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By James R. Otteson, John Meadowcroft


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Thales apparently gave the money away, but he proved his point that a philosopher could make money if he wanted to: he simply chooses to focus his attentions elsewhere. Philosophical or scientific researches had, already in Smith’s day, led to technological innovations that could turn a profit, and many other inventions could lead to increased productivity that might enable greater leisure. In this passage Smith argues that these motivations are secondary at best. What motivates the philosopher or scientist is “an original pleasure or good in itself, without regarding its tendency to procure [.

3) As Smith makes clear, that is not yet science: it is merely looking for resemblances among things one observes, and categorizing experiences based on those resemblances. ). This experience, Smith thinks, causes an anxiety—“wonder”—that is not altogether pleasant. It recurs with respect to anomalies we discover in previously held causal relations. 10). 12). Smith writes: Philosophy, by representing the invisible chains which bind together all these disjointed objects, endeavours to introduce order into this chaos of jarring and discordant appearances, to allay this tumult of the imagination, and to restore it, when it surveys the great revolutions of the universe, to that tone of tranquillity and composure, which is both most agreeable in itself, and most suitable to its nature.

Before saying anything else. All new users of a language make mistakes, but the fact that they are recognized as mistakes and that people spontaneously correct the usages indicates that the rules are commonly accepted. Some contexts allow for wider latitude than others—think of poetry as opposed to college term-paper writing, for example—but there must always be rules, or, to repeat, the purpose of language, which Smith says is to allow effective communication, would be frustrated. One may not like the rules of one’s language, or one might wish to change the pronunciation or usage of words or terms, but one had better exercise care in attempting to make unilateral changes: linguistic entrepreneurs, like economic entrepreneurs, probably fail many more times than they succeed, even if change and progress are the result primarily of such risk-takers.

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