Adam Smith & His Sources: The Evil of Independence

Autumn, 2008

36 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2007

See all articles by David M. Levy

David M. Levy

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Abstract

This paper explores the foundations of Adam Smith's view that the philosopher is the same as the street porter. Despite their innate similarity, Smith recognized that the role of the philosopher, someone who provides useful instruction to fellow humans, is not that of the street porter He also saw that this potentially useful employment may entail a biased perspective on human conduct. Motivated by matters too distant for ordinary people to notice, the philosopher may come to believe that he is better than those he studies and to regard himself as independent from their concerns. Instead, Smith locates the means to correct the bias of philosophers in Stoicism. He singles out Stoicism as a philosophy which, in spite of the failings of Stoic philosophers, directed its adherents toward the greatest good. Smith differs from the ancient Stoics by recognizing the motivational importance of social distance.

Keywords: Adam Smith, philosopher, street porter, stoicism, social distance

JEL Classification: B12, B31

Suggested Citation

Levy, David M. and Peart, Sandra J., Adam Smith & His Sources: The Evil of Independence. Autumn, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1022832

David M. Levy (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice ( email )

MSN 1d3 Carow Hall
4400 University
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies ( email )

Jepson Hall
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

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