ISBN-10:
0300177674
ISBN-13:
9780300177671
Pub. Date:
01/10/2012
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life

by Nicholas Phillipson
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Overview

This fascinating intellectual biography of Adam Smith dramatically rewrites the economist’s life and offers new insight into his iconic concepts

The great eighteenth-century British economist Adam Smith (1723–90) is celebrated as the founder of modern economics. Yet Smith saw himself primarily as a philosopher rather than an economist and would never have predicted that the ideas for which he is now best known were his most important. This biography shows the extent to which Smith's great works, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, were part of one of the most ambitious projects of the Euruopean Enlightenment, a grand “Science of Man" that would encompass law, history, and aesthetics as well as economics and ethics, and which was only half complete on Smith’s death in 1790.

Nick Phillipson reconstructs Smith’s intellectual ancestry and shows what Smith took from, and what he gave to, in the rapidly changing intellectual and commercial cultures of Glasgow and Edinburgh as they entered the great years of the Scottish Enlightenment. Above all he explains how far Smith’s ideas developed in dialogue with those of his closest friend, the other titan of the age, David Hume.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300177671
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 01/10/2012
Series: The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nicholas Phillipson is one of the leading scholars of the Scottish Enlightenment. An Honorary Research Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh, he has held visiting appointments at Princeton, Yale, the Folger Library, and the Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgements xiii

Maps xv

Prologue 1

1 A Kirkcaldy Upbringing 9

2 Glasgow, Glasgow University and Francis Hutcheson's Enlightenment 24

3 Private Study 1740-46: Oxford and David Hume 56

4 Edinburgh's Early Enlightenment 72

5 Smith's Edinburgh Lectures: a Conjectural History 89

6 Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, 1.1751-9 12o

7 The Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Civilizing Powers of Commerce 138

8 Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, 2.1759-63 159

9 Smith and the Duke of Buccleuch in Europe 1764-6 180

10 London, Kirkcaldy and the Making of the Wealth of Nations 1766-76 200

11 The Wealth of Nations and Smith's 'Very violent attack … upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain' 214

12 Hume's Death 239

13 Last Years in Edinburgh 1778-90 255

Epilogue 279

Notes and Sources 285

Bibliography of Works Cited 313

Index 323

What People are Saying About This

Steve Pincus

This stylish biography brings to life Adam Smith's breathtaking ambition to create a Science of Man. Phillipson's elegant prose and erudition make clear the necessary relationship between Smith's moral philosophy and his political economy. The reader is left with a deeper appreciation for Smith's project and for the eighteenth-century Scottish world in which he lived. This book is both a delight to read and agenda-setting. A real achievement!(Steve Pincus, Yale University)

Robert Skidelsky

In a feast of both writing and erudition, Nicholas Phillipson has recreated the intellectual and mercantile world of Adam Smith, and shows how it shaped Smith's two masterpieces, the Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations. He sets Smith's economics firmly in the philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment – and especially of his great friend David Hume – and argues compellingly that for Smith material improvement was not an end in itself, but a necessary condition for human ennoblement, which was the grand aim of his life's work. A wonderful, thought-provoking book.—Robert Skidelsky, biographer of John Maynard Keynes

David Hancock

This is easily the best book on Smith I’ve read: a wonderfully accessible, thoroughly researched, full-bodied drama examining the philosopher and economist. Phillipson’s biography presents Smith as a living personality, not just an imposing intellect, tracking his social, economic, and political moves from his birthplace Kirkcaldy, to Glasgow and Oxford, through his various lectures and professorships, travels around Europe, preparation of The Wealth of Nations, and finally to his work for the government. In doing so, it makes a strong case for the importance and complexity – perhaps primacy – of the Scottish Enlightenment and the men who contributed to it. In clean and clear prose, Phillipson explains what Smith was writing and why he was writing it, whether moral philosophy, jurisprudence, rhetoric or political economy. This beguiling blend of Smith’s intellection and experience should appeal to anyone interested in the making of the modern world.—David Hancock, author of Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste

J.G.A. Pocock

Nicholas Phillipson's lifelong study of Adam Smith has been well worth waiting for. Phillipson treats Smith's The Wealth of Nations as the sequel to his Theory of Moral Sentiments. Political economy and the history of society were handmaids to the moral philosophy which Enlightenment thinkers intended as the replacement of religion. This story has never been better told than in this deeply sympathetic biography of an intellectually ambitious but personally modest man, and it is a superb portrait of the Scotland, Britain and Europe he lived in.— J.G.A. Pocock, Johns Hopkins University

Steve Pincus

This stylish biography brings to life Adam Smith's breathtaking ambition to create a Science of Man. Phillipson's elegant prose and erudition make clear the necessary relationship between Smith's moral philosophy and his political economy. The reader is left with a deeper appreciation for Smith's project and for the eighteenth-century Scottish world in which he lived. This book is both a delight to read and agenda-setting. A real achievement!—Steve Pincus, Yale University

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