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Adam SmithSystematic Philosopher and Public Thinker$
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Eric Schliesser

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190690120

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190690120.001.0001

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Adam Smith’s Foundations for Political Philosophy

Adam Smith’s Foundations for Political Philosophy

Chapter:
(p.160) 7 Adam Smith’s Foundations for Political Philosophy
Source:
Adam Smith
Author(s):

Eric Schliesser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190690120.003.0007

This chapter sketches Adam Smith’s political philosophy, which is the activity of a citizen belonging to a particular community at given time and place. This project is neither exclusively descriptive nor only focused on what is commonly thought attainable. For Smith, the historical baseline of one’s time has normative significance. He does not resist changes from the status quo, but whatever changes he proposes are constrained by existing institutional arrangements. Part of the philosopher’s task is to offer visions of society that, while not impossible, are more just and more reasonable. One way in which such a vision can be offered is via historical narrative, which reveals the nature of that baseline and makes visible a second-order reflection on the ways it might be altered. In doing so, the philosopher offers an image that may speak simultaneously to one’s own society and those in others, including future ones.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, political, philosophy, status quo, narrative

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