Metaphors in the Wealth of Nations

In Boehm Stephan, Christian Gehrke, Heinz D. Kurz & Richard Sturn (eds.), Is There Progress in Economics? Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. pp. 89-114 (2002)
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This paper reconstructs the ways in which metaphors are used in the text of “The Wealth of Nations”. Its claims are: a) metaphor statements are basically similar to those in the “Theory of the Moral Sentiments”; b) the metaphors’ ‘primary subjects’ refer to mechanics, hydraulics, blood circulation, agriculture, medicine; c) metaphors may be lumped together into a couple of families, the family of mechanical analogies, and that of iatro-political analogies. Further claims are: a basic physico-moral analogy is the framework for Smith’s psychological theory as well as for his overall social theory and for his theory of market mechanisms; a iatro-mechanical analogy is as pervasive as the physico-moral analogy and provides the framework for his overall evolutionary theory of society; the invisible-hand simile relies on the physico-moral analogy, and elaborates on the role of vis attractiva and vis a tergo in mechanics.

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