Metaphors in the Wealth of Nations

In Boehm Stephan, Christian Gehrke, Heinz D. Kurz, Richard Sturn, Donald Winch, Mark Blaug, Klaus Hamberger, Jack Birner, Sergio Cremaschi, Roger E. Backhouse, Uskali Maki, Luigi Pasinetti, Erich W. Streissler, Philippe Mongin, Augusto Graziani, Hans-Michael Trautwein, Stephen J. Meardon, Andrea Maneschi, Sergio Parrinello, Manuel Fernandez-Lopez, Richard van den Berg, Sandye Gloria-Palermo, Hansjorg Klausinger, Maurice Lageux, Fabio Ravagnani, Neri Salvadori & Pierangelo Garegnani (eds.), Is There Progress in Economics? Knowledge, Truth and the History of Economic Thought. Stephan Boehm, Christian Gehrke, Heinz D. Kurz, Richard Sturn (eds). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. pp. 89-114 (2002)
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Abstract

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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