Francis W. Hirst (essay date 1904)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," in Adam Smith, Macmillan & Co., Limited, 1904, pp. 46–67.

[In the following excerpt from a chapter on The Theory of Moral Sentiments in Hirst's full-length study of Smith's career, Hirst focuses on Smith's notion of virtue, discussing the primary components of his system of ethics, sympathy, and the conscience.]

… With all its faults, the Theory of Moral Sentiments is still one of the most instructive and entertaining of all our English treatises on ethics. There is plenty of warmth and colour. The argument is never bare; you follow its thread through a wondrous maze, till your perplexities are solved, and...

(The entire section is 5109 words.)

Albion W. Small (essay date 1907)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Economics and Sociology of Labor," in Adam Smith and Modern Sociology: A Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences, The University of Chicago Press, 1907, pp. 79–154.

[In the following excerpt, Small comments on the extent to which extra-economic factors such as sociology and psychology enter into Smith's analysis in The Wealth of Nations, and also compares Smith's economic theories with those of Karl Marx.]

[The Wealth of Nations] was primarily a technological inquiry, with the ways and means of producing national wealth as its objective; it assumed that this interest had a value of its own; at the same time it assumed that this...

(The entire section is 8640 words.)

Henry J. Bittermann (essay date 1940)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Adam Smith's Empiricism and the Law of Nature. I," in The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. XLVIII, No. 4, August, 1940, pp. 487–520.

[In the following excerpt, Bittermann examines Smith's methodology in relation to the doctrine of natural law, arguing that, in formulating his ethical and economic theories, Smith rejected the rationalistic methods of the natural-law school of thought in favor of empirical procedures.]


Adam Smith was both the founder of a science and the prophet of an economic and political creed, and the combination and possible confusion of scientific and normative2 elements in the...

(The entire section is 10331 words.)

A. L. Macfie (lecture date 1955)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Scottish Tradition in Economic Thought," in The Individual in Society: Papers on Adam Smith, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1967, pp. 19–41.

[In the following essay, Macfie places Smith and several other economists, including Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and James and John Stuart Mill, within the historical context of the Scottish tradition in economic thought. Macfie emphasizes that their approach was sociological rather than analytical and that their methods were strongly influenced by the philosophy of Stoicism and the doctrine of natural law. Macfie's essay was originally delivered as a lecture at the Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Economic Society on March 14,...

(The entire section is 10464 words.)

T. D. Campbell (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Politics and Principles," in Adam Smith's Science of Morals, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971, pp. 205–20.

[In the following essay, Campbell argues that Smith's moral and political philosophies are ultimately based on the principle of utility.]

The thesis that Smith's theory of morality is essentially a scientific one should not be taken to imply that he does not endorse any moral and political principles of his own. By and large he accepts, as morally justified, the norms which it is his main purpose to explain. His own moral convictions can be seen in the arguments which he uses to justify his confidence in the judgments of the impartial spectator....

(The entire section is 7317 words.)

Samuel Hollander (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: A conclusion to The Economics of Adam Smith, University of Toronto Press, 1973, pp. 305–20.

[Hollander defends Smith against charges that The Wealth of Nations contains numerous inconsistencies and assesses his contribution to formal and applied classical economics. The critic underscores Smith's responsiveness to changing economic conditions brought about by contemporary technological and sociological developments, particularly as displayed in his theory of the competitive allocation of resources.]

Professor Schumpeter in his celebrated critique has written that Adam Smith's function was merely that of co-ordinator whose 'mental stature was up to...

(The entire section is 7729 words.)

R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Wealth of Nations," in Adam Smith, St. Martin's Press, 1982, pp. 168–85.

[In the following essay on The Wealth of Nations, Campbell and Skinner provide a comprehensive analysis of Smith's economic system, explaining and discussing the interrelationship among his theories of production, labor, wages, price and distribution, profits, savings and investment, interest rates, and capital accumulation. The authors also comment on Smith's policy recommendations concerning government regulation of the economy.]

The first edition of the Wealth of Nations was published on 9 March 1776 by Strahan and Cadell. It appeared in two volumes, at a cost of...

(The entire section is 7374 words.)

D. D. Raphael (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Ethics," in Adam Smith, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985, pp. 29–45.

[In the following excerpt, Raphael judges the strengths and weaknesses of Smith's theory of moral judgment.]

The first chapter of the Moral Sentiments is entitled 'Of Sympathy'; the first chapter of the Wealth of Nations is entitled 'Of the Division of Labour'. In each case the title is a signal of what Smith thinks most fundamental. The main subject of the Moral Sentiments is the nature of moral judgement and Smith founds it on sympathy. The main subject of the Wealth of Nations is economic growth and Smith founds that on the division of labour.


(The entire section is 4760 words.)

Kenneth Lux (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Mistake," in Adam Smith's Mistake: How a Moral Philosopher Invented Economics & Ended Morality, Shambhala, 1990, pp. 80–93.

[In the following excerpt, Lux faults Smith's thesis (in The Wealth of Nations) that human self-interest is solely responsible for the economic well-being of the public, arguing that this theory fails to take into account the possibility of dishonesty and cheating on the part of economic actors.]

The central statement of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations—for history, and certainly for economics—is that which affirms the value of self-interest: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the...

(The entire section is 4946 words.)

Jerry Z. Muller (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "'A Small Party': Moral and Political Leadership in Commercial Society," in Adam Smith in His Time and Ours: Designing the Decent Society, The Free Press, 1993, pp. 164–74.

[In the following excerpt, Muller analyzes Smith's views on the moral and political roles of the intellectual as social scientist in commercial society.]

Commercial society, in which every man becomes to some degree a merchant, encourages the spread of characteristics associated with the prudent pursuit of self-interest—the "inferior virtues" of moderation, self-control, frugality, and decent behavior toward others. But that does not mean that the rarer and more demanding virtues, such...

(The entire section is 4181 words.)