The Elevated Imagination: Contemplation and Action in David Hume and Adam Smith

Journal of Scottish Philosophy, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2016 Last revised: 25 Oct 2019

See all articles by Erik W. Matson

Erik W. Matson

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Colin Doran

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 15, 2016

Abstract

In this paper we seek to draw attention to some striking and heretofore unnoticed textual connections between Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature. We find significant textual parallels between the parable of TMS 4.1 (TMS 4.1.8-4.1.10) and the famous conclusion to Book 1 of Hume’s Treatise. These passages are often regarded as especially intense and moving parts of their respective works. We explore the nature and substance of these connections and comment on their larger significance. The nature of the connections suggests that Smith consciously engaged Hume in his work through philosophical conversation. We suggest that these related passages show both Hume and Smith exploring and developing a particular dialectic between contemplation and action in human life. Both move to invert the classical relationship between contemplation and action through what we call the elevated imagination.

Keywords: Adam Smith, David Hume, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, A Treatise of Human Nature

JEL Classification: B12

Suggested Citation

Matson, Erik W. and Doran, Colin, The Elevated Imagination: Contemplation and Action in David Hume and Adam Smith (May 15, 2016). Journal of Scottish Philosophy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840471

Erik W. Matson (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Colin Doran

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
68
Abstract Views
1,050
rank
410,322
PlumX Metrics