Abstract This paper investigates the rather neglected relevance of persuasion in Smith’s corpus and its foundational character. Smith’s permanent and comprehensive concern with persuasion pervades his entire legacy. But, fully aware of the risks of this strong ‘human desire’ or ‘instinct’ to ‘lead and direct other people’, Smith develops what can be labelled as sympathetic persuasion. The moral, political and economic implications of Smith’s persuasion provide a common, consistent and foundational concept for his ideal of a civilized and free society. Finally, this interpretation of the importance of Smith’s persuasion allows us to overcome the famous Das Adam Smith Problem. 1. Introduction Language and speech were of high importance to Adam Smith. He not only reviewed Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary and published an essay on the origin of languages,2 but he was also a careful writer, choosing the right words for each sentence. Not surprisingly, he needed ten years to write his WN, kept revising and improving his TMS until the sixth and final edition3 and asked his executors, Joseph Black and James Hutton, to burn some presumably unpolished essays just before his death. Upon his return from Oxford University, Smith began lecturing on rhetoric at Edinburgh in 1748. And even after being appointed Professor at Glasgow University in 1751, he continued teaching this subject.4 Indeed, before the publication of TMS in 1759, Smith’s early reputation was related to rhetoric and literature in general.5 As a member of the Scottish Enlightenment, he was also considered part of the Edinburgh literati. Since Smith’s early concern with rhetoric, persuasion became a foundational and pervasive concept for his future intellectual pursuits. If this concept appears only a few times in Smith’s works, its importance and the consistency of its meaning and implications pervade his entire legacy from rhetoric to ethics and politics, and from jurisprudence to political economy. Although persuasion as a foundational Smithian concept has not received much attention in economics,6 recently rhetoric has been the subject of new research in political theory.7 Adam Smith was aware of the centrality of persuasion and its dangers as a natural human instinct or desire. He knew that ‘speech is the great instrument of ambition, of real superiority, of leading and directing the judgments and conduct of other people’ (TMS VII.iv.25, p. 336). But he also knew the possible risks of ‘leading and directing other people’ (TMS VII.iv.24, p. 336). Therefore, he provides a moral framework to develop a sympathetic persuasion that protects individual liberty and could prevent the perils posed by the human desire to control and even dominate other people. If persuasion can entail strong political coercion and even violence, Smith’s sympathetic persuasion involves tolerance and human dignity. As a consequence, sympathetic persuasion serves as the moral foundation for the improvement of a civilized and free society. In sum, Smith’s wide-ranging and persistent concern with sympathetic persuasion constitutes a key concept for our understanding of his grand project of a social theory that rest upon ethics, jurisprudence and political economy. The next section, after introducing the importance of Smith’s account of persons as social beings, will begin developing the importance of persuasion as a foundational concept in TMS. It will be shown that in TMS Smith’s sympathetic persuasion has social, moral and political implications. Section 3 will briefly explore the relevance of the relationship between exchange and persuasion in WN. As this connection is too rapidly and briefly discussed in WN, Section 4 will delve into Smith’s Lectures of Jurisprudence (LJ) to uncover a fuller account of the relationship between exchange, the market and persuasion. As will be argued in Section 5, if we understand Smith’s persuasion as the foundation of exchange and economics, an original interpretation offering a way around Das Adam Smith Problem emerges. The paper will close with some brief conclusions summarizing and underlining the importance of Smith’s sympathetic persuasion and its implications. 2. Persuasion and morals Before assessing the role and relevance of the principle of persuasion, we must remember that the idea of human beings as social animals—Aristotle’s zoon politikón—is fundamental and pervasive in Smith. Sympathy is essentially a social phenomenon, as it requires social interaction. In Smith’s moral system, there is no room for Robinson Crusoe or the homo oeconomicus of neoclassical economics. Nor for revealed truths.8 To have ‘morality’ or ‘ethics’—mores and ethos are etymologically connected to customs and habits or character, respectively—we need others. Therefore, Smith considers ethics to be a social phenomenon simply because a man without society cannot have a sense of good or bad: Were it possible that a human creature could grow up to manhood in some solitary place, without any communication with his own species, he could no more think of his own character, of the propriety or demerit of his own sentiments and conduct, of the beauty or deformity of his own mind, than of the beauty or deformity of his own face. All these are objects which he cannot easily see, which naturally he does not look at, and with regard to which he is provided with no mirror which can present them to his view. Bring him into society, and he is immediately provided with the mirror which he wanted before. (TMS III.I.3, p. 110) As human beings, facing the mirror of society, we interact and communicate. But society evolves and improves through the use of language and speech. The analogies between the origins and evolution of language and institutional progress towards commercial society are recurrent in TMS and WN.9 And this evolution requires sympathy as a social phenomenon closely connected with sentiments, but also with rational deliberation (see Montes, 2016). Although the idea of persuasion as a rhetorical subject related to oratory appears in his 1762–63 Lectures of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (see for example, LRBL, Lecture 12, i.I 49–58, pp. 62–66), and rhetoric is, in general, essentially connected with persuasion, the importance and significance of this concept is already present in the first 1759 edition of TMS. Finishing his book on ethics, Smith states: The man whom we believe is necessarily, in the things concerning which we believe him, our leader and director, and we look up to him with a certain degree of esteem and respect. But as from admiring other people we come to wish to be admired ourselves; so from being led and directed by other people we learn to wish to become ourselves leaders and directors. And as we cannot always be satisfied merely with being admired, unless we can at the same time persuade ourselves that we are in some degree really worthy of admiration; so we cannot always be satisfied merely with being believed, unless we are at the same time conscious that we are really worthy of belief. As the desire of praise and that of praiseworthiness, though very much akin, are yet distinct and separate desires; so the desire of being believed and that of being worthy of belief, though very much akin too, are equally distinct and separate desires. The desire of being believed, the desire of persuading, of leading and directing other people, seems to be one of the strongest of all our natural desires. It is, perhaps, the instinct upon which is founded the faculty of speech, the characteristical faculty of human nature. No other animal possesses this faculty, and we cannot discover in any other animal any desire to lead and direct the judgment and conduct of its fellows. Great ambition, the desire of real superiority, of leading and directing, seems to be altogether peculiar to man, and speech is the great instrument of ambition, of real superiority, of leading and directing the judgments and conduct of other people. (TMS VII.iv.24–25, p. 336, emphasis added) In the first quoted paragraph, the presence of the impartial spectator is evident. We admire and wish to be admired. Moreover, we admire the ‘leader and director’, but we also want to lead and direct. But to lead, we need to be conscious that we are worthy of belief. Yet to ‘lead and direct’—an idea that appears in different forms eight times in the above-quoted passage—we need not only to persuade or convince others, but also to ‘persuade ourselves’ of our praiseworthiness for persuading. For Smith, one thing is to be praised or believed. Another, quite different, is to be worthy of praise or worthy of belief. Therefore, with the idea of ‘beliefworthiness’, the act of persuasion demands, through the impartial spectator, a moral introspection that entails a moral duty. In brief, with the irruption of our moral consciousness, or the emergence of the impartial spectator and praiseworthiness, the problem of persuasion as mere coercion is overcome. We transit from simple persuasion into sympathetic persuasion, from the simple desire to be believed to the desire to become ‘really worthy of belief’. And as a consequence of this transitional process, it is evident that sympathetic persuasion entails a strong moral responsibility. Smith’s appeal to the supposed impartial spectator and our own consciousness through ‘beliefworthiness’ reflects his concern with the undesirable moral and political consequences of persuasion. If persuasion, as a desire of ‘leading and directing other people’, is a social and deliberative process that has a clear connection with coercion, we do not simply impose our position but try to do so thoughtfully, respectfully and keeping in mind the moral prerequisite of human dignity. In brief, Smith sets a high moral standard for all those leaders involved in ‘leading and directing other people’. It is the moral standard of the impartial spectator, ‘the great inmate of the breast’ (TMS III.3.1, p. 134), that transcends public opinion and appeals to the inner moral self through the strong ethics of praiseworthiness. In addition, this ‘characteristical faculty of human nature’ should only be exercised by those ‘really worthy of belief’. It is actually with the presence of the impartial spectator and Smith’s idea of ‘beliefworthiness’ that persuasion as coercion becomes sympathetic persuasion. Even though persuasion is ‘one of the strongest of all our natural desires’, it is harnessed by the impartial spectator, but also by Smith’s crucial virtue of self-command. In fact, Smith’s original and distinctive use of self-command in TMS plays a special role within the general sympathetic process (Carrasco, 2004, 2012; Montes 2008, 2016). The chief virtue of self-command, as a foundational and connecting virtue in TMS, sustains the moral excellence of Smith’s virtues. Indeed, the school of self-command teaches us to be ‘masters of ourselves’ (TMS III.3.22, p. 145), setting a moral standard that diverges from and transcends the traditional Stoic interpretation. Actually Smith distinguishes a sympathetic persuasion that is different from a simple politically oriented persuasion. The latter, which might also require the use of deceit or even force, uses the will of others for the sake of power. The former implies tolerance, which requires the presence of the impartial spectator, sympathy and self-command.10 Clearly Smith fosters a deliberative and dialogical persuasion that depends on sympathy and entails tolerance. Accordingly, sympathetic persuasion is just the opposite to any controlling coercion that uses force or violence. One treats persons as an end, and the other simply as a means. In sum, Smith develops a notion of sympathetic persuasion that implies the moral and political challenge of persuading others using sympathy. Evidently this definition has some important political implications. Earlier in TMS the word ‘persuasion’ appears only two more times. Both passages have a similar sense. They refer to the use of persuasion and warn against the use of force or violence. But they display sympathetic persuasion from two different stances: the private perspective of the person and his individual liberty, and the abuse by anyone who might corrupt public spirit. The latter concerns persuasion’s unintended social and political consequences, that is a social defence of moderation and institutional stability. The former is a defence of individual liberty. The first passage, related to the private sphere of persuasion, reads: Even the most ordinary degree of kindness or beneficence, however, cannot, among equals, be extorted by force… nobody imagines that those who might have reason, perhaps, to expect more kindness, have any right to extort it by force. The sufferer can only complain, and the spectator can intermeddle no other way than by advice and persuasion. Upon all such occasions, for equals to use force against one another, would be thought the highest degree of insolence and presumption. (TMS II.ii.1.7, pp. 80–81, emphasis added) At a private level, the role of persuasion, as a moral and deliberative virtue, is to avoid the use of force even if there are good justifications like that of ‘kindness or beneficence’. The ‘sufferer’ can only complain and nobody can be persuaded by force. Persuasion ‘extorted by force’, even if it is inspired by a noble objective, is morally considered ‘the highest degree of insolence and presumption’. Sympathetic persuasion, linked in this passage to ‘advice’, that is, social interaction and rational deliberation, has the moral role of protecting and preserving individual liberty. In this passage, individual liberty emerges as an end. The second passage, famous for Smith’s final sentence referring to Solon, and added to the sixth and final edition of TMS, deals with persuasion and tolerance from the republican stance of any person concerned with public affairs: The man whose public spirit is prompted altogether by humanity and benevolence, will respect the established powers and privileges even of individuals, and still more those of the great orders and societies, into which the state is divided. Though he should consider some of them as in some measure abusive, he will content himself with moderating, what he often cannot annihilate without great violence. When he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion, he will not attempt to subdue them by force; but will religiously observe what, by Cicero, is justly called the divine maxim of Plato, never to use violence to his country no more than to his parents… (TMS VI.ii.2.16, p. 233, emphasis added)11 In this passage, persuasion is accompanied by ‘reason’, also implying social interaction and rational deliberation. But Smith insists that persuasion—a desire to lead and direct ‘the judgments and conduct of other people’—needs moderation and cannot trespass upon human dignity. The use of force or violence must be avoided by all means. For this reason we need to ‘convince and conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion’. Here Smith endorses the importance of social institutions and the necessary respect they deserve from civil society. Therefore, public deliberation, strengthened by sympathetic persuasion, acquires a sense of republican dignity. Private and public sympathetic persuasion complement each other under the unifying idea of social interaction and rational deliberation. Actually the passage that exalts the social and political virtues of the ‘man of public spirit’ is immediately followed by Smith’s celebrated and strong criticism of the ‘man of system’. The contrast between the two characters—the man of public spirit versus the man of system—is striking: … so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder. (TMS VI.ii.2.17, pp. 233–34) The chess-board of human society is composed of human beings whose freedom and dignity are an end in itself. Smith’s sympathetic persuasion is necessary for the peaceful and ‘harmonious’ improvement of society. The ‘man of public spirit’ understands the importance of sympathetic persuasion. The dogmatic ‘man of system’ does not. For him, persuasion is the simple, unrestrained and dangerous ‘desire of leading and directing other people’. For him it is just a means for his ‘ideal plan’. But in a civilized society the will or desire of any person cannot be simply imposed upon society. Neither can dogmatism prevail. In this famous passage, there is a classical liberal and, at the same time, a republican call for all those political leaders who ‘lead and direct other people’. In a way, Smith’s concern in this passage mixes classical liberalism with some traces of classical republicanism. Individual liberty, the foundation of classical liberalism, is combined with the public duty of the citizen, especially one engaged with public duties. The latter is crucial for classical republicans.12 Smith defines the human faculty of persuasion by developing a notion of sympathetic persuasion that entails tolerance at a private and public level. That is, liberty for the citizen and sympathetic persuasion for those citizens in power. Persuasion cannot lead to an instrumental coercion that uses people’s will for the sake of any private or public ends. On the contrary, Smithian persuasion is nurtured by the impartial spectator and the sympathetic process. With clear republican and proto-Kantian overtones,13 Smith’s persuasion privileges social interaction and rational deliberation, human dignity and individual freedom. In brief, persuasion has a moral framework that restrains its coercive power in the individual and public sphere.14 3. Persuasion and economics Persuasion, through speech and language, plays a crucial role that extends beyond morality into economics. We have seen that the ‘desire to persuade’, defined as a strong human instinct in TMS, is intrinsically related to the moral and political spheres. But it is also closely connected to the ‘propensity to exchange’, that is, to the foundation of economics. In fact, exchange, or economics as catalaxia (see Levy, 1999), can be considered as the basis of WN. At the beginning of WN, Smith makes exchange the basis for building political economy. The first chapter of WN is famously entitled ‘Of the Division of Labour’. But chapter 2, ‘Of the Principle which gives occasion to the Division of Labour’, is actually about ‘the Principle’ of exchange. Indeed, this chapter is the foundation for the whole edifice of WN and, a fortiori, of economics. We do not know why Smith began WN with chapter 1 and the division of labour instead of first developing the crucial and foundational concept of exchange. Although he immediately begins chapter 2 by acknowledging that the division of labour ‘is the necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of a certain propensity in human nature’ (WN I.ii.1, p. 25), that is, by claiming that exchange is the cause of the division of labour, any answer to this question would simply be a matter of speculation.15 But for our line of research it is sufficient to underline that in chapter 2 Smith states that the division of labour exists as a consequence of ‘the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another’ (ibid.). This is fundamental for two reasons. First, by using ‘truck, barter, and exchange’, Smith is covering all the different institutional arrangements for exchange. This comprehensive use of the three kinds of exchange covers truck as the changing of one thing for another (as in a tribe of hunters or shepherds); barter as the changing of one thing that may be money or a substitute for a service;16 and finally exchange as simply the modern use of money as a means for facilitating exchange.17 And second, the division of labour and the market are consequences of the principle of exchange. Then Smith, with his usual pragmatism, briefly reflects—paraphrasing the full title of WN—about the ‘nature and causes’ of the fundamental propensity to exchange: Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature, of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, it belongs not to our present subject to enquire. (WN I.ii.2, p. 25) In this short passage the realist Adam Smith emerges above the theoretical philosopher. Although the word ‘persuasion’ is not directly used, its importance here is evident. It seems ‘more probable’ to Smith that the general propensity to exchange is the necessary consequence of the ‘faculties of reason and speech’, that is, persuasion. Immediately after passing too rapidly over this issue of the cause of exchange, Smith carries on explaining the human propensity to exchange. He argues that these faculties—language and persuasion—common to all men can be found ‘in no other race of animals’ (ibid.). And he continues with this simple and at the same time deeply insightful argument: Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that. When an animal wants to obtain something either of a man or of another animal, it has no other means of persuasion but to gain the favour of those whose service it requires. A puppy fawns upon its dam, and a spaniel endeavours by a thousand attractions to engage the attention of its master who is at dinner, when it wants to be fed by him. (WN I.ii.2, p. 26, emphasis added) If animals want something, they can only obtain it as a favour. Yet human beings, who are social animals (zoon politikón), have language and speech as a ‘means of persuasion’. We have already seen that language and speech, under the umbrella of sympathetic persuasion, are essential for moral and political interaction, and they are also essential for exchange and economics. However, Smith does not refer to any kind of exchange: it has to be ‘fair and deliberate’. This implies a moral and dialogical stance that places exchange under the influence of sympathetic persuasion. Smith’s purposeful, careful and often neglected use of ‘fair and deliberate’ is quite important and not fully assessed. The uniqueness of the distinctive Anglo-Saxon word ‘fair’ brings out the morality underlying exchange as the foundation of economics. As Wierzbicka has persuasively argued, the word fair is ‘thoroughly untranslatable’ (2006, p. 141).18 Moreover, Smith’s use of the word ‘fair’ in WN connects economics with morality and the concept of sympathy. Indeed, the meaning of ‘fair’ is always in relation to someone else. We usually talk about just or unjust laws, but rules are normally described as fair or unfair.19 Then we obey the former, but morally accept the latter. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, if the rules of the game are for those who enter into the game, the laws are for everybody. In other words, laws are impersonal, but rules are social. Therefore, as Wierzbicka points out, fairness implies ‘a certain consensus’ (ibid., p. 146) and the social nature of fairness is different from the social nature attached to justice. If we agree to enter into a game, we are going to do things together through voluntary social interaction. Smith’s use of ‘fair’ in direct relation to exchange is more than a simple adjective. The choice of that precise Anglo-Saxon word with its deep and unique meaning has important ethical implications. In sum, Smith adds a rational and moral basis to exchange and economics that connects the market with sympathetic persuasion. Yet this rich and broad moral and social tradition behind exchange as ‘fair’ has been overshadowed in modern neoclassical economics. In my view, the best example that reflects this change is Friedman’s definition of exchange in Capitalism and Freedom. For Friedman, exchange has to be ‘voluntary and informed’ (Friedman, 1962, p. 13). Although his definition is apparently similar to Smith’s ‘fair and deliberate’, the word ‘voluntary’ lacks the deep social and moral meaning of ‘fair’, a unique English word which is easier to understand than to translate. Indeed, ‘voluntary’ depends on each of us, reflecting the idea that we are finally ‘free to choose’. The one that chooses voluntarily is the ‘I’ represented by the homo economicus. And this individual election is almost devoid of the social and moral nature of human beings embedded in the word ‘fair’. Thus, Friedman’s definition of exchange is only or narrowly related to the individual and the information provided. Yet Smith’s exchange relies on a person as a zoon politikón and sympathetic persuasion. In sum, one definition is individualistic and formal. The other is social and moral. Then chapter two of Book I of WN follows with the generally misinterpreted importance of self-interest. Although Smith’s sophisticated self-interest plays a crucial role in WN and also in TMS, it is also possible to argue, as we will see in the next section, that ethics and economics are intertwined in his understanding of exchange and sympathetic persuasion. If so, the supposed inconsistency between Smith’s two published books, TMS and WN, would be spurious. In WN the division of labour, exchange and even the market, have persuasion as their common foundation. The causal order is first persuasion, then exchange and the division of labour that shapes the market economy. In other words, the principle of exchange, the market and economics, finally rests upon persuasion. However, in WN Smith too readily focuses on the consequences of persuasion, overlooking or simply taking for granted the importance of sympathetic persuasion as the cause of exchange. But in both of his lectures on jurisprudence, Smith explains further and more deeply the role of persuasion and its relationship with economics. 4. Persuasion and jurisprudence As already suggested, Smith’s ideas on persuasion in TMS and WN most probably emerge from his early concern with rhetoric. But they also extend to his jurisprudence. Actually in his LJ (A), lecture notes from 1762–63, delivered the same academic year as the Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (LRBL), Smith extensively and more clearly reflects on the propensity to exchange and its close relationship with persuasion: If we should enquire into the principle in the human mind on which this disposition of trucking if founded, it is clearly the naturall inclination every one has to persuade. The offering of a shilling, which to us appears to have so plain and simple a meaning, is in reality offering an argument to persuade one to do so and so as it is for his interest. Men always endeavor to persuade others to be of their opinion even when the matter is of no consequence to them. If one advances any thing concerning China or the more distant moon which contradicts what you imagine to be true, you immediately try to persuade him to alter his opinion. And in this manner every one is practising oratory on others thro the whole of his life. You are uneasy whenever one differs from you, and you endeavour to persuade [him] to be of your mind; or if you do not it is a certain degree of self-command, and to this every one is breeding thro their whole lives. In this manner they acquire a certain dexterity and address in managing their affairs, or in other words in managing of men; and this is altogether the practice of every man in the most ordinary affairs. This being the constant employment or trade of every man, in the same manner as the artizans invent simple methods of doing their work, so will each one here endeavor to do this work in the simplest manner. That is bartering, by which they address themselves to the self interest of the person and seldom fail immediately to gain their end… (LJ (A), vi.56, p. 352, emphasis added) As we already know from chapter 2 of Book I of WN, the propensity to exchange is ‘as seems more probable… the necessary consequences of the faculties of reason and speech’ (WN I.ii.2, p. 25). But in his LJ(A) Smith appears to be more direct and precise: exchange is ‘founded’ in the ‘natural inclination every one has to persuade’. Moreover, exchange is an act of communication that appeals to self-interest. In a way, exchange appears as a kind of mutual sympathy that requires an effort from the seller and the buyer, or the producer and the consumer. We cannot forget that exchange—a social and moral action that must be ‘fair and deliberate’ (WN I.ii.2, p. 26)—requires and demands persuasion, justice, morality and rational deliberation. In LJ (B), lecture notes dated 1766, that corresponding to academic year 1763–64, we find another very important passage that advances and develops the ‘nature and causes’ of exchange and the crucial distinction between the philosopher and the street porter, a feature more succinctly explained in the foundational chapter 2 of Book I of WN (WN I.ii.4, pp. 28–29).20 In what is a cutting-edge comment for the eighteenth century, Smith argues that ‘the difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of… The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education’ (ibid.). By comparing the most respected profession, that of a philosopher with an ordinary street porter, Smith was making a bold statement that he immediately bolsters by claiming that when they both grow, ‘the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance’ (ibid.). But right after this fundamental distinction, which has important political implications in terms of Smith’s ‘moderate egalitarianism’ (see Anderson, 2016), Smith insists on the relationship between persuasion and exchange. After that discussion he argues: … The real foundation of [division of labour] is that principle to perswade which so much prevails in human nature. When any arguments are offered to perswade, it is always expected that they should have their proper effect. If a person asserts any thing about the moon, tho’ it should not be true, he will feel a kind of uneasiness in being contradicted, and would be very glad that the person he is endeavoring to perswade should be of the same way of thinking with himself. We ought then mainly to cultivate the power of perswasion, and indeed we do so without intending it. Since a whole life is spent in the exercise of it, a ready method of bargaining with each other must undoubtedly be attained… (LJ (B), 222, pp. 493–94) In this passage from LJ (B), Smith claims that we ought to ‘cultivate the power of persuasion’. In society we are constantly exercising this ‘power’, and we even exercise it ‘without intending it’. In fact, according to Smith, we spend our ‘whole life’ persuading. This idea of the pervasiveness of persuasion is similar to the meaning and sense of Smith’s invisible hand. Although in ‘The History of Astronomy’ (see EPS, pp. 31–105) the invisible hand appears as the divine and interventionist hand of Jupiter that explains natural phenomena (EPS, p. 40),21 in TMS and WN Smith’s invisible hand clearly reflects this feature of persuasion. In TMS, the rich, despite their ‘natural selfishness and rapacity’, are guided by an invisible hand and ‘without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of society’ (TMS IV.I.10, pp. 184–85). In WN the capitalist that ‘intends his own gain’ is ‘led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention… By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it’ (WN IV.ii.9, p. 456). Although different caricatures of the invisible hand ignore the sense and importance of the adverb ‘frequently’, the unintended consequences are a common characteristic between Smith’s invisible hand and the nature and role of persuasion. In other words, the human instinct to persuade is a principle in our nature that spontaneously emerges through social interaction. Even without intending to persuade, we spend our lives persuading and being persuaded. Moreover, our self-interest moves us to persuade for exchange based on the ‘fair and deliberate’ moral framework.22 When exchange takes place, both sides are satisfied and benefit from the act of exchanging. Therefore, we could also talk about an invisible hand of persuasion that attains, without intending to, the reciprocity of mutual benefit. In sum, persuasion, a fundamental ‘instinct’ or ‘human principle’ for commercial society, could also be seen as another invisible hand within the market of life. However, in this analogy it must be stressed that if persuasion resembles the invisible hand, the latter is a consequence of the former. Smith closes the above-quoted passage by arguing that ‘[s]ince a whole life is spent in the exercise of it [persuading], a ready method of bargaining with each other [that] must undoubtedly be attained’ (LJ (B), 222, p. 494). From this sentence it seems that the continuous exercise of persuasion would necessarily lead to a ‘ready method’ of exchange, leading us to the connection between persuasion, exchange, the invisible hand and the market. But if Smith explains the process, once again he emphasizes that the cause of exchange and all that it entails is persuasion. Perhaps this analysis explains why Smith treated too rapidly or simply took for granted the relationship between persuasion and the market in WN. It could also explain why Smith did not use the concept of sympathy in his magnum opus. If sympathetic persuasion is assumed for the market, there was no need to do so. In an ideally competitive market of exchange, the continuous and persistent human exercise of sympathetic persuasion would end up with ‘fair and deliberate’ exchange. Considering persuasion as the final cause of exchange and the market, sympathy would simply conflate with exchange. In this thought experiment,23 Smith could be arguing that in an ideally competitive market with ‘fair and deliberate’ exchange, sympathy would simply disappear. Or more bluntly, in an ideally extended and competitive market of strangers, fair and deliberate exchange takes over from sympathy. These passages of LJ students’ notes are quite relevant. If both passages advance and shed more light on some important ideas concisely explained in WN, they also give additional evidence that Smith’s concern with the foundational role of persuasion was clear well before he wrote his magnum opus in economics. 5. Persuasion and the Smith problem The famous debate of Das Adam Smith Problem, that is, the relationship between TMS and WN, one based on sympathy and the other on self-interest, has been a pervasive historical and philosophical issue. The supposed Problem began with the consistency of the two works, and even of their author, being called into question. Indeed, Witold von Skarżyński (1850–1910) suggested that Smith had changed his mind after his contact with the French materialists during his grand tour to Europe (Skarżyński, 1878, p. 183).24 However, when Smith’s LJ were found and published in 1896 and 1958,25 there was evidence that many of Smith’s ideas in WN, especially his notion of self-interest, were clear before his trip to France. But if at least there was no change of mind after Smith’s grand tour to France, the consistency issue between TMS and WN still remains. Besides the fascinating history and philosophical implications of this debate, there are some philosophical issues related to the Adam Smith Problem. Indeed, the supposed contrast between TMS and WN is still a hotly debated issue, as it directly connects us with the relationship between ethics and economics.26 Yet, whenever scholars refer to the Adam Smith Problem, attention has been placed on TMS and WN or simply on sympathy and self-interest, respectively. Traditionally both concepts have been, as the editors of TMS acknowledge, misunderstood (TMS intr. p. 20). This misunderstanding has presupposed a narrow meaning of self-interest and sympathy. Today we know that Smith’s concept of self-interest is deeper and different from selfishness. And today we also know that sympathy is a much broader and complex concept. Moreover, TMS, besides developing the crucial concept of sympathy, is also a strong moral defence of Smith’s notion of self-interest. And WN, besides its defence of self-interest, is rich in moral implications.27 But if sympathetic persuasion is the cause of ‘fair and deliberate’ exchange, as we have argued, we have a new and stronger argument with which to confront the Smith Problem. Indeed, this concept is behind WN, but also TMS. Persuasion is the common origin behind both published works (TMS and WN) and both concepts (sympathy and self-interest). Moreover, the ideal of sympathetic persuasion is a foundational and distinctively Smithian concept that pervades Smith’s entire legacy. In sum, the nature and meaning of persuasion is a new compelling reason to dismiss the old and famous Adam Smith Problem. 6. Conclusions Rhetoric, language, speech and persuasion are intertwined with ethics. In fact, while Smith taught moral philosophy at Glasgow University and was writing his TMS, he continued delivering his Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. As Griswold (1999) has shown, over and above his original and suggestive idea of the ‘protreptic we’, rhetoric is a strong presence and heavily influences TMS. And certainly from this concern emerges the all-encompassing relevance of persuasion as a human instinct that has implications for Smith’s moral, political and economic thought. Smith’s sympathetic persuasion is present throughout the legacy of the father of economics, connecting rhetoric with ethics and jurisprudence with political economy. It plays a wide-ranging and central causal role within Smith’s social system. If Andrew S. Skinner (1976) reminded us that Smith was a ‘system builder’, sympathetic persuasion is the foundational and connecting principle for Smith’s understanding of society. In political terms persuasion, as a natural and strong instinct to ‘lead and direct other people’, has its dangers. It is the human desire or instinct to control, command and even dominate others for the sake of oneself. Therefore, Smith developed a moral framework to harness its undesirable social and political consequences. Indeed, Smith’s sympathetic persuasion preserves individual liberty, respects human dignity and entails political tolerance. In addition, Smith’s uniform treatment of persuasion, its nature and its dangers, together with his advocacy for sympathetic persuasion, is strong evidence of the morality and consistency of his social project. In fact, a proper understanding of the foundational character of sympathetic persuasion also allows us to surmount the famous Adam Smith Problem. Smith had a clear and realistic understanding of human nature, the risks of unbounded persuasion, and the need for sympathy to channel persuasion and protect individual freedom.28 And certainly Smith’s development of sympathetic persuasion, from rhetoric to ethics, politics and economics, evinces his ideal of a civilized and free society.29 Adam Smith came to be known mainly as the father of the science of economics. But this perception has changed. The renaissance of scholarship on his moral philosophy and TMS is the best proof.30 Besides, recent academic interest in Smith’s EPS and LRBL acknowledges the originality and importance of his multidisciplinary explorations. But Smith’s pervasive, realistic and comprehensive concern with persuasion, a central theme that crosses over all his intellectual pursuits, has been rather neglected. And this is surprising if we think that Smith’s plea for a civilized and free society is enhanced by the importance and the risks of persuasion. 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Rhetoric and public reasoning: an Aristotelian understanding of political deliberation , Political Theory , vol. 34 , no. 4 , 417 – 38 Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Footnotes 1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the American Philosophical Association Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, on 19 February 2015. I am indebted to the comments of Sandra Peart, David Levy and Chris Martin at that meeting. I am especially grateful to the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University for providing an ideal and challenging atmosphere for research. For references to Adam Smith, the standard citation based on the complete Glasgow Edition of WN, TMS, EPS, LJ, LRBL and Corr. is used. I am also much indebted for the detailed analysis of an anonymous referee and the comments and suggestions for improving this publication. 2 Smith’s review of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, published in the Edinburgh Review in 1755, can be found in EPS (pp. 232–41), and his essay ‘Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages’ in LRBL (pp. 203–26). The latter was originally published in the Philological Miscellany in 1761, and it is worth recalling that Smith expressly asked his editor William Strahan to include his ‘Dissertation on the Origin of Languages’ in the third edition of TMS (see Corr. 100, p. 122). 3 When Smith was working on the extensive additions and corrections to TMS, he confessed to his editor Thomas Cadell that ‘I am a slow a very slow workman, who do and undo everything I write at least half a dozen of times before I can be tolerably pleased with it’ (Corr. 276, p. 311). 4 In 1751 Smith became Professor of Logic, and the year after, he was appointed to the prestigious Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. Regarding his interest in rhetoric, his lectures notes discovered by John M. Lothian, first published in 1963 as Lectures of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres Delivered in the University of Glasgow by Adam Smith, Reported by a Student in 1762–3, would correspond to Smith’s fifteenth year teaching this subject. 5 On the importance of rhetoric for Adam Smith, see Griswold (1999) and McKenna (2006), the former underlining the role of rhetoric and the latter establishing important connections with classical rhetoric. More recently, Vivenza (2016) summarizes the general importance of Smith’s LRBL. 6 Regarding the rather neglected relationship between rhetoric and economics, notable exceptions are Alonso Cortés and Cabrillo (2012), Kalyvas and Katznelson (2001) and Walraevens (2010), who deal with the importance of language and persuasion for political economy, and Kelly (2011) who focuses on its influence on political theory. 7 The so-called ‘rhetorical revival’ in political theory argues that emotions are related to deliberation. Some relevant exponents of this proposal are Allen (2006) and Yack (2006). For an overview see Garsten (2006), and for recent connections between Adam Smith and Cicero, see Kapust and Schwarze (2016). 8 Unlike many authors that consider Adam Smith a religious man or a deist, mainly perhaps due to Jacob Viner’s great influence (1927,  1994, 1972), I tend to believe that he was a ‘pragmatic agnostic’. It is true that Smith extensively uses religious language in TMS and that even the invisible hand metaphor could have been inspired by seventeenth and eighteenth-century religious rhetoric (see Harrison, 2011), but there is also compelling historical evidence for Smith′s agnosticism. Perhaps Adam Smith was too cautious and pragmatic to display this publicly, as he may have been only too well aware of what had happened to his best friend David Hume, who could never get tenured due to his public agnosticism. In fact, when Hume left to Smith in his testament the money to publish his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion—posthumously published in 1779 by his nephew—maybe he was leaving this burden to his good and prudent friend as a farewell last joke. 9 The evolution of justice in WN (V.i.b) and the foundational character of justice in TMS as ‘… the main pillar that upholds the whole edifice’ (TMS II.ii.3.4, p. 86) that is connected to rhetoric as ‘[t]he rules of justice may be compared to the rules of grammar…’ (TMS III.6.11., p. 175, also cf. VII.iv.1, p. 327) are good examples. 10 It is important to note that the political virtue of tolerance is different from mere indifference. Tolerance demands an individual effort of self-command. Smith’s self-command can be traced to the classical virtue of enkrateia (Montes, 2008, 2016), that is, as a government of oneself that has a direction, or as a rational virtue linked to practical reason (Carrasco, 2004, 2012). In both interpretations of self-command, this crucial and fundamental Smithian virtue is also important for understanding the sense and meaning of persuasion. 11 In a similar vein, Smith develops the idea of persuasion and public spirit linked to the importance of ‘the study of politics’ (TMS IV.I.11, pp. 185–87). 12 Liberalism and republicanism, since the quattrocento and Machiavelli, share common ideological roots regarding the concept of liberty. It is no coincidence that Friedrich Hayek quotes Algernon Sidney below the title of his The Constitution of Liberty (1960). Smith’s account of the militia versus standing army issue is a very good example of how economic liberalism confronts the twilight of the classical republican tradition (see Montes, 2009). 13 Samuel Fleischacker has suggestively labelled Smith as ‘a clear ancestor of Kant’s purposiveness without purpose’ (1999, p. 147). Nowadays there is a general consensus that Adam Smith is not a proto-utilitarian, and there are good grounds to defend a deontological position as Fleischacker has proposed (see also Fleischacker, 1991; and Montes, 2004, pp. 118–22). 14 Elsewhere in TMS, Smith insists on some moral aspects of persuasion. In the section on prudence in part VI ‘Of the Character of Virtue’, added to the last edition of TMS, Smith warns about the misuse of persuasion, as ‘[t]he prudent man always studies seriously and earnestly to understand whatever he professes to understand, and not merely to persuade other people that he understands it’ (TMS VI.i.7, p. 213, emphasis added). Moreover, criticizing the Epicurean system in the final Part VII of TMS, Smith warns about its danger, ‘… which is most apt to occur to those who are endeavouring to persuade others to regularity of conduct’ (TMS VII.ii.2.13, p. 299, emphasis added). Both cases reflect the moral risks of persuasion as simple coercion. 15 While narrating the impressive effects of the division of labour, Smith confesses that ‘I have seen a small manufactory of this kind’ (WN I.i.3, p. 15, emphasis added). Maybe the surprise of actually seeing this operation might explain why the pin factory so engaged him that he began his WN with the chapter on the division of labour, and not with the foundational principle of exchange. In other words, perhaps it is simply another example of the triumph of the empirical over the theoretical, or the visible over the abstract. 16 It is noteworthy that during the eighteenth century the word ‘barter’ was also popularly used to refer to sexual services, and even to out-of-marriage sexual intercourse. Therefore, ‘barter’ had a tainted meaning, implying a sense of immoral or deceitful exchange. 17 Soon after Smith twice uses ‘by treaty, by barter, and by purchase’ (WN I.ii.2 and I.ii.3, p. 27) as an analogy of ‘truck, barter and exchange’, and in the second reference he links ‘by treaty’ to hunters or shepherds who change bows and arrows for cattle or venison. 18 She argues that ‘fair’ usually ‘co-occurs with right and with reasonable’, the other two key English words (ibid., p. 143). Not for nothing, Rawls presents justice as ‘fairness’ as a ‘reasonable’ form of political liberalism (ibid., p. 144). 19 Talking about this issue, an academic colleague whose two children are fluent in English, French and Spanish told me that whenever the children objected to the parents' rules or advice, they would simply say in French or Spanish ‘ce n’est pas fair’ or ‘eso no es fair’, respectively. 20 For the relevance of the ‘street porter and the philosopher’ and its implications for ‘analytical egalitarianism’, see Peart and Levy (2005, 2008). 21 Rothschild (1994) has argued that Smith’s ironic use of the invisible hand might represent a hidden attack on market forces, as he might even be recalling and referring to Macbeth’s bloody hand. 22 We must not forget the moral importance of self-interest, which is completely different from selfishness and even self-love for Adam Smith. Smith’s stance is similar to Rousseau’s distinction between amour propre and amour de soi in his ‘Discourse on the Origins of Inequality’ (see Montes, 2016). 23 Smith uses thought experiments. In fact, the comparison of the ‘more extravagant luxury of the great’ like that of a ‘European Prince’ with the ‘industrious and frugal peasant’ (WN I.i.11, pp. 23–24) is another thought experiment that, in a way, advances Rawls’s veil of ignorance. Of course Smith’s thought experiment is pervaded by his optimistic view of the improvement of commercial society during the eighteenth century. 24 Witold von Skarżyński (1850–1910) published in 1878 Adam Smith als Moralphilosoph und Schöpfer der Nationalökonomie: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Nationalökonomie [Adam Smith as a Moral Philosopher and Creator of National Economy. A Contribution to the History of National Economy]. It was a fierce attack on Smith and laissez-faire that argued that the physiocrats were the forebears of Adam Smith. 25 Edwin Cannan published LJ(B) between 1763–64 in 1896, and John M. Lothian LJ(A) between 1762–63 in 1958. Both sets of lecture notes are currently published as Lectures on Jurisprudence (LJ). 26 For an intellectual history of Das Adam Smith Problem, and some issues related to it, see Montes (2003). 27 Right from the ‘Introduction and Plan of the Work’, WN is rich in ethical implications. Indeed, in his defence of progress and civilization, Smith refers to ‘those miserably poor’ nations that have ‘the necessity sometimes of directly destroying, and sometimes of abandoning their infants, their old people, and those afflicted with lingering diseases, to perish with hunger, or to be devoured by wild beasts’ (WN I.4, p. 10). The passage of the African king, ‘the absolute master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked slaves’ (WN I.i.11, pp. 23–24), and soon after the street porter and the philosopher (WN I.ii4, pp. 28–29) are only some examples of Smith’s moral concern at the beginning of WN. 28 The analogy between unbounded persuasion and unbounded self-interest is unavoidable and, as has been recently argued, obviously linked to the invisible hand. I purposefully use here ‘individual freedom’ and not ‘individual liberty’, as in my view the former could at least symbolically entail the classical republican call for citizens’ autonomy that combines with the classical liberal call for individual liberty, as I believe Smith’s political thought conjoins both stances in his defence of liberty (cf. supra note 12). 29 On the context and relevance of improvement for the progress of commercial society in the Scottish Enlightenment and Adam Smith in particular, see Berry (2013). 30 The essays published in the Adam Smith Review, commemorating the 250th anniversary of TMS, are a good example of this resurgence of interest in Smith’s moral philosophy (for recent scholarship, see Fleischacker and Brown [2010, pp. 1–11]). And on the evolution of this renaissance, see review essays by Recktenwald (1978), Brown (1997), Tribe (1999) and, more recently, Paganelli (2015). © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved.
Cambridge Journal of Economics – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 28, 2018
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