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The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment$

Christopher J. Berry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748645329

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645329.001.0001

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. Liberty and the Virtues of Commerce

. Liberty and the Virtues of Commerce

Chapter:
(p.124) 5. Liberty and the Virtues of Commerce
Source:
The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment
Author(s):

Christopher J. Berry

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645329.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

How commercial society functions –its operating principles and motivations- is the backdrop to the Scots’ moral philosophy. That commerce appeared to ‘work’ on the assumption of self-interest did not mean that it operated in an ‘ethics-free’ zone. Aside from the recognition that human interactions in a commercial society were not confined to market exchanges, a distinctive set of what can be called ‘commercial virtues’ was identified. This represents a shift in the schedule of virtues (plotted via the ‘natural history’ outlined in Chapter 2). The implications of this shift, across the range of the Scots’ discussions, are analysed eg why ‘courage’ gives way to ‘probity’.

Keywords:   Liberty, Self-interest, Benevolence, Virtues

This chapter takes up the postponed topic of liberty. Smith, as we have seen, called it a ‘blessing’ and the same accolade had previously been bestowed by Hume (E-CP 494), Kames (1766: 5), Wallace (CGB 117) as well as Turnbull in his commentary on Heineccius (MCL 245). George Berkeley, in his Essay towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain (1721, 1752) is another who employs it to characterise the greatest possession of a ‘virtuous man’ and ‘good Christian’. He then proceeds to say that in ‘the present age’, ‘injudicious patrons of liberty’ have not distinguished between it and licentiousness (1953: VI, 70). This statement indicates that the meaning of ‘liberty’ is not straightforward. As a term, and perhaps also as a concept, it is subject to a variety of meanings and it is part of the task here to tease these out within the broad context of commercial society.

How commercial society functions – its operating principles and motivations – is the backdrop to the Scots' moral philosophy. That commerce appeared to ‘work’ on the assumption of self-love (as Smith said of consumers' dealings with the butcher) did not mean that it operated in an ‘ethics-free’ zone. Aside from the recognition that human interactions in a commercial society were not confined to buying sausages (as it were), a distinctive set of what can be called ‘commercial virtues’ was identified. This represents a shift in the schedule of virtues (plotted via the ‘natural history’ outlined in Chapter 2). The examination of that shift is the other key theme of this chapter.

When Smith refers to the twin blessings of liberty and opulence in the Lectures the context, in both versions, is slavery. In a seemingly counter-intuitive way he says that the condition of slaves is worse the more a society is ‘improved’ because they are better treated in ‘rude periods of mankind’ (Wallace makes a similar point [DNM 91]). His explanation for this is that the less inequality there is the more the (p.125) masters live in similar manner to their slaves. He contrasts the North American planter, who often works alongside his slaves, with the ‘rich and proud West Indian’, who being far above the slaves ‘gives him the hardest usage’ (LJA iii.110/184–5; LJB 37/453). Smith makes it immediately clear he is not condoning slavery – ‘it is almost needless to prove that slavery is a bad institution’ (LJB 138/453).

This is without exception the position of the Scots and the rest of the Enlightenment. While it is not absent, the Scots do not exhibit great moral outrage. Hence Smith's emphasis is on the fact that slavery was economically unproductive; the judgment on the ‘badness’ of slavery is immediately illustrated by the fact that a free man works better than a slave (an argument reiterated in WN [III.ii.9/387; IV.ix.47/684]); as we noted in Chapter 3, he argues that wealth is increased by diligent workers and diligence is enhanced by the ‘liberal reward for labour’ [p. 84 above]). Kames was a member of the bench in the famous case of Wedderburn vs Knight (1778) and he voted with the majority for the latter on the grounds that what might be law in Jamaica has no bearing in Scotland because slavery ‘is repugnant to the first principles of morality and justice’ (quoted in Ross 1972: 144).1

Millar implicitly rebukes Smith for omitting the position of women within his argument that slaves are better treated in rude nations. He argues that ‘in ages the most remote from improvement' women are held in low esteem and are treated as the servants or slaves of the men’ (OR 193). This argument was adopted by Robertson who remarks of the Amerinds that so ‘humiliating and miserable’ is the condition of women that they were bought and sold (HAm 822); a consequence Millar had himself judged to be ‘natural’ (that is, in accord with ‘natural history’, predictable given human nature and circumstances) (OR 195). Kames is another who makes this point (SHM I, 303f), as does Hume who observed luridly that in barbarous nations men exhibit their superiority by ‘reducing their females to the most abject slavery; by confining them, by beating them, by selling them, by killing them’ (E-AS 133).2 Implicit here is a point we will later make explicit about how the manners and virtues of commercial society make such behaviours inapplicable. Indeed Hume's choice of language deliberately points up that contrast.

Ancient and Modern Liberty

While the contrast between liberty and slavery is relatively clear there is another, which though also chronological, is subtler. This latter contrast is between ancient and modern liberty. Though famously identified (p.126) by Benjamin Constant in 1819 (1988), it is clear that the Scots pointedly make that distinction (cf. Castiglione 2000). One explicit manifestation of this is Smith's observation (quoted in Chapter 2) that it is the presence of a choice of occupation, along with the ability to have one's children inherit and to dispose of one's property by testament, that makes individuals ‘free in our present sense of the word Freedom’ (and its absence is a principal attribute of ‘villanage and slavery’) (WN III.iii.5/400). This is almost an aside but its self-consciousness reveals an appreciation that there is something novel abroad. He is, of course, not alone. Hume on at least two occasions in his History referred to a ‘new plan of liberty’ that the ‘manners of the age’ had produced (HE II, 602; III, 99).

The crux of this novelty is the idea of liberty under the rule of law, the procedural operation of general laws known previously to all, or strict administration of justice, that we discussed in Chapter 4. Ancient liberty is that characteristic of classical Greece and republican Rome. We can identify two strains. There is the pre-eminently Stoic view where liberty is a state of tranquillity, where bodily desires are firmly controlled by the rational will. There is also the ‘civic’ or republican view of Livy, Cicero and others where liberty consists of activity in the political world to realise the public good. The two views are of course related. Behind both lies Aristotle and both inveigh against corruption. While the division is somewhat artificial, we will deal with the latter strain in detail in Chapter 6 and only allude to it here, where the former is the focus.

I should acknowledge at the outset that the discussion that follows is cursory and indulges in some brazen generalisation. Additionally, in the Scots there is a spectrum. They all accept, aside from the almost wilfully perverse Monboddo, what we can call the ‘early modern consensus’, so there is a rejection of Aristotle's physics and Stoic cosmology. Though, as we shall see, there was some divergence when it came to ethics.

Epictetus is a helpful exemplar. The compilation that comprises his Encheiridion or Manual opens by contrasting what is under our control and what isn't. The former are ‘by nature free’ and are exemplified by ‘conception, choice, desire (orexis), aversion’. The latter are ‘naturally slavish’ and are exemplified by ‘our body, our property, reputation, office’ (1928: 483). To live according to nature (kata phusin or secundum naturam) is to heed the distinction. The ‘natural life’ is the free life. To live a naturally free life is, as Zeno (the founder of Stoicism) declared, to live a life of virtue according to reason. Conversely to invest the ‘unfree’ with value is a harmful mistake; it is to be literally ‘pathological’, prey to pathê (passions as irrational and unnatural (p.127) [alogos kai para phusin] disturbances of the soul) (Diogenes Laertius 1925: par. 110) (cf. Rist 1969: 27).

Two general points can be derived from this analysis. First that ‘desire’ is controllable, second that the body (soma) is included in the naturally slavish category. The ‘control’ is an exercise of the rational will and it is a persistent strain in Stoicism that the body needs controlling; in particular it is the desire (epithumia)3 for somatic pleasures that must be limited to its proper end. Seneca, for example, pointed out that since the ‘end’ of food is to assuage hunger (and fuel the body), it follows that to eat when not hungry is to be unfree, to manifest ‘imperfection’; stale bread is as functional as fresh, since Nature demands the belly be filled not flattered (delectari) (1932a: no. 119). Those who maintain control are living life as it should be led; living in accordance with what is definitive of us as humans, our reason (Aristotle 1894: 1177a-b). This life is devoted to the contemplation of the immutable First Cause or the eternal perfection of God. This tranquil, ascetic or Stoical apathetic life stands in marked contrast to the mutable mundane life which is unceasingly at the beck and call of the demands of bodily desires (hunger, thirst, sex and the like). Although this Epictetean binary is sharp, it is not that there was no room for ‘things indifferent’ (adiaphora); wealth and health for example can be put to ‘proper’ use, albeit they are prone to improper exploitation as exemplified by the pursuit of luxury.4

As we will see in Chapter 6 the status of ‘luxury’ prompted different stances among the Scots, and thence, on a broad front, differing assessments of Stoicism. There is, however, a consensus that the ‘power’ allotted to ‘reason’ in this account is unsustainable. This judgment is a key factor in the ‘modern’ (post-Aristotelian) perspective. Reason's motivating force is rejected in favour of passions or desires (or instinct). The Scots accept broadly John Locke's empirical version of this, that is, they follow his rejection of the Cartesian strand of modern rationalism. They also demur from the starkest exposition of the modern position in the work of Thomas Hobbes. That demurral, though, was based on a rejection of the egocentric implications of Hobbes' argument rather than of his basic proposition that humans are motivated by the passions (their appetites and aversions) so that reason's role is subordinately instrumental. Hence Smith, for example, comments unequivocally that ‘pleasure and pain are the great objects of desire and aversion’ with the added observation that it is not reason that distinguishes those objects (TMS VII.iii.2.8/320; cf. Hume T 3.3.3.1/SBNT 574).5

In Locke's account, ‘desire’ was ‘an uneasiness of the mind fixed on some absent good’: either negative, as in endurance of pain, or (p.128) positive, as in enjoyment of pleasure. This uneasiness is the ‘spur to human industry and action’ and it is the case, he declares, that ‘we are seldom at ease and free enough from the solicitation of our natural and adopted desires, but a constant succession of uneasinesses out of that stock, which natural wants or acquired habits have heaped up, take the will in their turns: and no sooner is one action dispatched […] but another uneasiness is ready to set us to work’ (1854: I, 378, 353, 388). The echoes of this are obviously audible in Smith's judgement (WN II.iii.28/341) that everyone has, from the womb to the grave, a ceaseless desire to better their condition. The Lockean vocabulary of ‘unease’ is directly adopted by Hutcheson (PW 81). If for Hume reason is inactive (T 3.1.1.10/SBNT 458) it is still for Hutcheson, ‘too slow, too full of doubt and hesitation’ to direct our actions (PW 109). The curtailment of reason's scope is most evident in their moral philosophy. For Hume “tis impossible that the distinction between moral good and evil can be made by reason' (T 3.1.1.16/SBNT 462) and for Smith ‘it is altogether absurd and unintelligible to suppose that the first perceptions of right and wrong can be derived from reason’ (TMS VII.iii.2.7/320). Kames is equally forthright (PMNR 69).

The implications of this rejection of the pre-modern view bear on the understanding of modern liberty in the following way. One consequence of rejecting the normative superiority of the eternally immutable was the acceptance of the worth of the mundanely mutable. The commercial life – the organising framework for the provision of the wherewithal for living – is of itself valuable. The prosecution of that life is thus moral. As we will proceed to outline, life in a commercial society is governed by moral norms such as justice, humanity, probity and law-abidingness. These underwrite the actual operation of the rule of law, the guarantor of the blessing that is liberty. Modern liberty is enjoyed by all, as Smith said ‘everyman’, consistent with acting justly, is, to be ‘left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way’ (WN IV.ix.51/687). This inclusiveness demarcates it sharply from ‘ancient liberty’, a point to be developed in Chapter 6 when the second, civic, strain is discussed. It is a further consequence of this that the sovereign's interest lies not in the specific content of these ‘interests’ (desires) only in the likelihood of their peaceful co-existence; not in the particular choice of music but the volume at which it is played; not in the particular religious ritual performed but in its confinement to those who have chosen to practise it; not in the particular nature of the business enterprised but in its conformity to the principles of fair competition and so on.

This modern liberty of choice, exercised within a general framework (p.129) of universally applicable law, goes both to the heart not only of human motivation but also of a commercial society. What links these is the idea of ‘self-love’. This is an idea with a complicated history (Brooke 2012 is particularly valuable; see also Myers 1983, Hutchinson 1988, Force 2003). However, an examination of that history is beyond my remit, although I shall have to make some reference to it.

Justice and Benevolence

As noted in Chapter 4, Smith, like Hume and Kames among others, declared justice to be indispensable. He chose quite deliberately to illustrate this indispensability by the fact that it makes a society of different merchants possible, that is, one where ‘mutual love and affection’ are absent (TMS II.ii.3.2/86; cf. Hutcheson SIMP 270). From this it follows that, ‘beneficence is less essential to the existence of society than justice’ (TMS II.ii.3.3/86). And since in commercial society ‘everyman is a merchant’ then its coherence does not depend on love and affection. You can co-exist socially with those to whom you are emotionally indifferent.

In line with my claim that commercial society embodies ethical relationships, nothing in this means that Smith is denying the virtuousness of benevolence or implying that a commercial society is inimical to virtue and morality. The premium to act justly in a commercial society, the concern ‘not to hurt our neighbour’, constitutes a correspondingly just character, that of the ‘perfectly innocent and just man’. And such a character, he continues, can ‘scarce ever fail to be accompanied with many other virtues, with great feeling for other people, with great humanity and great benevolence’ (TMS VI.ii.intro.2/218). Members of a commercial society can thus be both just and benevolent. Hence it is a mistake to regard the narrowness or strictness of the Scots' concept of justice as indicative of an indifference to ‘morality’.6

However, the very complexity of commercial society means, on the one hand, that any individual needs the assistance of many others (this was the message of the coarse woollen coat [see above p. 77]) but, on the other, only enjoys ‘the friendship of a few persons’ (WN I.ii.2/26). In a commercial society we live predominantly among ‘an assembly of strangers’ (TMS I.i.4.9/23; cf. Ignatieff 1984: 119; Paganelli 2010). Relationships of mutual love and affection or friendship are correspondingly relatively scarce. Since the bulk of our dealings are impersonal then they must thus be conducted on the basis of adhering to the complementary impersonal (abstract) rules of justice. In a complex society a shopkeeper is unlikely to be also your friend; to you he (p.130) provides something you want, to him you are a customer. This pattern of relationships lies behind Smith's famous passage, partially quoted in Chapter 3,

it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. (WN I.ii.2/26–7)

Again Smith is not denying the presence (nor a fortiori the virtuousness) of benevolence but its scope.7 Indeed, in the Moral Sentiments he is careful to say that a society of merchants would be ‘less happy and agreeable’ than one where beneficence was practised. Moreover, since just ‘action’ is ‘inaction’ (restraining from injury) then one who is ‘merely’ just is entitled to ‘very little gratitude’ and, possessing ‘very little positive merit’, will be treated without affection (TMS II.ii.1.9/82).

That justice was distinct from other virtues such as benevolence was not Smith's argument alone. In fact the distinctiveness has a long pedigree. In early modern thought it was often expressed as the difference between perfect and imperfect rights, where the performance of the former can be compelled (Hutcheson SIMP 113; SMP I, 257). In the Moral Sentiments Smith alludes (as the editors note) to Kames' Principles of Morals and Natural Religion for support for the view that we are under a stricter obligation to be just than we are to be generous (TMS II.ii.1.5/80n). Kames had said that ‘benevolence and generosity are more beautiful and more attractive of love and esteem than justice’ but that they are ‘virtuous actions beyond what is strictly our duty’ (PMNR 33; cf. Forbes 1982: 199). A somewhat different ‘take’ on the distinction is made by Millar. He distinguishes justice from the other virtues because it is amenable to precision and reducibility to accurate general rules (see above p. 107), whereas the exercise of the others (generosity and other benevolent affections) is so variable and dependent on the particularities of circumstances that ‘there seldom occur two instances altogether alike’ (HV IV, 7/787/8; cf. IV, 7/795).

A Modern Moralised Economy

While it is clear that the Scots do not consider commercial society an ‘ethics-free zone’ they are aware that this society can be construed to appear to rely to a reprehensible extent on ‘self’ or ‘private’, rather than, ‘social’ or ‘public’ interest. What made them apparently vulnerable was that having dismissed arguments that make morality a matter (p.131) of objective rational judgment they were left in the subjective realm of sentiment. This was an intellectually, or argumentatively, dangerous terrain because it seemed to be occupied by Hobbes, according to whom all human action was determined by the interests of the actor. It was necessary that they put some conceptual distance between their position and that of Hobbes and its later deliberately polemical expression in Mandeville. All the Scots, whatever their internal differences, set themselves against the ‘selfish system’, as Hume generically termed it (M App.2, 4/SBNM 297). This is the common theme and guiding thread in their moral philosophy. A detailed exposition of that philosophy in its various forms is not here necessary; I will thus be selective. My principle or criterion of selection is how their moral philosophy supports what may be called the ‘moralised economy’ of a commercial society.8

In line with post-Aristotelian ‘modernity’ the material fact that all humans enjoy pleasure and avoid pain underwrote the predictability and certainty inherent in human behaviour (a regularity that was integral to the establishment of what we would today call the ‘social sciences’). The most palpable evidence of such constancy is the ‘fact’ of the salience of self-interest in human nature (recall Tucker from Chapter 3 [quoted p. 85n]). ‘Salience’, of course, does not mean ‘exclusive’. Humans have manifold motivations, even in ‘Smithian economics’, as Amartya Sen has emphasised (2011; cf. Sen and Rothschild 2006). The Hobbesian/Mandevillean version was contradicted by experience. This was the central theme of Hutcheson's philosophy.

While Hutcheson criticises rationalist moral philosophers his chief targets are the egoistic systems, especially of Mandeville (one of his earliest works [1726] is a systematic dismantling of Mandeville's Observations on the Fable of the Bees). The whole thrust of Hutcheson's argument is that the principle of self-interest does not represent ‘human nature as it is’ (PW 129) and that defect means it fails to explain the reality of morality. Of course, he recognises that humans are motivated by self-love. Indeed at one point he declares that ‘the preservation of the system [of universal benevolence] requires everyone to be innocently solicitous about himself’ (PW 89). Although Hutcheson does not here explicitly make the connection, this requirement is in line with what Smith identifies as the argument of the Stoic founder Zeno, according to whom ‘every animal was by nature recommended to its own care and was endowed with the principle of self-love’ (TMS VII.ii.1.14 /272). Leonidas Montes (2004: 8) claims, I think exaggeratedly, that Smith ‘relies heavily’ on the Stoic principle of oikeiosis.9 But it is the case that that principle, especially its re-presentation by Cicero in De Finibus (1931: V, 9 – Omne animal se ipsum diligit), was commonly invoked. (p.132) One particularly notable invocation was by Rousseau, who carefully distinguished the notion of amour de soi from the negatively-charged amour-propre,10 (I will return to Rousseau in Chapter 6.) While indeed allowing that humans have self-interested motives, it is Hutcheson's recurrent theme that the facts of benevolence; the desire for the public good, the exercise of generosity and other virtues are inexplicable on the assumption that humans are solely motivated by a sense of their own advantage. This is scarcely unique. Turnbull for example says the same (MCL 256).

Hutcheson framed his argument as an ‘Inquiry’. Its aim was to discover the ‘general foundation there is in Nature’ for moral goodness (and moral evil) (PW 67). The outcome of the investigation is the location of this foundation in the possession by all humans of a moral sense.11 On this basis he erects an account of morality that culminates in the principle of benevolence which he held to be the summit of moral goodness (cf. PW 88–9, 100). His Scottish successors accepted his evidential basis for morality (see the opening sentence of Smith's Moral Sentiments quoted in Chapter 3 [8n]). Where Hutcheson's successors differed was over the need to invoke a distinct moral sense to justify that reality as well as over the privileged position he allotted to benevolence. This is clear in Hume and Smith and although Kames, in his critique of Hume and Smith, gives a foundational role to moral sense he also distances himself from Hutcheson's reduction of morality to benevolence to the detriment of an adequate account of why we have to be just (PMNR 31; cf. PE 30–2).

Though Hutcheson had used the term ‘sympathy’ this comes to the fore in Hume and Smith (especially). Following Hutcheson, Hume does not accept Hobbes' argument that humans are only self-interested and in many passages he stresses human sociality and its importance (for example, T 2.2.4.4/SBNT 353; T 2.2.5.15/SBNT 363). The support for this is ‘common experience’ since if that is consulted then the finding is that ‘kind affections’ outweigh the selfish (T 3.2.2.5/SBNT 487). Such kind affections as meekness, beneficence, charity, generosity, clemency and the like are both natural and social virtues (T 3.3.1.11/ SBNT 578; cf. M 5, 3/ SBNM 214, E-OC 479). The undeniable evidence of their existence means that Hume is forthright in dismissing the Hobbesian/Mandevillean view that all moral distinctions are the product of the ‘artifice of politicians’ (M 5, 3/SBNM 214; cf. T 3.2.2.25/SBNT 500, T 3.3.1.11/SBNT 578). Yet, and here is the clear break from Hutcheson, since even these social virtues cannot sustain society then, as we outlined in Chapter 4, for that task justice and other artifices are needed. Having established that justice is useful Hume still has to explain why it (p.133) is also ‘virtuous’. This explanation is all the more necessary because, as he admits, it was established out of self-interest (T 3.2.2.24/SBNT 499). From our perspective this can be read as Hume's attempt to underwrite a morality suitable for a commercial society.

To establish a link between virtue and self-interest he calls upon the principle of ‘sympathy’. This principle takes us ‘out of ourselves’ (T 3.3.1.11/SBNT 579). Its pivot is a process whereby my ‘idea’ of a stranger's ‘unease’ (such as suffering an injustice) is ‘converted into the very impressions’ so that I too feel the uneasiness (T 2.1.11.7/SBNT 319). Now given that ‘every thing which gives uneasiness in human actions upon the general survey is call'd Vice’ (T 3.2.2.24/SBNT 499) then, though I am materially unaffected by that particular act of injustice, I nonetheless condemn it. In this way sympathy ‘produces our sentiment of morals’ in all the artificial virtues (T 3.3.1.10/SBNT 577). Sympathy is not itself a moral principle yet neither do we require, like Hutcheson, a direct moral sense to identify the virtue of justice.

The very technicality (cf. Mercer 1972: 44) of Hume's account rendered it vulnerable. Kames, for example, in direct rebuttal thinks it inadequate for the task Hume as allotted to it (PMNR 32, 19). In part recognition of this, Hume in his later discussion of justice drops the references to an ‘abstruse’ system of sympathy and declares that it is sufficient to accept as a fact the presence in human nature of ‘humanity or fellow-feeling’ so that no-one is indifferent to the happiness or misery of others (M 5, 18n/SBNM 219–20n). This later vocabulary was commonplace. Ferguson, for example, in the one chapter in the Essay (‘Of Moral Sentiment’) explicitly devoted to ‘moral questions’, sees in the ‘amicable disposition’ the foundation of our moral nature whereby our ‘sense of a right’ is extended by a ‘movement of humanity’ to our fellow-creatures (ECS 35, 37). In the later systematic Principles he states that ‘humanity’ is the name given to a ‘principle of sympathy and indiscriminate concern in the condition of a fellow creature’ (PMPS I, 125). Virtually Millar's only reference to moral issues in his published work is his remark that it is ‘feelings of humanity’ that dispose mankind to abstain from injustice (HV IV, 4/773).12 We will come back to ‘humanity’.

Smith's account of sympathy is by far the most extensive and one that he continued to refine through the various editions of the Moral Sentiments. There exists considerable scholarship on this issue13 and in accordance with my professed selective approach I will confine myself to one aspect. He admits that each individual has a ‘natural preference […] for his own happiness above that of other people’ (TMS II.ii.2.1/82). It is, however, he believes a weakness of the Hobbesian/Mandevillean (p.134) view that it cannot accommodate the fact that the interactions of social life ‘humble the arrogance of self-love’ so that no-one ‘dares to look mankind in the face’ and admit he acts according to the principle of self-preference (TMS II.ii.2.1/83). This ocular language is a key motif. Humans are social beings and living in society is like looking in a mirror (TMS III.i.3.3/110; cf. Hume T 2.2.5.21/SBNT 365, M 9, 10/SBNM 276). Just as the mirror allows us to see our own appearance so life in society enables us to see the impact of our behaviour on others. A crucial effect of this exposure to the social gaze is that ‘a human creature’ will observe that others approve of some of his actions and disapprove of others with the consequence, for Smith, that he ‘will be elevated in the one case, and cast down in the other’. The explanation for this response lies in his account of the dynamics of sympathy.

For Smith it is a fact about human nature that ‘nothing pleases more than to observe in other men a fellow-feeling with all the emotions of our own breast’ (TMS I.i.2.1/13). (This pleasure, he notes, following Hutcheson, cannot be explained by those who would derive all our sentiments from self-love.) This is all the more significant since it is this fellow-feeling that is the root of moral judgment. If we, as spectators, through an act of imagination, replicate through sympathy the passions emoted by others in their situation then we sympathise and, in so doing, approve of the response (TMS I.i.3.1/16). It is a given fact of human nature that a spectator's sympathetic emotions are less intense than those of the party observed (the actor). It is equally a fact, given that humans are social beings, that the actor wishes the spectator's sympathy. In response to these facts the actor in order to induce ‘harmony and concord’ between his emotions and those of the spectator ‘lowers his passion to that pitch in which the spectators are capable of going along with him’ (TMS I.i.4.7/22). It is this responsiveness to others – pleasure in their approval, pain in their disapproval – that Smith used to explain why the rich parade their wealth while the poor hide their poverty. The rich value their possessions more for the esteem they bring than any utility (TMS II.iii.2.1/51) and it is this disposition to ‘go along with the passions of the rich and powerful’ that establishes the foundation for rank distinctions (TMS II.iii.2.3/52). Furthermore, and now one of the links to a commercial society becomes more evident, it is this desire for esteem that constitutes the key explanation of that incentive to better our condition mentioned above (TMS II.iii.2.1/50; cf. IV.i.10/183).

Accordingly, for Smith, it is ‘the vanity, not the ease or the pleasure that interests us’ and ‘vanity is always founded upon the belief of our being the object of attention and approbation’ (TMS I.iii.2.1/50). This is not some superseded pre-commercial aristocratic or feudal (p.135) phenomenon but part of what it means to live in society. This is reinforced by Smith's observation, and one that marks his distance from Hobbes' narrowly conceived account of motivation, in his Lectures that ‘the whole industry of human life is employed not in procuring the supply of the three humble necessities, food, cloaths and lodging, but in procuring the conveniences of it according to the nicety and delicacy of our taste’ (LJB 209/488). Of course, in line with the trajectory of natural history, this ‘procurement’ develops. This clearly bears on commercial society. The society described, or implied, by Hume, Smith and others is one where its members are status conscious. The characteristic modern (commercial) form that this self-awareness takes expresses itself in ‘taste’, which is tangibly exhibited through possessions. For example, much of Hume's discussion of the passions in Book II of the Treatise, with its elaborate discussion of pride is a recognition of this fact of ‘common life’.14 As we will discuss in Chapter 6, this can become a cause for concern but there is a positive dimension since the jostle for (even) ‘prestige goods’ produces, as Smith, observed industry. Moreover, this form of competition is less destructive in commercial society than in earlier times when the constraints of justice were looser and where the ‘great proprietors’ made war ‘almost continually upon one another’ (WN III.iv.9/418; cf. Hume E-RA 277) and where status accrues to success in that field. As we will bring out, bellicosity and attendant martial virtues come to be displaced by gentler, peaceful commercial virtues.

We can initially pursue this by seeing how this socio-moral interaction has direct bearing on Smith's analysis of commercial society. As mentioned above, the very complexity of that society meant that the bulk of inter-personal dealings were with strangers. According to Smith's theory, an actor can expect less sympathy from a stranger than from a friend.15 This follows because Smith supposes, in an argument reminiscent of Hume, that in earlier simpler ages, where dealings with family and friends dominate, plenty of sympathy will be forthcoming. Given this then less effort is needed to ‘tone down’ the emotions. Strangers, however, are less obliging (TMS I.i.4.9/23) and much greater effort is required.

There are two related consequences of habitually living among strangers. The first is that individuals identify themselves (almost) with the ‘impartial spectator’ (TMS III.3.25/147; cf. III.3.38/153). This spectator is an internalised standard of rectitude and plays the role traditionally associated with conscience – he is ‘the man within the breast, the great judge and arbiter’ (TMS III.2.32/130). This standard is anchored in another of the facts that Smith attributes to human nature, namely, that (p.136) humans wish ‘not only to be loved but to be lovely […] not only praise but praiseworthiness’ (TMS III.2.1/113–14). The result of this is that we are still pleased with having acted in a praiseworthy manner even if nobody praises us. We do not, therefore, in our conduct rely on actual praise or blame but seek to act in such a way that an ‘impartial spectator’ would approve of our conduct (TMS III.2.5/116). It is ‘only by consulting this judge’ that we can ever get a proper evaluative distance on our actions (TMS III.3.1/134). Everyman, he says later, is able to form gradually from his own ‘observations upon the character and conduct of both himself and other people’ an idea of ‘exact propriety and perfection’ (TMS VI.iii.25/247). In other words, we can all potentially (since shortfall is always possible) establish an ideal or benchmark. By applying to others as well as ourselves this benchmark in principle enables us to obtain a distance on social practices. Individuals and institutions can be judged as, for example, too heavily swayed by praise and insufficiently attentive to the praiseworthiness of their endeavours. Hence Smith's criticism of the court of Louis XIV for lauding that monarch's mediocre talents and conversely for causing ‘knowledge, industry, valour and beneficence’ to lose respect (TMS I.iii.2.4/54).

The second consequence of the habitual effect of living among strangers is that the greater effort that is required to acquire sympathy serves to strengthen character. This enables the actor to attain a greater degree of moderation and exhibit more consistently the virtue of self-command in a commercial society than is possible in more tribal or clannish times (TMS III.3.24/146). In this way individuals in a commercial society are (in general terms) able to act ‘according to the dictates of prudence, justice and proper beneficence’ (TMS VI.iii.11/241). And not only is adherence to the ‘sacred rules of justice’ – the foundation of a commercial society – made possible but also adherence to the ‘gentler exertions of self-command’ gives ‘lustre’ to the distinctively commercial virtues of ‘industry and frugality’ (TMS VI.iii.13/242) (see below).

The reference here to self-command takes us back to the ‘control’ mandated by the Stoics, like Epictetus. The claim that Smith subscribes to Stoic tenets is often made (a classic statement is Macfie and Raphael's [1982] Introduction to the Glasgow Edition of TMS but they are hardly alone).16 It would not be surprising if he did subscribe since that was a common stance. Ferguson, for example, openly admitted in the Introduction to his Principles that he ‘may be thought partial to the Stoic philosophy’ (PMPS I, 7).

However, there are good grounds to doubt Smith's affiliation. He flatly declares that, ‘the plan and system which Nature has sketched out for our conduct seems to be altogether different from that of the (p.137) Stoical philosophy’ (TMS VII.ii.1.43; my emphasis). But more significantly these grounds can be seen to stem from his account of commercial society. Some of them will become apparent in Chapter 6 but we can here appositely recall from Chapter 3 (p. 81) Smith's affirmation of the ‘joy of prosperity’ as a striking example of his anti-Stoical position.17 Another telling factor in distancing Smith from Stoicism is that the basis of his moral theory lies in the dynamics of social life. The thrust of the passage that likens society to a mirror is that morality is a matter of socialisation. Social intercourse teaches individuals what behaviour is acceptable and, in due course, these social judgments are internalised as conscience. Smith knows full well this is contrary to classical Stoicism with its depiction of a ‘sage’, who in the expression of his complete independence truly knows what is in his control. We can recall from Epictetus' account that the ‘free man’ is indifferent to his ‘reputation’ (doxai), to the opinions of others. In sharp contrast Smith declares that ‘the sentiments of other people is the sole principle which, upon most occasions, overawes all those mutinous and turbulent passions’ (TMS VI.concl.2 /263; my emphasis). For the Stoics the virtue of self-command derives from the rational will; in Smith its source is social interaction. Moreover, the exercise of this virtue, as we noted above, improves as the requirements of living among strangers, the inter-dependency characteristic of a commercial society, assist sympathetic concord (cf. TMS V.2.8–10; I.i.4.7). This inter-dependence is the decisive factor that distinguishes Smith from Rousseau and we will pick up that argument in Chapter 6.

But there is one passage in particular that is frequently cited in support of Smith's Stoic credentials. This is when he contrasts, on the one hand, the deceptive satisfaction afforded by the palaces of the rich and the ‘pleasures of wealth and greatness’ that ‘strike the imagination as something grand, beautiful and noble’ with, on the other, ‘real happiness’ – understood as ‘ease of body and peace of mind’, a condition that can be possessed by all ranks, even beggars (TMS IV.1.9.10/183, 185). (Epictetus was a slave while the other major late Stoic, Aurelius, was an emperor.) However, his argument is more subtle than a piece of Stoic moralising. The full import of this passage is positive (Hundert 1994: 222; Berry 1997: 44–5). While individuals may be deceived in thinking wealth brings happiness, the pursuit of that deception does nonetheless produce the blessing of opulence. Hence, in this same passage, Smith proceeds to identify these benefits. This deception ‘raises and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind’ and it is through these means that the earth has been transformed, cities founded, population increased and provided for and ‘all the sciences and arts which ennoble (p.138) and embellish human life’ have been invented (TMS IV.1.10/183). The implication is that if Stoic (or Rousseauan) precepts had been adhered to, that is, had mankind confined themselves to ‘real’ satisfactions, then human life would have been miserably poor (and unhappy). Indeed Smith later calls the cultivation of land, the advancement of manufactures and increase of commerce (opulence) ‘real improvements’ through which ‘mankind are benefited’ and ‘human nature ennobled’ (TMS VI.ii.2.3/229). This last phrase has a particular further significance. It underlines the distance between Smith's position and an anti-Stoic neo-Augustinian moral psychology, despite claims, themselves evidentially strained even via Mandeville, that have been made that his argument is especially indebted to it.18

This discussion in Book IV of the Moral Sentiments is where Smith makes his only reference in that book to the ‘invisible hand’ (TMS IV.1.10/184). It too has been read to reflect a neo-Stoic Providentialist account of nature and society19 but it is more plausibly a particular expression (a metaphorical flourish) of the more general phenomenon of ‘unintended consequences’. It is true Smith does here invoke Providence but it is hard to give this much substance,20 especially since he does not see all cases of unintended consequences as benign – the growth of national debt and stultifying effects of the division of labour being two notably malign cases that we will discuss in Chapter 6.

Leaving Hume to one side,21 it is indubitably the case that Providence is frequently invoked by the Scots. David Allan (1993: 207–17) has argued that the recognition of ‘unintended consequences’ is part of their Presbyterian Calvinist legacy, though he is sparing in specifics (but we can recall Halyburton's use of the phrase ‘invisible hand’ [p. 30n]).22 Kames frequently evokes Providence and the fact that thinkers like Reid, Blair and Robertson were professional clerics (and Ferguson had been ordained) is not merely incidental. What ‘Providence’ generally betokens is the view, supported by ‘science’, that Nature comprises a systematic order or Design. Ferguson expresses the common view that ‘it is proofs of design from which we infer the existence of God’ (ECS 6). This was easily coupled with the idea of benign superintending Providence. The geometric properties of honeycombs were for Reid the work of the ‘great Geometrician’ who designed the bee rather than the bee itself (1846: 546–7; Ferguson too cites the bee to the same point in ECS 182; it had been the subject of a paper by Maclaurin as Reid acknowledges). And Kames' writings abound with references to ‘beautiful final causes’. Smith too on occasion employs that vocabulary (see TMS II.ii.3.5/87) and it is seemingly redolent of a latent Aristotelianism. Some commentators, while making a number of (p.139) caveats, have attempted to align Smith with that outlook but like the Stoic alignment this too seems strained.23

Commercial Virtues

Like all other ‘states of society’ the age of commerce generates certain ways of acting, a distinctive set of manners and norms (a Sittlichkeit). Directly echoing Smith's remark that everyman is a sort of merchant, Millar declares that the ‘mercantile spirit is not confined to tradesmen or merchants; from a similarity of situation it pervades in some degree all orders and ranks and by the influence of habit and example it is communicated, more or less, to every member of the community’ (HV IV, 6/777). The references here to ‘habit and example’ reveal the soft determinism to which he, and his fellow natural historians, subscribe (see p. 72 above); a point underwritten by his next sentence, ‘individuals form their notions of propriety according to a general standard, and fashion their morals in conformity to the prevailing taste of the times’ (see similarly Smith TMS V.2.7/204).

What are ‘the morals’ fashioned by commerce? What are the distinctively ‘commercial virtues’? A little earlier in his text Millar had observed that as social intercourse extends (that is, as society gets more complex) it ‘requires more and more a mutual trust and confidence, which cannot be maintained without the uniform profession and rigid practice of honesty and fair-dealing’ (HV IV, 6 /773). Ferguson, in an aside, refers to ‘punctuality and fair-dealing’ as the ‘system of manners’ of merchants (ECS 189; cf. identically IMP 39). Once again a Smithian precedent is identifiable. In his Glasgow lectures Smith observed that ‘when the greater part of the people are merchants they always bring probity and punctuality into fashion’ so that these are ‘the principal virtues of a commercial nation’ (LJB 328/539). That these virtues are pre-eminent is a direct reflection of the need for predictability and confidence in future-oriented ‘market’ dealings. This is ‘diametrically opposite’ to ‘rude nations’ so that, as we have noted, ‘barbarians are but seldom acquainted with the rules of justice [and] […] have seldom any regard to their promises’ (Millar HV IV, 6/774). This contrast opens the way for a progressive history of ‘civilisation’.

Hume's essays of the 1750s can be instructively read from this perspective. From his essay ‘Of Refinement of Arts’ we can pick up again his statement that ‘industry, knowledge and humanity are linked together by an indissoluble chain and are found […] to be peculiar to the more refined and, what are commonly denominated, the more luxurious ages’ (E-RA 271). This trio stands in marked (and almost (p.140) symmetrical) contrast to the ‘ignorance, sloth and barbarism’ employed slightly later (1758) (E-JT 328). The indissolubility here signals the shared position of the Scots that societies form synchronic wholes, which we will explore in Chapter 7.

We have already met ‘industry’, the first component in the initial trio, in Smith's account of how the earth has been transformed. The governing presumption is that humans are indolent. Robertson described the ‘efforts’ of those in ‘the early ages of society’ as ‘few and languid’ (HAm 819). This description was also typically applied to the Highlanders. Thomas Pennant his Tour of 1769 judged them ̒indolent to a high degree, unless roused to war and as ‘idle and lazy except when employed in the chace’ (though he admits the women are ‘more industrious’) (1979: 193, 117). Smith observes that ‘our ancestors were idle’ but he proceeds to attribute this not to some supposed ‘natural attribute’ but to ‘want of a sufficient encouragement to industry’ (WN II.iii.12/335). In Hume, and in line with the ‘revolution’ that ushered in commerce, that encouragement is a ‘desire for a more splendid way of life than what their ancestors enjoyed’ (E-Com 264).

Hume typically associates, though not exclusively, industry with ‘frugality’ (M 6, 21/SBNM 243; M 9, 12/SBNM 277; M App, 4, 2/SBNM 313). This association reflects a shift. Frugalitas meant living simply, in accordance with the requirements of natural needs (see, for example, Seneca 1932a: no. 5). Similarly, neo-Stoics, like Sir George Mackenzie in 1691, enjoined ‘us [to] embrace ancient Frugality, under whose empire Vice was of old curbed with great success and which by freeing us from Poverty, secures us against all Snares which it occasions’ (1711: 292) and, even more recently, it had been lauded by Berkeley in his Essay (1953: VI, 74). In this line of reasoning, frugality, along with austerity and poverty, was a component of what Hume calls ‘severe’ morality (E-RA 269), that exemplified a worthy (honestum) life. This stood in contrast, as characterised by Cicero (1913: I, 106/109), to a life devoted to luxury, softness and effeminacy (see Chapter 3 for this view of poverty and Chapter 6 for discussion of this contrast). Hume's context is different (and opposed). He employs the term against the background of the collapse of Smith's great proprietors and his own account of the emergence of commerce. Where there is nothing but ‘a landed interest’ he declares there will be ‘little frugality’ because landlords are ‘prodigal’ (E-Int 298–9; cf. Wallace CGB 125). But with the development of commerce we get an increase in industry. This he declares ‘encreases frugality’ because it gives rise to merchants (‘one of the most useful races of men’ [E-Int 300]) whose passion is love of gain.24 They are not inclined to dissipate this on pleasure but ‘beget (p.141) industry’ as they distribute resources through society. This sets in train a process whereby competition among traders reduces profits which causes a willing acceptance of low interest rates that makes commodities cheaper thus encouraging consumption and thereby ‘heightening the industry’ (E-Int 302–3). We know from earlier discussion that, since merchants ‘covet equal laws’, the concomitant of this is that commerce begets liberty.

As we quoted above, Smith, too, links frugality with industry and, like Hume, says it is directed at the ‘acquisition of fortune’ (TMS IV.2.8/190). Not only is this again contrary to Stoic teaching but also contrary to the prescriptions of thinkers like William Davenant, who, in 1698, issued the imperative that ‘ancient frugality must be restored’ (1771: IV, 424). Whereas Hume had aligned frugality with merchants, Smith thinks the ‘principle of frugality’ predominates in ‘the greater part of men’ over their lifetimes (WN II.iii.28/342). In his discussion, following classical precedent (cf. Cicero 1927: III, 8/245), Smith links frugality with the virtue of prudence.

Of all the virtues prudence is the one most useful to ourselves (TMS IV.2.6/189); its ‘proper business’ is care for one's health, fortune, rank and reputation (TMS VI.1.5/213). It is in ‘the steadiness of his industry and frugality’, in sacrificing present advantage for greater return later, that the prudent man's conduct is approved by the impartial spectator (TMS VI.1.11/215). Although it is not the ‘most ennobling of virtues’ it fits the circumstances of a society of merchants. The dispositions of this prudent man of commerce, because he does not agitate to involve himself in public service or in the pursuit of ‘solid glory’ (TMS VI.1.13/216), represent, as we will see in Chapter 6, for Ferguson, a danger in commercial society. For Smith, commercial society hinges, as we have seen, on justice and, importantly, adhering to that virtue does not rely on noble characters merely on prudent ones.25 Moreover, the tempering of conduct that an assembly of strangers induces, means this (commercial) society can be harmonious; it can experience ‘concord’ (which is ‘all that is wanted and required’) if not ‘unison’ (TMS I.i.4.7/22). Though Smith does not make the point, it is difficult to see how the inherent pluralism of a society marked by the individually identified desires that stimulate the pursuit and enjoyment of natural liberty could comport with one marked by the singularity of purpose that seemingly constitutes ‘unison’.

But given Hume's imagery of the indissoluble chain, industry (frugality and prudence) does not operate in isolation; developments in one component of the trio affect and are affected by developments in the other two. Hence ‘industry is much promoted by the knowledge (p.142) inseparable from ages of art and refinement’, while reason ‘refines’ itself ‘by exercise and by an application to the more vulgar arts, at least, of commerce and manufacture’ (E-RA 273). Moreover, ‘industry’ and ‘refinements in the mechanical arts’ go along with ‘refinements’ in the liberal, so ‘we cannot reasonably expect that a piece of woollen cloth will be wrought to perfection in a nation which is ignorant of astronomy or where ethics are neglected’ (E-RA 270–1). (Note again the synchronicity assumed here.) That uncivilised nations are ignorant, and as a consequence superstitious, is an enduring theme across the Enlightenment. A significant indicator of a commercial society is that its citizens no longer live distantly from one another (a characteristic peculiar to ‘ignorant and barbarous nations’), but flock into cities. Aptly enough ‘civility’ becomes a valued modality (Boyd 2008). As Robertson pointed out cities gave rise to ‘polished manners’ (VP 319). One example of this, that Hume picks up, is that in cities both sexes meet in an ‘easy and sociable manner’. This is part and parcel of a distinctively commercial way of life; its manners and virtues. As we remarked at the beginning of this chapter, one manifestation of this is the advance in the status of women. It is a consequence of this advance, as Hume remarks, that together with the ‘improvements’ in knowledge and liberal arts, both sexes ‘must feel an encrease of humanity’ (E-RA 271).

Humanity, the third link in the chain, we have also already met as Hume's replacement for the role played by sympathy in the Treatise. The term carries a lot of historical baggage26 but its membership of this trio indicates a significant and wider-ranging set of associations. As we indicated in Chapter 4 there is a distinctively modern twist to humanity. Once men are ‘less oppressed with their own wants’ then they are ‘at more liberty to cultivate the feelings of humanity’ (Millar OR 176). Hume had developed the implicit link here with sentiment. He associates humanity with the softening of ‘tempers’ or emotional dispositions (E-RA 274) and contrasts this to the severity of ancient moralists like Epictetus. Smith ties these humane sentiments to a heightened sensitivity to the feelings of others, ‘a humane and polished people […] have more sensibility to the passion of others’ (TMS V.2.10/207). In a comment, the full force of which will become apparent in Chapter 6, he at one point identifies ‘humanity’ as ‘the virtue of a woman’ (TMS IV.2.10/190). Against the sensitivity of the humane he contrasts the ‘hardiness demanded of savages’, as manifest in their resistance to and infliction of torture. But this behaviour ‘diminishes their humanity’ (TMS V.2.11, 13/209).

While this hardiness might look like an exemplary exhibition of the virtue of self-command this is misleading. I differ here from Maureen (p.143) Harkin's (2002: 29) reading that this betrays Smith's ‘extremely’ ‘ambivalent account of modernity’. As I interpret it, this savage (Stoic) self-command, when compared to that exercised by civilised peoples is more a matter of repression (Berry 1997: 139). Its putative exemplary status is further undermined because it is rather the civilised than the savage man who exhibits ‘the most exquisite humanity [and] is naturally the most capable of acquiring the highest degree of self-command’ (TMS III.3.36/152). The savage's behaviour is all the more unedifying given its association with ‘falsehood and dissimulation’ once again compared to the ‘frank, open and sincere’ habits of a ‘polished people’ (TMS V.2.11/208; cf. Hume on treachery as the ‘usual concomitant of ignorance and barbarism’ [E-NC 211]). The virtuous humanity of a commercial people (along with their truthfulness and justice) is rewarded with the ‘confidence, the esteem and love’ of their fellows (TMS III.5.8/166). And since, as we sketched out above, Smith's moral theory hinges on responsiveness to others then these virtues will establish themselves and individuals will act accordingly. In addition, because the ‘good opinion’ of others is always desired then it will produce ‘regular conduct’ (TMS I.iii.3.5/63) or, in other words, the rule-governed, predictable behaviour necessary to the functioning of a commercial society.

Ferguson too remarks on the salience of humanity. In the manner of Hume (see p. 76 above) he identifies it as the ‘principal characteristic’ of civilisation that the ‘laws of war’ have been ‘softened’, while Millar declares that killing one's enemies is ‘disgusting to humanity’ (HV IV, 6/754). In that same passage Ferguson further observes that glory consists in protecting the vanquished not destroying them (ECS 199–200). Nonetheless he fears that commercial states tend to exhibit a ‘contempt for glory’ (ECS 258). Glory is ‘won’ on the battlefield by exhibiting courage, the definitive martial virtue. I will return to that virtue in Chapter 6 but here it is apt to examine how that virtue, in particular its association with bellicosity, sits uneasily with the commercial virtues. Smith, Hume and Millar all throw doubt on the propriety of courage (or fortitude) in the modern world.

Millar stipulatively distinguishes between courage and fortitude. The former is active, the latter is passive. He thinks the latter is practised in the ‘infancy of society’ because it is ‘the want of humanity’ that makes it apt (HV IV, 6/747–8). By contrast, the ‘lively sensibility and exquisite fellow-feeling which in opulent and polished nations take place among individuals are […] peculiarly unfavourable to fortitude’. This fellow-feeling is the product of the commercial ‘mode of life’, which comprises ‘regular government’, ‘tranquillity’ and a ‘secure and comfortable (p.144) situation’ which with the establishment of more ‘intimate conversation’ has ‘softened’ manners' (HV IV, 6/751). Millar draws implicitly on his historical and ethnographical sources (on which see Fauré 1997) to declare that ‘savage nations […] in all parts of the world are said to be cowardly and treacherous’ (HV IV, 6/749) thus courage is exhibited when a sense of chivalry and honour is developed (he mentions duels) (HV IV, 6/748; cf. Hume E-RA 274). However, it too has been altered by the ‘improvement of commerce and manufactures’ so that ‘the customs of chivalry’ and ‘punctilios of military honour’ are ‘plainly contrary to the manners of a commercial people’ (HV IV, 6/750, 752).

Smith does not include courage in his dedicated section on virtue in the Moral Sentiments. Since this was one of the four classical cardinal virtues (along with justice, temperance and prudence, which he does consider) this omission is significant but in the light of this discussion unsurprising (pace Raphael 2007: 73). Smith does not question that command of fear is virtuous (see Chapter 6 on the deleterious effects of the division of labour) but observes that ‘the most intrepid valour may be employed in the cause of the greatest injustice’ and because it can be used to equal effect to good or bad ends then it can be ‘excessively dangerous’ (TMS VI.ii.12/241; cf VI.concl.7/264). Hume too acknowledges that courage and love of glory are species of heroic virtue and are on the face of it ‘much admir'd’ but those of ‘cool reflection’ are inclined to regard heroism as mischievous and a ‘suppos'd virtue’ (T 3.3.3.13–15/ SBNT 599–601; cf Baier 1991: 210). The time for heroes has passed; they cause disorder and they would be out of place in a society where order is premised on predictability. He gives this view a clear historical perspective – ‘it is indeed observable that among all uncultivated nations who have not as yet had full experience of the advantages attending beneficence, justice and the social virtues, courage is the predominant excellence’ (M 7, 15/SBNM 255). In his History he remarks, referring to sixteenth-century Scotland, that when ‘arms’ prevail over ‘laws’ then ‘courage preferably to equity or justice was the virtue most valued and respected’ (HE II, 81; cf. I, 115 on the Anglo-Saxons).

It is accepted that courage has only a limited role in a commercial society. The frequent approbative references to ‘softness’, that we have already come across, are indicative of the line of thought that is captured in the expression, ‘doux commerce’ (Hirschman 1977: 60). The expression occurs in Montesquieu. In Book 20 of De l'Esprit des Lois he states that commerce polishes and softens barbarous manners (adoucit les moeurs barbares) and that its natural consequence is to induce peace (porter à la paix) (1961: II, 8). As Hirschman points out (p.145) Montesquieu's wording was closely followed by Robertson. Indeed he provides one of the clearest expositions of this position:

commerce tends to wear off those prejudices which maintain distinction and animosity between nations. It softens and polishes the manners of men. It unites them by one of the strongest of all ties, the desire of supplying their mutual wants. It disposes them to peace […] (VP 333)

This picture, alongside what Montesquieu called ‘un certain sentiment de justice exacte’ (1961: II, 9), effectively captures a core factor in what distinguishes a commercial society. Like all forms of society it develops its own set of norms of virtues or puts its own twist upon their expression in earlier forms. But for all the broad endorsement of the commercial way of life this was not given unquestioningly. Indeed, among the Scots and indeed across the Enlightenment, it was the subject of intense debate, as the next chapter will reveal.

Notes

(1) . Kames incorporated reference to this case in the 3rd edition of his Principles of Equity (1778). That a form of slavery was present vestigially in contemporary Scotland in the circumstances of colliers and salters, who were bound to work for life in those occupations, was regretfully acknowledged by Millar. This ‘pernicious’ practice he believes is manifestly to the detriment of the proprietor and likely to be imminently abolished (OR 319) (this occurred in 1799 after an unsuccessful attempt in 1774).

(2) . Stuart, typically, is an exception to this consensus. He carries his disputes with Robertson, Kames and Millar into denying that women were in an abject state of servility before property (VSE 11). Stuart's interpretation is discussed in Sebastiani (2005).

(3) . This term is employed (by Zeno for example [Diogenes Laertius 1925: 110]) as a form of excessive impulse (hormê) and more specifically as an irrational mode of orexis [Diogenes Laertius 1925: 113]. It was thus a negatively loaded term and distinct from ‘desire’ qua orexis as employed by Epictetus (see text above). For the difference between the terms see Inwood (1985: 167) and Nussbaum (1986: 275). Epithumia was typically employed when discussing the ‘body’ and can be translated often as ‘appetite’ and was taken over by Christian theologians.

(4) . The evident element of relaxation here mirrors the development of Stoicism, especially in its Roman form. Seneca despite his generally censorious tone was himself a rich man who wrote an essay De Vita Beata that contained a defence of wealth (1932b: pars 21–6). This development was also affected by the Stoics' need, as by now a mainstream position, to distinguish their position from the notoriety of the Cynics, who took ‘living according to nature’ to extremes (popularly captured by the image (p.146) of Diogenes living in a barrel [Zeller 1885: 317]) as well as by a reformulation of the role of the ‘sage’ or sapiens from judge to therapist (Griffin 1976: 170). Epictetus, though chronologically a late Stoic, represents a throwback to the earlier austere formulation, hence, in part, the starkness of his teaching, though despite some favourable references to Diogenes he retained the antipathy to the Cynics (see Discourses [1928: 4, 11]). For a discussion of this relation see Schofield 2007.

(5) . That Smith is to be firmly located in this ‘early modern consensus’ is the key theme in Joseph Cropsey's (2001) interpretation of his thought first published in 1957.

(6) . John Salter (1994: 312) contends in a critique of Hont and Ignatieff (1983) that Smith's view of justice did not require him to attend to the needs of the poor, even if his view of humanity did, but even then he was unprepared to make unrealistic claims that ‘extreme inequality and oppression’ would be compensated for. This, of course, is distinct from denying that Smith disavows the applicability of moral criteria to commercial society.

(7) . That, when properly construed, self-love and benevolence were not in conflict was a major theme of Butler's Sermons (1964), whose writings were influential among the Scots; indeed Hutcheson's later thought has been characterised as ‘Butlerised’ (Filonowicz 2008: 236), though Moore (2000: 250), for one, doubts Butler is decisive. For Smith and Butler see Raphael 2007 and Forman-Barzilai 2010.

(8) . This is distinct from that associated with E. P. Thompson. He used it to refer to the legitimating function of traditional rights and customs, which he contrasted to the ‘new political economy’, whereby the economy was ‘disinfected of moral imperatives’ and of which Smith is identified as an exponent (Thompson 1991a: 201ff). For a critique of this see Hont and Ignatieff 1983 and also Thompson's reply in which he denies he was arguing that Smith was operating in a moral vacuum (Thompson 1991b: 271, 268–9).

(9) . See Forman-Barzilai for a measured assessment of Smith's ‘cautious appropriation’ (2010: 7; cf.Chap. 4). For the Stoics themselves see Annas (1993: 262f), she translates oikeiosis as ‘familiarisation’.

(10) . Rousseau makes this distinction (though it does originate with him) in his Discours de l'ineqalité parmi les hommes (1755) (1962: 118), reviewed by Smith in the Edinburgh Review (Letter 11–17/250–4). In that essay Rousseau referred to Mandeville and Smith picked up on that in his review. Mandeville for his part had distinguished between ‘self-love’ and self-liking' (1988: II, 129). For a subtle investigation of Smith's usage see Heath 2013.

(11) . Although Shaftesbury had used the term ‘moral sense’ Hutcheson's usage reflected his adoption of Locke's empiricism (despite some qualms on the consequences that can be drawn from the rejection of innate ideas [PW 35]). This divergence from Shaftesbury put him firmly in the ‘modernist (p.147) camp’. This is captured by William Leechman (contemporary Professor of Divinity [1743–61] at Glasgow) who in his ‘Account’ of Hutcheson's life, observed that Hutcheson had seen how ‘natural philosophy had been carried to a greater degree of perfection than ever it was before’ and was convinced that ‘only by pursuing the same method’ could ‘a more exact theory of morals’ be formed (see his link between benevolence and gravitation, p. 22 above). In addition, by basing this moral sense in universal human experience, Hutcheson, as Daniel Carey (2006: 100) puts it, ‘democratised the moral sense’. This further served to differentiate his argument from Shaftesbury's version, which presupposed a level of aristocratic detachment and sensibility (as well as a Deist disposition that went against Hutcheson's deep Presbyterian commitments). That Hutcheson's ‘universalism’ fails because the natural theology on which it is dependent is based on the Lockean empiricism is argued by Elton (2008), developing an interpretation put forward by MacIntyre (1998: 289).

(12) . In his Glasgow lectures Millar as part of his duties covered Ethics and its relation to Jurisprudence – see ̒Notes on Lectures on Institutes of Justinian according to Heineccius (1789) in Glasgow University Library (MS Gen 812). The influence of Smith is apparent.

(13) . For example, Griswold 1999, Broadie 2006, Otteson 2002, Forman-Barzilai 2010, Frazer 2010.

(14) . See Christopher J. Finlay's comment that Hume provides a ‘sophisticated account of the kinds of social bonds that were both required and reinforced by the interactions of consumers on commercial societies’ (2007: 42 and see Chapters 6 and 7 for an insightful elaboration of this position). See also James Harris (2010: 35) who remarks, of Treatise Book II, that according to Hume humans are ‘pre-eminently concerned with social status and with the things that confer such status, including material possessions, rank and reputation’.

(15) . Griswold (1999: 142 and throughout) refers to ‘circles of sympathy’ (a term that Forman-Barzilai incorporated into the title of her book [2010]). Otteson (2002: Chap. 5) somewhat similarly refers to the ‘familiarity principle’.

(16) . See, for example (and notwithstanding differences between them) Force 2003, Turco 2003, Fitzgibbon 1995, Muller 1995, Waszek 1984.

(17) . See also his observation that the ‘condition of human nature’ would be ‘peculiarly hard’ if the affections which naturally affect our conduct could ‘upon no occasion appear virtuous’ (TMS VII.ii.3.18/305). For commentary on human nature in Smith see Berry 2012.

(18) . The work of Pierre Nicole (1625–95) is particularly invoked in this context but, even leaving aside that there is no room for ‘ennoblement’ in his Augustinian view of human nature, any direct impact is at best inferential. He had read and was influenced by Hobbes (Malcolm 2002: 509). Nicole himself argued, as part of his Jansenist critique of the Stoics, that ‘un amour-propre éclairé’ could ‘outwardly’(au-dehors) replicate (p.148) a society ‘trés réglée’, although ‘inwardly’ (au-dedans) and in the sight of God this might be corrupt (1999: 408). That is to say, although selflove is intrinsically pride-full, greedy and envious yet this nature has to be hidden or disguised when dealing with others, including conducting the business of commerce (1999: 384; cf. 213) and in the generation of civilité (1999: 182). This interaction indeed produces (we might say) a sort of self-deception (cf.1999: 409). Mandeville in Brooke's (2012: 155) phrase gave a ‘secularizing twist’ to this account in his own critique of the Stoics. (That Mandeville was in fact a sincere Augustinian is argued by Burtt [1992: Chap. 7].) Phillipson (2010: 61) claims that Mandeville and Smith ‘must have known’ Nicole's work but regarding Smith this ‘necessity’ is not based on any direct textual evidence. Forman-Barzilai (2010: 38n, 40) concedes Smith's familiarity with Nicole ‘appears to be mostly secondary’ but that Mandeville ‘doubtless’ drew on him, noting that Mandeville does refer to him in a later writing (Free Thoughts on Religion, 1729), which Smith is presumed to have ‘likely’ encountered. However, Mandeville's particular references there do not speak to the matter at hand. Forman-Barzilai also judges that Butler employed ‘concepts and categories strikingly similar to Nicole’ and that Smith was ‘influenced by the Nicole-Butler orientation to “enlightened or “reasonable self-love”’ (2010: 40, 42). Muller (1995: 51) quotes the usual passages from Nicole (plus also from another Augustinian, Jean Domat, who borrowed from Nicole) but makes no express claim for influence. Domat (from the English translation [1722] of his Lois Civiles [1689]) is also quoted identically by Hutchinson [1988: 101–2] to whom, along with more significantly Nicole, Mandeville was ‘importantly indebted’. Hutchinson also claims Nicole ‘anticipate[d] precisely’ Smith's comment on the butcher, baker and brewer but such precision is elusive, while Wootton (1986: 75) holds Nicole ‘provided in embryo the key arguments of the opening chapters of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations’ and even that it is to Nicole ‘that we owe the first clear formulation of the new philosophy of commercial society’. Almost all of this is presumptive and the whole Jansenist connection should be treated with great scepticism.

(19) . See Force 2003: 74; Macfie 1967: 107; Murphy 1993: 193ff; Otteson 2002: 245ff; Young 1997; Alvey 2003: 267; Forman-Barzilai 2010. Not that these thinkers adopt a uniform position or are in necessary agreement with each other. For an explicitly historical overview see Vivenza 2001.

(20) . Smith's own beliefs are hard to discern. Ian Ross (2010: 432) confined himself to saying ‘there is no great evidence that Smith set stock in an after-life’. Some commentators do see in his thought a principled theistic or Deistic commitment (see for example Evensky 2005, especially Chap. 4 but throughout, Hanley 2009a, Otteson 2002, Young 1997). For a subtle account of a duality between theological presupposition and secular empiricism in Smith see Tanaka 2003 and also Campbell 1971. For a thorough biographical account of Smith and religion see Kennedy 2013.

(p.149)

(21) . Hume's common reputation was as an infidel, even though in deference to his friends he arranged for his most subversive work (Dialogues concerning Natural Religion) to be published posthumously.

(22) . Anand Chitnis (1976: 254), as part of his argument that the Enlightenment themes of improvement and reform were stirring before the eighteenth century, also invokes the Calvinist legacy. See also Emerson 1989.

(23) . For example, Calkins and Werhane (1998: 50) claim that on a practical level Smith's and Aristotle's notion of human flourishing differ ‘very little’, though they immediately say ‘Smith's scheme lacks Aristotle's focus on the telos or universal and final end of happiness’. Hanley (2007: 20, 19) charts similarities in Smith's and Aristotle's substantive accounts, as well as their conceptions of methods and ends of ethics, but admits there are ‘crucial differences’ between Smith and Aristotle that ‘may be insurmountable’. Fleischacker (1999: 120, 140) considers Smith as close to Aristotle while yet being crucially different.

(24) . This distinguishes Hume's view from Montesquieu's (1961: I, 52) portrayal of frugality in democracies. Though l'esprit de commerce brings with it inter alia frugalité and travail yet within une république commerçante (such as Athens) it serves to limit the désir d'avoir (1961: I, 47). In these republics frugality remains a severe virtue; it exemplifies a negative view of avarice (or Hume's love of gain). This affinity between frugality and this ‘spirit’ make it distinct from Hume's modern account of incentives and helps distinguish a commercial society from a mercantile republic. As we will also see in Chapter 6 Hume links virtue with luxury and does not oppose them, as in the case in these republics.

(25) . This is not to say Smith dismisses ‘nobility’ or the merits of ‘superior prudence’ but in the ordinary context of social (commercial) life their ‘perfection’ makes them extra-ordinary (commercial society functions effectively without heroes or sages). See Hanley (2009a: 43, 69) for a forceful (if perhaps at times a shade forced) argument that it is ‘central’ to Smith's moral philosophy that he distinguishes ‘genuine transcendent virtue’ from ‘mere social propriety’, with nobility a key example of the former and the ‘recovery’ of which was, on his interpretation, one of Smith's goals. Recall Smith's own references to ‘ennoblement’ (text above) are made in the context of material improvement.

(26) . We have already noted its role in jurisprudence, where it is the object of an imperfect right (see Reid 1990: 147) and, as a synonym for ‘benevolence’ it was distinguished from the perfect obligation to be just (see Chapter 5, p. 129). The Roman moralists gave it a broad meaning encompassing learning and culture as well as kindness and forgiveness (see Ferguson 1958: 116). The former of these passed into the Renaissance in the form of studia humanitatis, so that the professor of Humanity in the Scottish universities in the eighteenth century taught Latin.

Notes:

(1) . Kames incorporated reference to this case in the 3rd edition of his Principles of Equity (1778). That a form of slavery was present vestigially in contemporary Scotland in the circumstances of colliers and salters, who were bound to work for life in those occupations, was regretfully acknowledged by Millar. This ‘pernicious’ practice he believes is manifestly to the detriment of the proprietor and likely to be imminently abolished (OR 319) (this occurred in 1799 after an unsuccessful attempt in 1774).

(2) . Stuart, typically, is an exception to this consensus. He carries his disputes with Robertson, Kames and Millar into denying that women were in an abject state of servility before property (VSE 11). Stuart's interpretation is discussed in Sebastiani (2005).

(3) . This term is employed (by Zeno for example [Diogenes Laertius 1925: 110]) as a form of excessive impulse (hormê) and more specifically as an irrational mode of orexis [Diogenes Laertius 1925: 113]. It was thus a negatively loaded term and distinct from ‘desire’ qua orexis as employed by Epictetus (see text above). For the difference between the terms see Inwood (1985: 167) and Nussbaum (1986: 275). Epithumia was typically employed when discussing the ‘body’ and can be translated often as ‘appetite’ and was taken over by Christian theologians.

(4) . The evident element of relaxation here mirrors the development of Stoicism, especially in its Roman form. Seneca despite his generally censorious tone was himself a rich man who wrote an essay De Vita Beata that contained a defence of wealth (1932b: pars 21–6). This development was also affected by the Stoics' need, as by now a mainstream position, to distinguish their position from the notoriety of the Cynics, who took ‘living according to nature’ to extremes (popularly captured by the image (p.146) of Diogenes living in a barrel [Zeller 1885: 317]) as well as by a reformulation of the role of the ‘sage’ or sapiens from judge to therapist (Griffin 1976: 170). Epictetus, though chronologically a late Stoic, represents a throwback to the earlier austere formulation, hence, in part, the starkness of his teaching, though despite some favourable references to Diogenes he retained the antipathy to the Cynics (see Discourses [1928: 4, 11]). For a discussion of this relation see Schofield 2007.

(5) . That Smith is to be firmly located in this ‘early modern consensus’ is the key theme in Joseph Cropsey's (2001) interpretation of his thought first published in 1957.

(6) . John Salter (1994: 312) contends in a critique of Hont and Ignatieff (1983) that Smith's view of justice did not require him to attend to the needs of the poor, even if his view of humanity did, but even then he was unprepared to make unrealistic claims that ‘extreme inequality and oppression’ would be compensated for. This, of course, is distinct from denying that Smith disavows the applicability of moral criteria to commercial society.

(7) . That, when properly construed, self-love and benevolence were not in conflict was a major theme of Butler's Sermons (1964), whose writings were influential among the Scots; indeed Hutcheson's later thought has been characterised as ‘Butlerised’ (Filonowicz 2008: 236), though Moore (2000: 250), for one, doubts Butler is decisive. For Smith and Butler see Raphael 2007 and Forman-Barzilai 2010.

(8) . This is distinct from that associated with E. P. Thompson. He used it to refer to the legitimating function of traditional rights and customs, which he contrasted to the ‘new political economy’, whereby the economy was ‘disinfected of moral imperatives’ and of which Smith is identified as an exponent (Thompson 1991a: 201ff). For a critique of this see Hont and Ignatieff 1983 and also Thompson's reply in which he denies he was arguing that Smith was operating in a moral vacuum (Thompson 1991b: 271, 268–9).

(9) . See Forman-Barzilai for a measured assessment of Smith's ‘cautious appropriation’ (2010: 7; cf.Chap. 4). For the Stoics themselves see Annas (1993: 262f), she translates oikeiosis as ‘familiarisation’.

(10) . Rousseau makes this distinction (though it does originate with him) in his Discours de l'ineqalité parmi les hommes (1755) (1962: 118), reviewed by Smith in the Edinburgh Review (Letter 11–17/250–4). In that essay Rousseau referred to Mandeville and Smith picked up on that in his review. Mandeville for his part had distinguished between ‘self-love’ and self-liking' (1988: II, 129). For a subtle investigation of Smith's usage see Heath 2013.

(11) . Although Shaftesbury had used the term ‘moral sense’ Hutcheson's usage reflected his adoption of Locke's empiricism (despite some qualms on the consequences that can be drawn from the rejection of innate ideas [PW 35]). This divergence from Shaftesbury put him firmly in the ‘modernist (p.147) camp’. This is captured by William Leechman (contemporary Professor of Divinity [1743–61] at Glasgow) who in his ‘Account’ of Hutcheson's life, observed that Hutcheson had seen how ‘natural philosophy had been carried to a greater degree of perfection than ever it was before’ and was convinced that ‘only by pursuing the same method’ could ‘a more exact theory of morals’ be formed (see his link between benevolence and gravitation, p. 22 above). In addition, by basing this moral sense in universal human experience, Hutcheson, as Daniel Carey (2006: 100) puts it, ‘democratised the moral sense’. This further served to differentiate his argument from Shaftesbury's version, which presupposed a level of aristocratic detachment and sensibility (as well as a Deist disposition that went against Hutcheson's deep Presbyterian commitments). That Hutcheson's ‘universalism’ fails because the natural theology on which it is dependent is based on the Lockean empiricism is argued by Elton (2008), developing an interpretation put forward by MacIntyre (1998: 289).

(12) . In his Glasgow lectures Millar as part of his duties covered Ethics and its relation to Jurisprudence – see ̒Notes on Lectures on Institutes of Justinian according to Heineccius (1789) in Glasgow University Library (MS Gen 812). The influence of Smith is apparent.

(13) . For example, Griswold 1999, Broadie 2006, Otteson 2002, Forman-Barzilai 2010, Frazer 2010.

(14) . See Christopher J. Finlay's comment that Hume provides a ‘sophisticated account of the kinds of social bonds that were both required and reinforced by the interactions of consumers on commercial societies’ (2007: 42 and see Chapters 6 and 7 for an insightful elaboration of this position). See also James Harris (2010: 35) who remarks, of Treatise Book II, that according to Hume humans are ‘pre-eminently concerned with social status and with the things that confer such status, including material possessions, rank and reputation’.

(15) . Griswold (1999: 142 and throughout) refers to ‘circles of sympathy’ (a term that Forman-Barzilai incorporated into the title of her book [2010]). Otteson (2002: Chap. 5) somewhat similarly refers to the ‘familiarity principle’.

(16) . See, for example (and notwithstanding differences between them) Force 2003, Turco 2003, Fitzgibbon 1995, Muller 1995, Waszek 1984.

(17) . See also his observation that the ‘condition of human nature’ would be ‘peculiarly hard’ if the affections which naturally affect our conduct could ‘upon no occasion appear virtuous’ (TMS VII.ii.3.18/305). For commentary on human nature in Smith see Berry 2012.

(18) . The work of Pierre Nicole (1625–95) is particularly invoked in this context but, even leaving aside that there is no room for ‘ennoblement’ in his Augustinian view of human nature, any direct impact is at best inferential. He had read and was influenced by Hobbes (Malcolm 2002: 509). Nicole himself argued, as part of his Jansenist critique of the Stoics, that ‘un amour-propre éclairé’ could ‘outwardly’(au-dehors) replicate (p.148) a society ‘trés réglée’, although ‘inwardly’ (au-dedans) and in the sight of God this might be corrupt (1999: 408). That is to say, although selflove is intrinsically pride-full, greedy and envious yet this nature has to be hidden or disguised when dealing with others, including conducting the business of commerce (1999: 384; cf. 213) and in the generation of civilité (1999: 182). This interaction indeed produces (we might say) a sort of self-deception (cf.1999: 409). Mandeville in Brooke's (2012: 155) phrase gave a ‘secularizing twist’ to this account in his own critique of the Stoics. (That Mandeville was in fact a sincere Augustinian is argued by Burtt [1992: Chap. 7].) Phillipson (2010: 61) claims that Mandeville and Smith ‘must have known’ Nicole's work but regarding Smith this ‘necessity’ is not based on any direct textual evidence. Forman-Barzilai (2010: 38n, 40) concedes Smith's familiarity with Nicole ‘appears to be mostly secondary’ but that Mandeville ‘doubtless’ drew on him, noting that Mandeville does refer to him in a later writing (Free Thoughts on Religion, 1729), which Smith is presumed to have ‘likely’ encountered. However, Mandeville's particular references there do not speak to the matter at hand. Forman-Barzilai also judges that Butler employed ‘concepts and categories strikingly similar to Nicole’ and that Smith was ‘influenced by the Nicole-Butler orientation to “enlightened or “reasonable self-love”’ (2010: 40, 42). Muller (1995: 51) quotes the usual passages from Nicole (plus also from another Augustinian, Jean Domat, who borrowed from Nicole) but makes no express claim for influence. Domat (from the English translation [1722] of his Lois Civiles [1689]) is also quoted identically by Hutchinson [1988: 101–2] to whom, along with more significantly Nicole, Mandeville was ‘importantly indebted’. Hutchinson also claims Nicole ‘anticipate[d] precisely’ Smith's comment on the butcher, baker and brewer but such precision is elusive, while Wootton (1986: 75) holds Nicole ‘provided in embryo the key arguments of the opening chapters of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations’ and even that it is to Nicole ‘that we owe the first clear formulation of the new philosophy of commercial society’. Almost all of this is presumptive and the whole Jansenist connection should be treated with great scepticism.

(19) . See Force 2003: 74; Macfie 1967: 107; Murphy 1993: 193ff; Otteson 2002: 245ff; Young 1997; Alvey 2003: 267; Forman-Barzilai 2010. Not that these thinkers adopt a uniform position or are in necessary agreement with each other. For an explicitly historical overview see Vivenza 2001.

(20) . Smith's own beliefs are hard to discern. Ian Ross (2010: 432) confined himself to saying ‘there is no great evidence that Smith set stock in an after-life’. Some commentators do see in his thought a principled theistic or Deistic commitment (see for example Evensky 2005, especially Chap. 4 but throughout, Hanley 2009a, Otteson 2002, Young 1997). For a subtle account of a duality between theological presupposition and secular empiricism in Smith see Tanaka 2003 and also Campbell 1971. For a thorough biographical account of Smith and religion see Kennedy 2013.

(21) . Hume's common reputation was as an infidel, even though in deference to his friends he arranged for his most subversive work (Dialogues concerning Natural Religion) to be published posthumously.

(22) . Anand Chitnis (1976: 254), as part of his argument that the Enlightenment themes of improvement and reform were stirring before the eighteenth century, also invokes the Calvinist legacy. See also Emerson 1989.

(23) . For example, Calkins and Werhane (1998: 50) claim that on a practical level Smith's and Aristotle's notion of human flourishing differ ‘very little’, though they immediately say ‘Smith's scheme lacks Aristotle's focus on the telos or universal and final end of happiness’. Hanley (2007: 20, 19) charts similarities in Smith's and Aristotle's substantive accounts, as well as their conceptions of methods and ends of ethics, but admits there are ‘crucial differences’ between Smith and Aristotle that ‘may be insurmountable’. Fleischacker (1999: 120, 140) considers Smith as close to Aristotle while yet being crucially different.

(24) . This distinguishes Hume's view from Montesquieu's (1961: I, 52) portrayal of frugality in democracies. Though l'esprit de commerce brings with it inter alia frugalité and travail yet within une république commerçante (such as Athens) it serves to limit the désir d'avoir (1961: I, 47). In these republics frugality remains a severe virtue; it exemplifies a negative view of avarice (or Hume's love of gain). This affinity between frugality and this ‘spirit’ make it distinct from Hume's modern account of incentives and helps distinguish a commercial society from a mercantile republic. As we will also see in Chapter 6 Hume links virtue with luxury and does not oppose them, as in the case in these republics.

(25) . This is not to say Smith dismisses ‘nobility’ or the merits of ‘superior prudence’ but in the ordinary context of social (commercial) life their ‘perfection’ makes them extra-ordinary (commercial society functions effectively without heroes or sages). See Hanley (2009a: 43, 69) for a forceful (if perhaps at times a shade forced) argument that it is ‘central’ to Smith's moral philosophy that he distinguishes ‘genuine transcendent virtue’ from ‘mere social propriety’, with nobility a key example of the former and the ‘recovery’ of which was, on his interpretation, one of Smith's goals. Recall Smith's own references to ‘ennoblement’ (text above) are made in the context of material improvement.

(26) . We have already noted its role in jurisprudence, where it is the object of an imperfect right (see Reid 1990: 147) and, as a synonym for ‘benevolence’ it was distinguished from the perfect obligation to be just (see Chapter 5, p. 129). The Roman moralists gave it a broad meaning encompassing learning and culture as well as kindness and forgiveness (see Ferguson 1958: 116). The former of these passed into the Renaissance in the form of studia humanitatis, so that the professor of Humanity in the Scottish universities in the eighteenth century taught Latin.