Smith was mainly an ethical philosopher, though he practiced what was considered for a long time after Smith an obsolete sort of ethical philosophy, known nowadays as “virtue ethics.” Since 1790 most ethical theory as practiced in departments of philosophy has derived instead from Kant or Bentham, but virtue ethics has recently come back. From the Seven Primary Virtues, Smith chose five to admire especially. He chose all four of the pagan and stoic virtues of courage, temperance, justice, and prudence. To these he added, as virtue number five, a part of the Christian virtue of love, the part admired by his teacher Francis Hutcheson. Smith was not, as has often been claimed, a Stoic, because he was always a pluralist, and would not reduce the good life to, say, Stoic temperance alone. Smith's choice of the virtues makes sense of his writings and career. And it reveals a flaw, shared with Hume: the banishment of the monkish virtues of hope and faith, necessary for human flourishing.
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Deirdre McCloskey; Adam Smith, the Last of the Former Virtue Ethicists. History of Political Economy 1 March 2008; 40 (1): 43–71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-2007-046
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