Liberty and the Rhetoric of Adam Smith


This conference examined Adam Smith's philosophy of rhetoric and its relation to liberty. In addition to reading Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric and writings on language, we considered his critique of Shaftesbury, Swift, and Johnson, and we read a selection from each of these authors.


From Liberty Fund

Essays on Philosophical Subjects

by By Adam Smith
Edited by W. P. D. Wightman and J. C. Bryce

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…

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Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres

by By Adam Smith
Edited by J. C. Bryce

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…

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Correspondence of Adam Smith

by By Adam Smith
Edited by E. C. Mossner and I. S. Ross

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.

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Additional Readings

Cooper, Anthony Ashley, Third Earl of Shaftesbury. Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Volume I. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.

Johnson, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language: An Anthology. Edited by David Crystal. London: Penguin Books, 2005.

Swift, Jonathan. The Basic Writings of Jonathan Swift. Edited by Claude Rawson. New York: The Modern Library, 2002.