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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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(p.225) 9 Virtue
Adam Smith

Eric Schliesser

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses two features of Adam Smith’s account of virtue. First, it argues that there is a significant tension in Smith’s treatment of virtue. Sometimes Smith writes of virtue as something rare and sometimes he writes of it as something that one can expect to encounter reliable in others. Second, it analyzes Smith’s treatment of the model of moral excellence, “the wise and virtuous” person. It argues that the content of this person’s excellence reveals that this is a practiced judge of character entrusted with the wise enforcement of the law. That is to say, the core of Smith’s theory of virtue grounds the political order. However, Smith recognizes many forms of excellence.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, virtue, moral excellence, wise, political

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