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Adam Smith's "Science of Human Nature"

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  • Christopher J. Berry

Abstract

We do not find in Smith any programmatic statement about the nature of human nature only, rather, a profuse scattering of remarks. We can, however, be confident that he shared the aspirations of the “Enlightenment project,” within which, indeed, self-awareness of a “conception of man” was focal. There was a convergence on the idea that human nature is constant and uniform in its operating principles. By virtue of this constancy human nature was predictable so that once it was scientifically understood then, as Hume argued, a new foundation was possible for, inter alia, morals, criticism, politics, and natural religion. While Smith is more circumspect, he shares Hume‘s ambitions for the “science of man,” which Smith calls the “science of human nature” and which he believes was, even in the seventeenth century, in its “infancy.” This essay aims to explicate what Smith implies about this “science.”

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher J. Berry, 2012. "Adam Smith's "Science of Human Nature"," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 471-492, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:44:y:2012:i:3:p:471-492
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    Cited by:

    1. Madarász, Aladár, 2014. "A láthatatlan kéz - szemelvények egy metafora történetéből
      [The invisible hand - extracts from the history of a metaphor]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(7), pages 801-844.

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    Keywords

    Adam Smith; David Hume;

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