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Knowledge, Communication and the Scottish Enlightenment

Sheila Dow

No 028/2009, SCEME Working Papers: Advances in Economic Methodology from SCEME

Abstract: The purpose of the paper is to consider Adam Smith's ideas on rhetoric in relation to his philosophy and his economics, against the background of the Scottish Enlightenment. For Smith, communication was important partly as a vehicle for persuasion in the absence of scope for argument by demonstrable proof. He distinguished between the derivation of (provisional) knowledge by the Newtonian experimental method, and the communication of that knowledge as if it were based on derivation from first principles. Subsequent misinterpretation of Smith's economics can be understood as stemming from mistaking the rhetoric for the method, and interpreting first principles as axioms.

Keywords: Adam Smith; Scottish enlightenment; rhetoric (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B41 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 14 pages
Date: 2009-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-hpe, nep-knm and nep-pke
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Handle: RePEc:sti:wpaper:028/2009