Discover new insights from Adam Smith’s groundbreaking works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. Links to print and online versions of Smith’s texts, along with the writings of related thinkers are available here in a digital and mobile-responsive format.
The Theory of Moral Sentiments
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith’s first and in his own mind most important work, outlines his view of proper conduct and the institutions and sentiments that make men virtuous. Here he develops his doctrine of the impartial spectator, whose hypothetical disinterested judgment we must use to distinguish right from wrong in any given situation. We by nature pursue our self-interest, according to Smith. This makes independence or self-command an instinctive good, and neutral rules as difficult to craft as they are necessary. But society is not held together merely by neutral rules; it is held together by sympathy. Smith argues that we naturally share the emotions and to a certain extent the physical sensations we witness in others. Sharing the sensations of our fellows, we seek to maximize their pleasures and minimize their pains so that we may share in their joys and enjoy their expressions of affection and approval.
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
First published in 1776, the year in which the American Revolution officially began, Smith’s Wealth of Nations sparked a revolution of its own. In it Smith analyzes the major elements of political economy, from market pricing and the division of labor to monetary, tax, trade, and other government policies that affect economic behavior. Throughout he offers seminal arguments for free trade, free markets, and limited government.
Lectures on Jurisprudence
Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence, originally delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1762–1763, presents his “theory of the rules by which civil government ought to be directed.” The chief purpose of government, according to Smith, is to preserve justice; and “the object of justice is security from injury.” The state must protect the individual’s right to his person, property, reputation, and social relations.
Essays on Philosophical Subjects
Reflecting Adam Smith’s wide learning and varied interests, these essays shed considerable light on his place in the Scottish Enlightenment. Included are histories of astronomy, ancient logic, and ancient physics; essays on the “imitative” arts and the affinity between music, dancing, and poetry; and a critical review of Samuel Johnson’s famous Dictionary, which Smith originally published in the Edinburgh Review (1755–1756).
Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres
The “Notes of Dr. Smith’s Rhetorick Lectures,” discovered in 1958 by a University of Aberdeen professor, consists of lecture notes taken by two of Smith’s students at the University of Glasgow in 1762–1763. There are thirty lectures in the collection, all on rhetoric and the different kinds or characteristics of style.
Correspondence of Adam Smith
This volume offers an engaging portrait of Smith through more than four hundred letters; also included are appendixes with Smith’s thoughts on the “Contest with America” and a collection of letters from Jeremy Bentham.
Index to the Works of Adam Smith
This comprehensive Index to the Works of Adam Smith gives students and researchers in all fields a single, unified source for locating Adam Smith’s many contributions to such diverse fields as economics, morality, philosophy, and law. The easy-to-use index helps students, readers, and researchers trace their topics of interest through all of Adam Smith’s work. The index covers The Wealth of Nations, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, Lectures on Jurisprudence, and Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.