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Sep 15, 2015

It is fairly conventional now to think of the 'science of man' as possibly the signal intellectual achievement of the Enlightenment in Scotland. David Hume coined the phrase  and attached it to his Treatise of Human Nature, in which he placed the study of human nature on empirical (or experimental) foundations. On this basis Hume was to develop a powerful theory of justice, political obligation, morality, beauty, and natural religion - all of it held together as the functions of what Hume calls, in the common way, sympathy. Adam Smith was an early and acute reader of Hume's Treatise, and his theories about language, property and progress can be seen to complete the Humean project and create the science of man that Hume had promised. In time, it was to be sustained by Smith's own theory of sentiment and socialibilty, based on Humean premises, but significantly different from our own. In this lecture, Nick Phillipson challenges these reasonable inferences about Hume and Smith, and asks whether we really want to think of Hume as the author of a "projet manqué", and whether we want to think of Smith as someone who was simply tweaking Humean language?