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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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The Methodology of Wealth of Nations

The Methodology of Wealth of Nations

Chapter:
(p.288) 12 The Methodology of Wealth of Nations
Source:
Adam Smith
Author(s):

Eric Schliesser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190690120.003.0012

This chapter aims to give an interpretation of Adam Smith’s main methods in Wealth of Nations. It does so by focusing on the crucial analytical distinction between natural prices and market prices. Smith postulates a “natural course” of events in order to stimulate research into institutions and other causes that cause actual events to deviate from it. For Smith, scientific theory is among other functions, a research tool that allows for a potentially open-ended process of successive approximation. Smith’s explanation of the introduction of commerce in Europe is contrasted with that of his friend and forerunner David Hume. Hume’s essay “Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations” may have inspired Smith to develop his method.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, David Hume, natural prices, market prices, Wealth of Nations

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