Tuesday, October 03, 2006

From Books that Adam Smith Read

I came across the following while reading Samuel Pufendorf’s, The Whole Duty of Man, According to the Law of Nature, [1735] 5th edition:

'Upon this subject I shall deliver my Opinion briefly, not with any Papal Authority, as if I was exempt from all Error by any peculiar Right or Priviledge, neither as one who pretends to any Enthusiastick Revelation; but only as being desirous to discharge that Province which I have undertaken, according to the best of my Ability. And as I am willing to hear all Candid and Ingenuous Persons, who can inform me better; and am very ready to retract what I have said amiss; so I do not value those Pragmatical and Positive Censures and Busie-bodies, who boldly concern themselves with Things which no way belong to them: Of these Persons we have a very Ingenious Character give by Phaedrus:

They run about, says he, as mightily concerned; they are very busie even when they have nothing to do; they puff and blow without any occasion; they are uneasie to themselves, and troublemsome to every body else.'

I can think of several people over the years to whom Pufendorf’s words would apply. It’s nice to see I am not just a grumpy old man; Pufendorf evidentally felt the same way on occasion.

Samuel Pufendorf was a Christian philosopher whose works were studied by Adam Smith and who influenced him in the four stages of theory he taught at Glasgow (see Smith's Lectures in Jurisprudence). He kept a couple of Pufendorf’s books in his private library (Bonar) and he probably donated others to Glasgow University library when he left his books relating to his Moral Philosophy course in 1764 for his tour of France.


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