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

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 bargains a whole survey of Smith's writings to demonstrate how classical arguments formed critiques and scholarship within the eighteenth century.

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24 NATURAL PHILOSOPHY The discovery of the ‘irregularity’ of celestial motion (in other words, the stations and retrogradations of the planets), which obviously took place when human capacity for observation was somewhat refined, was a troubling revelation for minds that were by nature disposed to appreciate regular and ordered movement. What resulted was an attempt to reduce this aberrant behaviour to clarity by way of a new explanation. According to Smith, this attempt was also prompted by the sense of a missing connection between one event and the next, which made it necessary to formulate a hypothesis70 to link them: it was Eudoxus of Cnidus who came up with it.

66 ‘HA’ iv. 4, where the editorial note states that the epithets ‘rude and inartificial’ are unmerited. The unfavourable evaluation perhaps goes back to Bailly, who called Eudoxus' system ‘absurd’, and derives from the prejudice that, although there was enough source material to reconstruct the system, Eudoxus was not a member of the Alexandrian School and was not accorded the status of a true astronomer: Schiaparelli (1875), 2–3. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 23 Pythagorean philosophy,67 but the fact is that one cannot say with precision whom Smith intends it to refer to: for all that he includes it in the context of a description of Eudoxus' system, it sounds like a more general comment upon the tendency of ‘these early philosophers’ to maintain the secrecy surrounding their doctrines, which would reveal the causes (simple in themselves) of natural phenomena and endow those who knew them with power.

But the essay is not only fragmentary and unfinished; it also deals exclusively with ancient physics, and Smith may have thereby lost sight of the fact that—on a more general level—the Stoics took a ‘providential’ approach, and that to mention this would not have been at all out of place in a discussion of physics, since that subject for them coincided with metaphysics. 104 ‘HAP’ 10. ), stating that they have caused commentators more difficulty than any other part of Aristotle's writings. His account of them, if somewhat abbreviated, is nonetheless comprehensible: Bonar (1966), 10.

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