Adam Smith & His Sources: The Evil of Independence
36 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2007
This paper explores the foundations of Adam Smith's view that the philosopher is the same as the street porter. Despite their innate similarity, Smith recognized that the role of the philosopher, someone who provides useful instruction to fellow humans, is not that of the street porter He also saw that this potentially useful employment may entail a biased perspective on human conduct. Motivated by matters too distant for ordinary people to notice, the philosopher may come to believe that he is better than those he studies and to regard himself as independent from their concerns. Instead, Smith locates the means to correct the bias of philosophers in Stoicism. He singles out Stoicism as a philosophy which, in spite of the failings of Stoic philosophers, directed its adherents toward the greatest good. Smith differs from the ancient Stoics by recognizing the motivational importance of social distance.
Keywords: Adam Smith, philosopher, street porter, stoicism, social distance
JEL Classification: B12, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation