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Adam SmithSystematic Philosopher and Public Thinker$
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Eric Schliesser

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190690120

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190690120.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 May 2021

Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of Science

(p.255) 11 Philosophy of Science
Adam Smith

Eric Schliesser

Oxford University Press

This chapter articulates Adam Smith’s philosophy of science. The first section emphasizes the significance of Smith’s social conception of science—science takes place, not always comfortably, within a larger society and is itself a social enterprise in which our emotions play a crucial role. Even so, in Smith’s view science ultimately is a reason-giving enterprise, akin to how he understands the role of the impartial spectator. The second and third sections explain Smith’s attitude to theorizing and its relationship, if any, to Humean skepticism. Smith distinguishes between theory acceptance and the possibility of criticism; while he accepts fallibilism, he also embraces scientific revolutions and even instances of psychological incommensurability. His philosophy is not an embrace of Humean skepticism, but a modest realism. Finally, the chapter explores the implications of Smith’s analysis of scientific systems as machines.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, skepticism, philosophy of science, fallibilism, scientific revolution

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