Adam Smith, précurseur des philosophies de l’histoire

Smith designed a philosophical system whose different éléments (Moral Phylosophy, Jurisprudence and political Economy) where to be linked by epistemic principles. They reveal that Smith saw the world as the Design of the Deity where every element of the system, especially mankind, are naturally led to meet Deity’s ends. This teleological outlook is applied to a philosophical inquiry to history in a way that would echo in Kant and Hegel’s writtings concerning the cunning of Reason. Connecting economics and history makes it possible to determine an ideal progress towards improvement and understand historical cycles in the slow and gradual actual process towards Progress. Tensions between the ideal and the actual historical course prompts one to reinterpret Smith’s vision of natural and actual orders of modern society and his views on the place of the State in that society.

Smith face au « système de l’optimisme » de Leibniz

The aim of this article is to study how Smith’s concept of system is different from what was called in the 18th century the system of Optimism developed by Malebranche and mainly by Leibniz. Jon Elster has shown the influence of the philosopher of Hanover in the architectonics of capitalism or rather – of laisser-faire. If this fact alone could encourage us to compare the two systems, another element also provides an incentive. At the very moment when Smith began his work there was a controversy opposing the supporters of the system of optimism with « Newtonians » and their three key figures in France: d’ Alembert, Condillac and Voltaire. This controversy is mainly about the concept of connections or of laws which bind the elements of a system. It followed the one which had opposed Newton with Leibniz at the very beginning of the 18th century. After presenting the system of Optimism we will compare with that of Smith on three key points: the concept of monade, the concept of system itself, with its architectonic, theoretical and political stakes, and finally the problem of maximization. Then we will propose a non leibnizian interpretation of the “invisible hand” more empathetic with Smith’s architectonics as it has appeared in our study.

Knowledge, Communication and the Scottish Enlightenment

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the subject of rhetoric, including within economics. The purpose of the paper is to focus on the ideas on rhetoric of Adam Smith and his contemporaries (particularly Hume) in relation to their philosophy and economics, against the background of the Scottish Enlightenment. Discussions of language in Scotland at that time departed from what had become a conventional emphasis either on persuasion or on style in order to focus on a broader notion of communication which encompassed both. This followed from a focus on language differences within a united Britain. But for Smith it also followed from his moral philosophy, whereby communication was important as a vehicle for persuasion in the absence of scope for argument by demonstrable proof. He was thus concerned to set up a system of rhetoric. Smith distinguished between the derivation of (provisional) knowledge by the Newtonian experimental method, and the communication of that knowledge as if it were based on derivation from first principles. Subsequent (mis)interpretation of Smith’s economics can be understood as stemming from mistaking the rhetoric for the method, and interpreting first principles as axioms. A fuller understanding of Smith’s views on communication and the role of sympathy (through imagination) might have led to different understandings of Smith’s economics prevailing.

The Lack of Recognition for Women’s Work: Smith Is Not Guilty

In this article, the author looks at criticisms that feminist economists have levelled, over the past twenty years, at Adam Smith’s analysis of women’s domestic and care labour and, more generally, at his view of their place in modern capitalist society. Her analysis suggests that not all of these criticisms are founded, and that Smith’s thinking is probably closer to feminism than to the antifeminism that characterized his era.

Concerning misunderstandings within the recent reception of Adam Smith in Japan

The reception of Adam Smith, the Scottish founder of modern political economy, in Japan offers many opportunities for international and interdisciplinary comparisons. In such a perspective, Smith may well appear as a so-called early “economic philosopher” as much as the “father of economics” or “the economist par excellence”. As far as Japan is concerned, he remains “the Professor of Japanese economists” as the latter regard him as the embodiment of the liberal way of looking at economics. The main purpose of this essay is to introduce to a Western audience how, despite an honorable tradition of scholarship, Smith’s ideas at a historical, social and intellectual level, were distorted, not only due to his economic doctrine, but in relationship with the latter’s philosophical tenets.

Inquiry into James Mill’s interpretation of Adam Smith’s love of praiseworthiness

This paper focuses on the relation between James Mill and Adam Smith on the matter of the love of praiseworthiness. First, it shows that Mill was a reader of Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. Second, it deals with Mill’s interpretation of Smith’s love of praiseworthiness. According to Mill, though Smith “eloquently described” the love of praiseworthiness, he did not explain it. Mill offered such an explanation by claiming that a kind of moral calculation is the foundation of the love of praiseworthiness. Finally, it shows that, though some passages of TMS are sometimes close to Mill’s interpretation, the latter is not faithful to Smith’s treatise of moral philosophy.

Adam Smith on Savages

In Adam Smith’s work there is a tension between a positive appraisal of the savage’s mental processes and morality and characterization of the first stage as a state of want and isolation to which the primitive society’s failure to evolve toward following stages is ascribed. I illustrate how Smith’s post-scepticism puts him in a position to better understand savages than most of his contemporaries and I reconstruct his view of the savage in terms of his own theory of the human mind. I explore the tensions in civilized society where the virtues of self-command are lost and those of humanity are widespread among groups different from those in power and where pointless search for wealth dominates. Finally, I discuss a tension between Smith’s view of the savage as proto-philosopher and his alternative view of the savage as proto-merchant.

Vanity, Pride and Self-Deceit: Excessive Self-esteem in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments

This paper studies how in his Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith answered to Mandeville on the role of pride and vanity in the economic and social dynamics of commercial societies. We show why vanity supersedes pride in his analysis and how he offers a more positive view of these two passions. We study in particular the economic and social consequences of pride and vanity and describe the psychological foundations of excessive self-esteem that these passions entail.