By Gloria Vivenza
This ebook defines the connection among the idea of Adam Smith and that of the ancients--Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the Stoics. Vivenza deals an entire survey of Smith's writings to demonstrate how classical arguments formed reviews and scholarship within the eighteenth century.
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Additional info for Adam Smith and the Classics: The Classical Heritage in Adam Smith's Thought
Referring to the Pythagoreans of Croton. The Pythagoreans were already denominated ‘Italic philosophers’ in classical times: Zeller (1881), i. 337–8. 61 Only at the start of the 20th century was it concluded that the works ascribed to Ocellus and Timaeus (who despite long-lasting beliefs to the contrary probably lacks any existence outside the Platonic dialogue named after him) really belong to Neo-Pythagorean literature. The effect of the false ascription was to attribute works of the NeoPythagorean school to the earliest Pythagoreans, from whom Plato and Aristotle supposedly derived the basic elements of philosophy.
116 ‘HALM’ 5–7. Cf. Arist. Met. 991 20–2: ‘so to say that they [ideas] are models and that other things share in them, is to voice empty phrases and poetic metaphors’. In addition to this, Smith's phrase ‘to substitute words in the room of ideas’ recalls Cicero's strictures on Stoicism (De ﬁn. iv. 21 and esp. v. 22, precisely repeated at ‘HALM’ 9 in relation to the dependence of the Stoics from Plato and Aristotle). This is an old and polemical line of argument, dating back to antiquity and the distinction between verba and res, whose aim is to discern a purely verbal distinction between two doctrines, which amounts to imputing lack of originality to one of them.
Others have already written with authority on the value of the essay from a methodological point of view. My aim here has been merely to display Smith's grasp of a subject which at ﬁrst sight might appear foreign to his main area of study, and the classical origin of certain basic principles which, notwithstanding some modiﬁcation, were to remain important in his later philosophy. On the ﬁrst of these points I have refrained from rehearsing in detail any of the descriptive passages of purely scientiﬁc character which Smith includes in the essay, such as the accounts he gives of the various systems: to do so would be beyond my capabilities and is, in any case, unnecessary since they have already been examined critically—by Wightman, for one, who has indicated some of their shortcomings.