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Adam Smith's Use of the 'Gravitation' Metaphor


  • Gavin Kennedy

    () (Emeritus Professor, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University)


Adam Smith, in Wealth of Nations, used gravitation as a rhetorical metaphor and not in a formal philosophical sense, as used by Newton, Aristotle or Empedocles. Physical gravitational attraction is predictable, accurate and rule-bound; metaphoric gravity, as in relationships between natural and market prices, are neither strictly rule-based nor predictable. Market exchange relationships between independent people are subject to the vagaries of imperfect rhetorical persuasion.

Suggested Citation

  • Gavin Kennedy, 2015. "Adam Smith's Use of the 'Gravitation' Metaphor," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 4(1), pages 67-79, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:wea:econth:v:4:y:2015:i:1:p:67-79

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Leonidas Montes, 2008. "Newton's real influence on Adam Smith and its context," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(4), pages 555-576, July.
    2. Samuels,Warren J. Assisted by-Name:Johnson,Marianne F. Assisted by-Name:Perry,William H., 2014. "Erasing the Invisible Hand," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107613164, August.
    3. Kennedy, Gavin, 2011. "The Hidden Adam Smith In His Alleged Theology," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(03), pages 385-402, September.
    4. David Andrews, 2014. "Adam Smith's Natural Prices, the Gravitation Metaphor, and the Purposes of Nature," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 3(1), pages 1-42, March.
    5. Gavin Kennedy, 2009. "Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 6(2), pages 239-263, May.
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