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The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment$
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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

(p.124) 5. Liberty and the Virtues of Commerce
The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment

Christopher J. Berry

Edinburgh University Press

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

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