Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life

Ryan Patrick Hanley. Princeton Univ., $17.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-691-17944-5
Hanley (Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue), professor of political science at Boston College, explores how to live a good life using the work of Adam Smith as a guide—particularly his 1759 book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments—in this informative but unfocused work. Hanley argues that Smith, though best known as an economist, was a social theorist as well and was deeply concerned with how to live a happy and beneficial life. Hanley selects 27 quotations from Moral Sentiments and two from Smith’s better-known 1776 Wealth of Nations, strung together in no particular order to illustrate Smith’s thinking. Each quote is concerned with a single topic—with titles such as “On Self-Interest,” “On Jesus,” and “On Hume”—and is presented with Hanley’s brief paraphrase, which he follows with a longer analysis. Hanley makes it clear from the outset that he does not consider this volume either a scholarly endeavor or a self-help book, making it difficult to tell whom he expects his audience to be. Lacking sufficient analysis to be of interest to scholars or a convincing new case about how Smith’s thinking is relevant to today that might attract general readers, this will appeal only to devoted acolytes of Smith. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/07/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-691-19775-3
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-691-21670-6
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