His Memory Has Misled Him? Two Supposed Errors in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments

28 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2020

See all articles by Jon Murphy

Jon Murphy

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Andrew Humphries

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 12, 2019

Abstract

D.D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie, the editors of the Glasgow Edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, document numerous errors made by Adam Smith. We examine two alleged errors, both regarding stories found in Cicero, to evaluate the extent to which they might be esoteric: one involving Parmenides and Plato, the other involving Ulysses. We argue there is good reason to suspect that the first error is deliberate and contains hidden meaning, but that, in the second case, Raphael and Macfie are mistaken in their claim that Smith erred. Finally, given Smith’s discussion of dissimulation, we comment on his probable attitude toward defensive esotericism.

Keywords: Adam Smith, Esotericism, Cicero, Parmenides, Plato, Ulysses, Virtue Ethics

JEL Classification: A13, B12

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Jonathan and Humphries, Andrew, His Memory Has Misled Him? Two Supposed Errors in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (November 12, 2019). Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3548187

Jonathan Murphy (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Andrew Humphries

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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