Essays on Philosophical Subjects

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T. Cadell jun. and W. Davies, 1795 - 1795 - 244 pages
 

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Page lxx - The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit of a remedy. But the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufacturers, who neither are, nor ought to be, the rulers of mankind...
Page 189 - ... a glass of broken jelly where a great variety of surfaces so differently refract the light, that the several distinct pencils of rays cannot be collected by the eye into their proper foci ; wherefore the shape of an object in such a case, cannot be at all discerned, though the colour may...
Page xlv - Buccleugh under the author's care, and would make it worth his while to accept of that charge. As soon as I heard this, I called on him twice, with a view of talking with him about the matter, and of convincing him of the propriety of sending that young nobleman to...
Page xxi - When we see a stroke aimed and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another person, we naturally shrink and draw back our own leg or our own arm; and when it does fall, we feel it in some measure, and are hurt by it as well as the sufferer.
Page xxxiv - may appear very plausible, and be, for a long time, very generally received in the world, and yet have no foundation in nature, nor any sort of resemblance to the truth. But it is otherwise with systems of Moral Philosophy.
Page lxxi - He will accommodate, as well as he can, his public arrangements to the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people, and will remedy, as well as he can, the inconveniencies which may flow from the want of those regulations which the people are averse to submit to.
Page 5 - There is no break, no stop, no gap, no interval. The ideas excited by so coherent a chain of things seem, as it were, to float through the mind of their own accord, without obliging it to exert itself, or to make any effort in order to pass from one of them to another.
Page xcviii - The violent and sudden change produced upon the mind, when an emotion of any kind is brought suddenly upon it, constitutes the whole nature of Surprise.
Page xli - Languages, which exhibits a very beautiful specimen of theoretical history, applied to a subject equally curious and difficult. The analogy between the train of thinking from which it has taken its...
Page lxxv - The Political Discourses of Mr. Hume were evidently of greater use to Mr. Smith, than any other book that had appeared prior to his lectures.

About the author (1795)

Adam Smith was one of the foremost philosophers and personalities of the eighteenth century. As a moral philosopher, Smith was concerned with the observation and rationalization of behavior. His encyclopedic description and insightful analysis of life and commerce in English society established him as an economist at a time when economics was not a recognized discipline. Today he is recognized as the father of the classical school of economics that included Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill. Smith's major work, The Wealth of Nations (1776), was the single most important economics treatise to appear up to that time. Although significant works on economics preceded it, it was truly the first of its kind. Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, on the east coast of Scotland. He enrolled at Glasgow University a the age of 14. After graduating from Glasgow in 1740, he traveled 400 miles on horseback to study at Oxford University. Oxford at that time was not the citadel of learning that it became in later years. As a result, Smith provided much of his own instruction while enjoying the vast resources of Oxford's library. Such independent work was not without peril; he was almost expelled when school officials found a copy of David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature in his possession. Aside from the lack of instruction, Smith was unhappy on a personal level. He was unpopular with the English students, as were all Scots at the time, and he suffered varying degrees of harassment. He also developed a nervous tic, a shaking of the head, that remained with him for the rest of his life. Oxford did little for Smith while he was there, and it ignored him long after he became famous. When Smith received an honorary doctorate in 1762, it was from Glasgow University. In 1746 Smith returned to Scotland and proceeded to give a series of public lectures in Edinburgh. These were followed by an appointment at Glasgow University. Smith was a popular teacher at Glasgow, despite his notorious absentmindedness and idiosyncratic behavior. He never could remember to wear a hat or a coat or carry an umbrella, and he was often observed walking about waving his cane while talking animatedly with himself. His first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), a treatise on the formation of moral judgments by men who acted primarily in their own self-interest, became an immediate success. Five years after it was published, he left Glasgow to take a well-paid position as tutor to a young English duke who was about to take the customary grand tour of Europe. During his travels, he met and shared ideas with the philosopher Voltaire, the French economist Francois Quesnay, and the American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin. While on tour, Smith began work on a manuscript on political economy. This work appeared some years later as The Wealth of Nations. A tour de force, the book argued that the wealth of a country was the sum of the goods produced and consumed by its people, not the monetary wealth, gold, and treasures owned by the nobility. It also argued that society was guided as if an "invisible hand" directed the selfish interests of individuals toward actions that were in the collective interest of everyone. This process tended to be self-regulating. Competition and the profit motive combined to force producers to offer better products at lower prices and to allocate the factors of production to those activities favored by consumers. The Wealth of Nations addressed numerous other issues as well, including the division of labor, the determinants of price, the origins of value, the benefits of international trade, and even economic growth. Oddly enough, The Wealth of Nations was not well received at first. In time, however, it found an audience, especially among the merchant and manufacturing classes who found in it a moral justification for the enormous energies that society was devoting to commerce and trade.

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