By Gloria Vivenza
This publication defines the connection among the idea of Adam Smith and that of the ancients--Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the Stoics. Vivenza deals a whole survey of Smith's writings to demonstrate how classical arguments formed critiques and scholarship within the eighteenth century.
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Extra resources for Adam Smith and the Classics: The Classical Heritage in Adam Smith's Thought
64 But it is also true that much work on the pre-Socratics has been carried out since his day. In Smith's time, these philosophers were known by way of other classical authors' citations of them—we have already referred to the important role played by Aristotle in their transmission—rather than being the object of study themselves. Indeed Smith is inclined to take them into brief consideration only to the extent that he feels the greater philosophers might have made use of them, and tends not to go into the details of what particular elements they may have used, limiting himself instead to general and unspeciﬁc statements.
Needless to say, the resulting neglect of the former in favour of the supposed superiority of the latter is something that Smith, imbued as he was with the triumphant scientiﬁc spirit of his age, thoroughly deplored. 110 His objection to metaphysics as a subject was not so much the fact that it sought an explanation for reality beyond sensible experience, as its degeneration into a confused mass of philosophical wrangles, typically medieval in form and quite foreign to the 107 Noted by, among others, Morrow (1966), 158; Bittermann (1940), 722–3; Campbell (1971), 28; Raphael (1972), 336.
78 This, he says, results from the marked tendency of ancient philosophers to disregard natural science in favour of ethics, rhetoric, and dialectic: an arrogant and ignorant prejudice, in his view. In fact, as stated above, and as Smith himself was aware, astronomy was in antiquity one of the mathematical sciences, while physics was, if anything, a component part of philosophy. Smith uses vague terms of reference in speaking of ‘natural 75 ‘HA’ iv. 9–14. e. the theory of homocentric spheres] held the ﬁeld in astronomy until, chieﬂy as a result of the work of Hipparchus, wide diffusion was achieved by the theory of eccentrics and epicycles, which was much less elegant even if better able to represent the phenomena faithfully’.
Adam Smith and the Classics: The Classical Heritage in Adam Smith's Thought by Gloria Vivenza