Adam Smith was a philosopher before he ever wrote about economics, yet until now there has never been a philosophical commentary on the Wealth of Nations. Samuel Fleischacker suggests that Smith's vastly influential treatise on economics can be better understood if placed in the light of his epistemology, philosophy of science, and moral theory. He lays out the relevance of these aspects of Smith's thought to specific themes in the Wealth of Nations, arguing, among other things, that Smith regards social science as an extension of common sense rather than as a discipline to be approached mathematically, that he has moral as well as pragmatic reasons for approving of capitalism, and that he has an unusually strong belief in human equality that leads him to anticipate, if not quite endorse, the modern doctrine of distributive justice.
Fleischacker also places Smith's views in relation to the work of his contemporaries, especially his teacher Francis Hutcheson and friend David Hume, and draws out consequences of Smith's thought for present-day political and philosophical debates. The Companion is divided into five general sections, which can be read independently of one another. It contains an index that points to commentary on specific passages in Wealth of Nations. Written in an approachable style befitting Smith's own clear yet finely honed rhetoric, it is intended for professional philosophers and political economists as well as those coming to Smith for the first time.
"In my opinion, all readers interested in Adam Smith's project and/or the modern Post-Smithian notion of distributive justice, should have access to this book, so they can study this important, provocative contribution to the understanding of Smith's conception of justice."--Spencer J. Pack, EH.NET
"[A]n enlightening guide to the philosophical component of the Wealth of Nations and its relation to Smith's other works. [This] is . . . an exceptionally good book."--D. D. Raphael, British Journal for the History of Philosophy
"Fleischacker . . . has a sure philosophical grasp of Smith's ideas. He uses this to great effect, presenting what is the first rigorous philosophical commentary on the Wealth of Nations in English, of which I am aware."--Duncan Kelly, Political Studies Review
"There is no question that Fleischacker has produced a landmark study of Adam Smith's works. His handling of philosophical issues is subtle and suggestive; and in probing 'the virtues that lie within and just beyond the frame of Wealth of Nations', Fleischacker provides new philosophical resources for the debate about the fundamental relation between Wealth of Nations and Smith's larger philosophical project."--Vivienne Brown, Eighteenth Century Scotland
"Overall, this is a very useful book whether treated as a companion or, better, read straight through."--John Douglas Bishop, Philosophy in Review
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Samuel Fleischacker: