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Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue

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  • Page extent: 242 pages
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ADAM SMITH AND THE CHARACTER OF VIRTUE
Cambridge University Press
9780521449298 - ADAM SMITH AND THE CHARACTER OF VIRTUE - By Ryan Patrick Hanley
Frontmatter/Prelims

ADAM SMITH AND THE CHARACTER OF VIRTUE

Recent years have witnessed a renewed debate over the costs at which the benefits of free markets have been bought. This book revisits the moral and political philosophy of Adam Smith, capitalism's founding father, to recover his understanding of the morals of the market age. In so doing it illuminates a crucial albeit overlooked side of Smith's project: his diagnosis of the ethi-cal ills of commercial societies and the remedy he advanced to cure them. Focusing on Smith's analysis of the psychological and social ills endemic to commercial society – anxiety and restlessness, inauthenticity and mediocrity, alienation and individualism – it argues that Smith sought to combat corruption by cultivating the virtues of prudence, magnanimity, and beneficence. The result constitutes a new morality for modernity, at once a synthesis of commercial, classical, and Christian virtues and a normative response to one of the most pressing political problems of Smith's day and ours.

Ryan Patrick Hanley is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marquette University. His research in the history of political philosophy has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Review of Politics, History of Political Thought, the European Journal of Political Theory, and other academic journals and edited volumes. He is also the editor of the forthcoming Penguin Classics edition of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, featuring an introduction by Amartya Sen, and a co-editor, with Darrin McMahon, of The Enlightenment: Critical Concepts in History.


ADAM SMITH AND THE CHARACTER OF VIRTUE

Ryan Patrick Hanley

Marquette University


CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
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Cambridge University Press
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www.cambridge.org
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521449298

© Ryan Patrick Hanley 2009

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2009

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication dataHanley, Ryan Patrick, 1974–Adam Smith and the character of virtue / Ryan Patrick Hanley.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-0-521-44929-8 (hardback : alk. paper)1. Smith, Adam, 1723–1790. 2. Virtue.3. Ethics, Modern – 18th century. I. Title.B1545.Z7H36 2009179′.9–dc22 2009006836

ISBN 978-0-521-44929-8 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Information regarding prices, travel timetables, and other factual information given in this work are correct at the time of first printing, but Cambridge University Press does not guarantee the accuracy of such information thereafter.


for Ralph Lerner


Il est nécessaire que tous ceux qui s'intéressent à l'avenir des sociétés démocratiques s'unissent, et que tous, de concert, fassent de continuels efforts pour répandre dans le sein de ces sociétés le goût de l'infini, le sentiment du grand et l'amour des plaisirs immatériels.

– Alexis de Tocqueville


Contents

Preface
ix
Acknowledgments
xi
Abbreviations
xv
Introduction
1
1       The Problem: Commerce and Corruption
15
Smith's Defense of Commercial Society
15
What Is Corruption? Political and Psychological Perspectives
24
Smith on Corruption: From the Citizen to the Human Being
36
2       The Solution: Moral Philosophy
53
Liberal Individualism and Virtue Ethics
53
Social Science versus Moral Philosophy
57
Two Types of Moral Philosophy: Natural Jurisprudence versus Ethics
62
Three Types of Ethics: Utilitarianism, Deontology, and Virtue Ethics
68
Virtue Ethics: Modern, Ancient, and Smithean
78
3       Interlude: The What and the How of TMS VI
82
The What: Smith's “Practical System of Morality”
82
The How: Rhetoric, Audience, and the Methods of Practical Ethics
86
The How: The Ascent of Self-Love in Three Stages
92
4       Prudence, or Commercial Virtue
100
The Challenge: From Praise to Prudence
100
Educating the Vain: Fathers and Sons
104
Self-Interest Rightly Understood
109
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Prudence
123
5       Magnanimity, or Classical Virtue
132
The Problems of Prudence and the Therapy of Magnanimity
132
Up from Individualism: Desert, Praiseworthiness, Conscience
135
Modernity, Antiquity, and Magnanimity
151
The Dangers of Magnanimity
162
6       Beneficence, or Christian Virtue
175
Between Care and Caritas
175
Benevolence and Beneficence and the Human Telos
178
The Character and Purposes of the Wise and Virtuous Man
187
Wisdom and Virtue and Adam Smith's Apology
202
Epilogue:The “Economy of Greatness”
209
Index
213

PREFACE

This book addresses three questions. One question is scholarly: namely, how ought we to account for the revisions that Smith made to the sixth edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments? This scholarly question is itself animated by a political question: namely, what role should virtue play in modern commercial societies, and specifically, can virtue, properly conceived, enable us to enjoy the material advantages of commerce while minimizing commerce's most deleterious potential consequences? Finally, this political question, in turn, is motivated by a personal question: namely, what insight might Smith's account of virtue provide to citizens of commercial societies concerned with living the best life possible? In addressing these three questions, this book aspires to speak to three audiences: first, historians of eighteenth-century political thought interested in Smith's self-conception as a moral philosopher–turned-economist-turned-moralist again; second, social and political theorists engaged in the debate over the virtues requisite for the sustenance of commercial societies and the management of globalizing capitalism; and third, philosophers and psychologists and others both inside and outside the academy interested in the question of the happiest and best individual life and its role in promoting the continued happiness and flourishing of communities and social orders.

Readers – Smith specialists or otherwise – who find themselves following such or similar paths are always very welcome to write me directly if they would like to pursue further any of the positions taken or themes discussed in this book: ryan.hanley@marquette.edu.




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