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 bargains an entire survey of Smith's writings to demonstrate how classical arguments formed critiques and scholarship within the eighteenth century.
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Additional resources for Adam Smith and the Classics: The Classical Heritage in Adam Smith's Thought
517–18. 57 ‘HA’ iii. 6: ‘From the Pythagorean school, both Plato and Aristotle seem to have derived the fundamental principles of almost all their doctrines’. Cf. Zeller (1881), i. 309: ‘the Pythagorean of the Christian period could even maintain that the Philosophers of the Academy and the Lyceum had stolen their so-called discoveries, one and all, from Pythagoras’. In reality the opposite was true: ibid. n. 2; pp. 505–6. 58 ‘HA’ ii. 12. Aristotle, Met. 985 23–6, states that the Pythagoreans, the ﬁrst to advance the study of mathematics, believed that the principles of the latter underlay everything: cf.
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.
109, editorial nn. 4 and 5, pointing out that modern understandings—at least those relating to the weight of air—were not in fact achieved by chance, and that Anaxagoras, while not knowing its weight, demonstrated that air has mass: as recorded by Aristotle in book IV of the Physics. 30 NATURAL PHILOSOPHY not up to the task, and its resolution had to await Archimedes' principle of the upward motion of bodies in ﬂuids. 98 Using Aristotle as a source (though he never names him), Smith dedicates about half of the essay to the exposition of the theory of the four elements, which he approves for being a sufﬁciently trustworthy means of enabling early men to reason scientiﬁcally, notwithstanding its lack of connections, and, furthermore, for being endowed with the harmonious beauty that every system should have.
Adam Smith and the Classics: The Classical Heritage in Adam Smith's Thought by Gloria Vivenza