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Adam Smith, Radical and EgalitarianAn Interpretation for the 21st Century$
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Iain McLean

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748623525

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623525.001.0001

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A Non-religious Grounding of Morals: Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment

A Non-religious Grounding of Morals: Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment

(p.46) 3 A Non-religious Grounding of Morals: Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment
Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

Iain McLean

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter reports the moralism of Adam Smith. The weak church and the weak state had a double impact on the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith's moral theory is not the same as either Francis Hutcheson's or David Hume's. Hutcheson took the side of conscience against authority in church controversies. He recognised the need to supply a ground for morals independent of religion. Like Hutcheson, Smith saw the need for a non-religious grounding for ethics. Smith's philosophy is deeply egalitarian. He continued to tinker with The Theory of Moral Sentiments for the rest of his life. The most amusing mark of Smith's increasing moral radicalism is his deletion of a long passage aligning his moral theory with the Christian theology of the Atonement. The ‘man of system’ passage reveals how Smith was a precursor of the Austrian school of economics.

Keywords:   moral theory, Adam Smith, Scottish Enlightenment, Francis Hutcheson, religion, moral radicalism, Christian theology, economics, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

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