Volume 32, Issue 1, 2022
Do We Need a New Enlightenment for the Twenty-First Century? Part III
Adam Smith between the Scottish and French Enlightenments
This paper discusses Adam Smith’s intellectual relationship with the French Enlightenment, with a particular focus on his view of French culture as conveyed in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). Compared to England at that time, eighteenth-century Scotland is considered as having a closer affiliation with France in terms of their intellectual and cultural life during what has been dubbed the Enlightenment. While David Hume was representative of the affinity between the French and Scottish literati, Smith also held an enduring interest in the French philosophy, literature, and other aspects of its civilisation, long before the historic visit to Toulouse and Paris (1764–1766) that would shape his political economy greatly. While this paper shall examine Smith’s Francophile and Europeanist tendency within his moral argument, it also emphasises that he was abundantly aware of the moral cultural tensions between these two branches of the European Enlightenment.