Adam Smith and the Classics: The Classical Heritage in Adam by Gloria Vivenza

By Gloria Vivenza

This publication defines the connection among the concept of Adam Smith and that of the ancients--Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the Stoics. Vivenza deals an entire survey of Smith's writings to demonstrate how classical arguments formed critiques and scholarship within the eighteenth century.

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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. Abbagnano (1961), i. 23–4; Zeller (1881), i. 369, 372.

105 ‘HAP’ 11. As the editor has noted (p. 116 n. 25), Smith repeats this reductive judgement of the value of Stoic philosophy elsewhere; it is only in the 20th century that the originality of formal logic and other Stoic doctrines has been appreciated. 106 ‘HAP’ 11. Of the three reactions of wonder, surprise, and admiration, Smith here twice names the third—perhaps not by chance, since it is the one resulting from scientific explanation: Campbell (1971), 60. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 33 In conclusion, it is clear that Smith's intention in writing this essay was not to examine the various physical theories in their entirety—this is, indeed, hardly touched on—but rather to enquire more specifically how man as ‘not [yet] enlightened by Divine Revelation’ sought to explain the fundamental problem of the ‘cause’ that lies at the root of earthly, physical phenomena.

V. 22, precisely repeated at ‘HALM’ 9 in relation to the dependence of the Stoics from Plato and Aristotle). This is an old and polemical line of argument, dating back to antiquity and the distinction between verba and res, whose aim is to discern a purely verbal distinction between two doctrines, which amounts to imputing lack of originality to one of them. In the case of Cudworth—whose thought was far removed from that of Plato, but whose terminology was largely derived from the latter—Smith deployed the same tactic in order to level the opposite charge, namely that a real difference had been covered up by similar language: ‘HALM’ 6.

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