Adam Smith. Skeptical Newtonianism, Disenchanted Republicanism, and the Birth of Social Science

In Marcelo Dascal & Ora Gruengrad (eds.), Knowledge and Politics: Case Studies on the Relationship between Epistemology and Political Philosophy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp. 83-110 (1987)
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Abstract

Both Adam Smith's epistemology and his politics head to a stalemate. The former is under the opposing pulls of an essentialist ideal of knowledge and of a pragmatist approach to the history of science. The latter still tries to provide a foundation for a natural law, while conceiving it as non-absolute and changeable. The consequences are (i) inability to complete both the political and the epistemological works projected by Smith; (ii) decentralization of the social order, giving rise to several partial orders, such as that of the market.

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