continue reading

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Moral Philosophy Cheat Sheet

My colleague and friend Oliver Scott Curry created the “moral philosophy cheat sheet” pictured below and posted it on his Twitter feed (@Oliver_S_Curry). Since I am in the process of reading and reviewing Ryan Patrick Hanley’s beautiful new book about … Continue reading

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Do grasshoppers dream of impartial spectators?

(With apologies to Philip K. Dick.) In a previous post I explored the role played by the “impartial spectator” in Adam Smith’s moral philosophy, but is Smith’s memorable metaphor deserving of our study and attention in our day and age, … Continue reading

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Letter to the Editor (national anthem edition)

I interrupt yet again my review of Ryan Patrick Hanley’s latest book on Adam Smith in order to express my opinion about Mark Cuban’s controversial decision to cancel the national anthem during his team’s home games: although I strongly disagree … Continue reading

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The Impartial Spectator to the Rescue?

Alternative Title: Two Problems with Mutual Sympathy and Adam Smith’s Solution Although the sympathy of others (to paraphrase Smith) is necessary to our happiness, and although we also want to receive the sympathy, attention, and esteem of others, Ryan Patrick … Continue reading

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Mary Wilson Forever

I am interrupting my review of Ryan Patrick Hanley’s book on Adam Smith to pay my respects to the great Mary Wilson. Update (2/15): Also, check out this collection of Mary Wilson recordings. Hat tip: Steve Lubet, via The Faculty … Continue reading

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Smith on Sympathy and Selfishness

Alternative Title: Adam Smith’s (Humean-Inspired?) Theory of Reciprocal Sympathy As Ryan Patrick Hanley correctly notes in his beautiful new book on Adam Smith, the concept of sympathy or “fellow feeling” is the cornerstone of Smith’s moral philosophy. The original 1759 … Continue reading

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David Hume vs. Adam Smith

Before we discuss the main features of Adam Smith’s approach to moral philosophy (sympathy or fellow-feeling, the imaginary impartial spectator, and virtue), I want to share with you two quotes by David Hume: one about the limited role of reason … Continue reading

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Life is full of opportunity costs

Ryan Patrick Hanley poses two deep philosophical questions on the first two lines of the first page of his new book Our great purpose: Adam Smith on living a better life: “What does it mean to ‘live a [good] life’? … Continue reading

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Best Adam Smith Bibliography Ever?

As I mentioned in a previous post, in the days ahead I will be reviewing Ryan Patrick Hanley’s new book about Adam Smith: “Our great purpose: Adam Smith on living a better life” (Princeton U Press, 2019), one of the … Continue reading

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