Modern Greatness of Soul in Hume and Smith

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Abstract
I contend that Adam Smith and David Hume offer re-interpretations of Aristotle’s notion of greatness of soul, focusing on the kind of magnanimity Aristotle attributes to Socrates. Someone with Socratic magnanimity is worthy of honor, responds moderately to fortune, and is virtuous—just and benevolent. Recent theorists err in claiming that magnanimity is less important to Hume’s account of human excellence than benevolence. In fact, benevolence is a necessary ingredient for the best sort of greatness. Smith’s “Letter to Strahan” attributes this greatness to Hume. It encourages us to admire Hume as an exemplar of human excellence, to seek Hume’s virtues for ourselves, and to approve of the “love of literary fame” which Hume calls his “ruling passion.”
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Archival date: 2015-03-11
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2015-03-10

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