A Guid Ne'er to all readers.
This week I have been working on my chapter for a forthcoming collection on Adam Smith for Princeton University.
The editor asked for more details of who said what (by ‘naming names’). I have resisted this step so far by sticking to references in the literature and by the imposed strict limits of 5,000 words (including footnotes and references).
Moreover, I have always abided by a self-denying ordinance not to become entangled in the politics of countries other than the one I vote in (Scotland).
I present what Adam Smith wrote and leave readers to make up their own minds about what others have said since or recently. I receive messages asking what I think of this or that statement by foreign politicians, columnists, and even the occasional journalist. I refer them to Smith’s views and leave it at that.
Of course, I debate with academics with degrees of robust, but I hope, polite controversy (leaving the more laughable nonsense to my ‘Loony Tunes’ column – now at no. ‘73’). Such debates are part of the life of the ‘republic of letters’ in the Academy. But politics? No, I prefer to leave that well alone, confined to my voting in Scotland, and occasional flurries with others in the local Scottish press.
With regret, I had to decline an invitation to speak in a university student debate on ‘Human Nature’ in London this week. I would have loved to attend, except for my recent health problems and not by my general aversion to politics. I was invited to present Adam Smith’s views on human nature, well bedded as they were in the Scottish Enlightenment (Hume, etc.,) but not in the theological idea that humans had an innate moral sense (Francis Hutcheson). Instead, Smith asserted that humans learned their moral stances in the ‘great school of self-command’ when they interact with others (family and then other children at school).
Elsewhere in time I am toying with writing my third book on Adam Smith, probably on the IH metaphor. I have a title and have written tens of thousands of words on it since 2005. I am ready to get started.
Unlike in the previous writing episodes, I shall combine daily writing with 1 to 2-hours exercise a day (doctor’s orders). One thing about sojourns in hospital is the vivid exhibition of people in far worse shape health wise than oneself. It is a salutary warning, even when you do not feel too good yourself!
A good New Year to all readers. Thanks for reading Lost Legacy.