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The Life of Adam Smith$
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Ian Simpson Ross

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198288213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198288212.001.0001

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The Precariousness of This Life

The Precariousness of This Life

(p.381) 23 The Precariousness of This Life
The Life of Adam Smith

Ian Simpson Ross

Oxford University Press

From April to July, 1787 Smith was in London receiving medical attention and conferring with the government about fiscal and commercial reforms that allowed Britain to recover from the strains of the American war. On his return to Edinburgh in somewhat restored health, he set about preparing a greatly expanded sixth edition of TMS. This developed further the concept of the impartial spectator, and included an entirely new part VI, focused on moral theory applicable to such crucial issues as new‐modelling a political constitution, highly relevant in view of the revolutions in America and France. He also added a chapter arguing that while our disposition to admire the rich and powerful is necessary to maintain the ‘order of society,’ it is the most universal cause of the ‘corruption of our moral sentiments.’ His Stoic outlook thus affords him a standpoint for criticism of the mechanisms of the acquisitive society analysed in WN, but at the same time, he suggests that the contemporary literature of sensibility dealing with love and friendship does more for us than the arguments for ‘stoical apathy.’

Keywords:   apathy, constitution, corruption, sensibility, sentiments

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