Adam Smith’s irony and the invisible hand

Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
I reconstruct Adam Smith’s theory of irony and its application. I illustrate how he defines it as a combination of something “grand” with something “mean” and how this is consistent with his anti-Cartesian and post-skeptic epistemology. I suggest that, for Smith, “systems” of any kind, from Cartesian physics to philosophical monotheism, Stoic ethics, and the “mercantile system” draw their apparent plausibility from some disease of human imagination. I argue that in every field, including political economy, in his view, the philosopher’s task is partially sceptical and partially ironical. That is, it is the task to fight erroneous systems by showing how these arise from unwarranted associations of ideas between apparently “grand” ideas —say, the public interest— with “mean” ones, say, the merchants’ self-interest. In this light, the phrase “invisible hand” turns out to be both an ironic joke and one more application of Smith’s post-skeptical theory of knowledge whose target is dismantling all kind of “invisible” entities that human imagination tends to create.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2019-08-25
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
49 ( #42,389 of 50,201 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #44,055 of 50,201 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.