Centre for Social Science and Global Health

First Great Thinkers on YouTube-Geoffrey Underhill presenting Adam Smith

24 November 2016

Professor Geoffrey Underhill presented the work of Adam Smith (1723 -1790), Scottish moral philosopher, pioneer of political economy and key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. Not only did Underhill explore the meaning of Smith's work for the Social Sciences, also the physical resemblance was striking...

Geoffrey Underhill is Professor of International Governance at the UvA and a noted scholar of the political economy of financial governance.

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About Adam Smith

Adam Smith (1723 -1790) was a Scottish moral philosopher, pioneer of political economy, a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. He and his work were widely known in late 18th century European intellectual circles, and he was a close friend and intellectual companion of the towering figure of David Hume.


Adam Smith

Adam Smith

The continent's most famous intellectual salons

Smith studied moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow and at Balliol College, Oxford, and famously occupied the Chair in Logic and subsequently in Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. His lectures there attracted students and notice all around Europe. Smith was later engaged by the landowner Lord Charles Townsend as Tutor to his stepson, the youthful Duke of Buccleuch. In this way Smith took his charge around Europe and gained entry to many of the continent's most famous intellectual salons, meeting Voltaire, Quesnay, and others.

Classical understanding of the interaction of individuals and their society

Smith is best known for two classic works: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations. 

The former he most likely considered to be his most important contribution wherein he sought to describe the natural principles that govern morality and the ways in which human beings come to know them. 

The latter is in modern times often considered his magnum opus and to be the first modern work of what came to be the field of economics. Importantly, the analysis developed in Wealth of Nations should be understood as directly derived from the principles outlined in Theory of Moral Sentiments.

In this way, Smith laid the foundations of the classical understanding of the interaction of individuals and their society in the domain of what we now call economic activity. 

Published by  AISSR