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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, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 October 2020

Smith and Anti-Mathematicism

Smith and Anti-Mathematicism

Chapter:
(p.314) 13 Smith and Anti-Mathematicism
Source:
Adam Smith
Author(s):

Eric Schliesser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190690120.003.0013

This chapter argues that in general Adam Smith is distinctly reserved about the application of mathematics to political economy and even other terrestrial sciences. Smith endorses a so-called containment strategy—that is, he restricts the application of mathematics to a fairly limited domain of enquiry. Smith was not alone in such a containment strategy: we find instances of it in Locke, Buffon (whom he admired), and Mandeville. Such a containment strategy is part of a wider trend of eighteenth-century “anti-mathematicism,” the expressed reservations about the authority and utility of the application of mathematical sciences. By treating Smith as instantiating such anti-mathematicism, this chapter deviates from the recent tendency of arguing that Smith meant to emulate Isaac Newton.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, Isaac Newton, anti-mathematicism, containment strategy, mathematics

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