Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Explanation for Absence and a Report

[I have had to undertake hospital treatment this week from which I am now recovering with the physiotherapy part of the programme. I am also on a course of medicine to smother recurring pain (I am not usually into taking pills). This has prevented me from commenting on Lost Legacy. Anyway, I am now ‘mobile’ again around the house.]

I took advantage to read some books, including one’s I had read before, and I would like to mention two of these.

A much neglected work of Adam Smith’s must be his ‘Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres’ (LRBL) [1762-3] which was found in 1958 by Professor John M. Lothian (1896-1970) among papers of the Forbes-Leith family, which Professor Lothian published in 1963 (two hundred years after Adam Smith delivered them at Glasgow University). The were subsequently published in the Glasgow Edition series of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, edited by J. C. Bryce (with much assistance from Andrew Skinner) in 1983. There is an excellent low-budget printing of them by Liberty Fund, which is within reach of any student on a tight budget.

It covers much more than rhetoric (though those lectures soon explain why Adam Smith wrote his major works, Moral Sentiments and Wealth Of Nations in the manner he did. He included a briefer version of his Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages (1761) in Lecture 3, and the editors have included the original article as an appendix in LRBL. Reading the lecture, as taken down by unknown students, gives a flavour of his lecture style (he read out his lectures from pre-prepared notes).

Moreover you will see the outlines of his ‘evolutionary’ approach to the ‘slow and gradual’, unintentional process by which workable institutional relations are created independently by disparate individuals seeking to better themselves (not necessarily financially – a somewhat limited idea of what Smith meant by everybody seeking to ‘better themselves’). This evolutionary theme was picked out by Professor Jim Otteson, in his ‘Adam Smith’s Market Place of Life’ (Cambridge University Press), which I strongly recommend to you, as the common theme running through all of Smith’s published works, and which I fully endorse in my new book, Adam Smith: a moral philosopher and his political economy’ (Palgrave, 2008-in press).

The other book that I re-read, and much enjoyed again, was Knud Haakonssen’s,The Science of a Legislator: the natural jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith’ (Cambridge University Press, 1981). This is a tour de force through David Hume’s ‘Treatise..’ and ‘Enquiry…’ and through Adam Smith’s Lectures On Jurisprudence (another extraordinary tale of the finding of lost manuscripts written by students as notes of Adam Smith’s lectures at Glasgow University, one set found and published by Professor Edwin Canaan in 1896 (now known as ‘LJ(B))’ and dated by the student as ‘Report of 1766’ but which is conventionally dated by scholars as 1763-4 - Smith left the University in January 1764.

The second set of lectures in LJ was found by Professor J. M. Lothian in Aberdeen in the same library where LRBL was found, and these are known as ‘LJ(A)’, covering the dated sessions for 1762-3. The Glasgow Edition series included Lectures On Jurisprudence, edited by Ronald Meek, D. D. Raphael and P. G. Stein, which Oxford University Press published in 1978, followed by the re-print edition from Liberty Fund in 1982.

In my view, Wealth Of Nations makes for an impoverished read without you having read before or afterwards Smith’s Lectures On Jurisprudence. Now this is a formidable reading task because it’s over 500 pages, and this is where Knud Haakonssen’s, ‘The Science of a Legislator: the natural jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith’, reveals its extraordinary power. Read Haakonssen’s book first, and, with Lectures On Jurisprudence by your side, re-read Haakonssen’s by following his text with your reading his detailed references to LJ(A) and LJ(B), and Wealth Of Nations. You will bring Haakonssen’s insightful comments and analysis to the references from Smith’s works, and will soon begin to appreciate Haakonssen’s scholarship, and what Adam Smith was getting at.

It certainly worked for me some years ago and it was a great refresher this week, pre- and post-op. I strongly recommend it for you.

2 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Lindquist said...

Best wishes for your post-operational recovery and physiotherapy treatments. I enjoy your blog.

10:30 a.m.  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Thank you Daniel for your good wishes. Much appreciated.

Fortunately, today I received the electronic files with the copy-editor's questions on my 'Adam Smith: a moral philospher and his political economy' manuscript, so I will be kept busy. Amazing what irkesome defects in style, spelling, or literacy which copy-editors spot!

I should be able to post something today and back to normal over the week-end.

Gavin

9:21 a.m.  

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