29th Oct 2015: Why Should One See Oneself ‘With The Eyes of Other People?’? Adam Smith and the Human Condition by Richard Gunn

Come along to The Counting House at 7pm to listen to Richard, share a crust of bread, and learn about Adam Smith…


Title of talk:

Why Should One See Oneself ‘With The Eyes of Other People?’? Adam Smith and the Human Condition

Adam Smith

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • Adam Smith and The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • Smith’s view of human interaction
  • Smith on sympathy and imagination
  • Smith on seeing oneself as others see one
  • Was Smith a ‘common sense’ theorist?
  • How are Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and his Wealth of Nations related?

A few paragraphs on your subject:

Adam Smith is most famous as the author of the Wealth of Nations (1776). His Theory of Moral Sentiments (1st edition 1759) is read mainly by scholars. My talk attempts to highlight ideas in TMS – and, in particular, the view of human interaction that it contains. For Smith, we are interactive beings – and interaction takes a conversational form. We exist in and through our relation with other people. Far from being atoms of self-interest, as in present day market-based (or ‘commercial’) society, we exist through our interactions; through our conversations, we learn.
In the light of such points, how are the Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations related? This part of my talk is highly speculative. I suggest that TMS is Smith’s most fundamental work, and that the Wealth of Nations is not the hymn of praise to commerce that it is sometimes taken to be.
For more on Adam Smith, see the following computer links: http://richard-gunn.com/pdf/3_smithian_sympathy.pdf; http://richard-gunn.com/pdf/6_adam_smith.pdf; http://richard-gunn.com/pdf/8_scepticism_religion_pol_theory_scottish_enlightenment.pdf. Not all sections of all papers are relevant to this presentation.

A few paragraphs about you:

I was born in 1947 and, between 1975 and 2011, lectured at Edinburgh University. I am interested in Scottish thought and Hegelian political theory. Between 1987 and 1997, I was a member of the editorial collective of the now-defunct small journal Common Sense (http://commonsensejournal.org.uk/). I talked at the Ragged University on June 2013.

What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?

Above all, get hold of a copy of Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. There are many internet editions. If you want to obtain it in hard copy, the Liberty Fund edition is scholarly and relatively cheap. TMS is quite a long book, and not all parts of it are of equal significance. My talk will be general, but focuses on Book I, section 1, and the opening chapter of Book III.

What are your weblinks?

Website – http://www.richard-gunn.com
Twitter – @GunnWilding
Facebook – Richard Gunn (There are various Richard Gunns on Facebook. I’m the one who is listed as ‘unknown’.)
Public Email – See contact address on my website.

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