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Adam Smith

The Rhetoric of Propriety

Stephen J. McKenna

Publication Year: 2006

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-viii

...Many people in many different ways helped to bring this book to fruition. My first debt is to Jean Dietz Moss, scholar, teacher, mentor, colleague, friend, who kept prodding when I barely took seriously her first suggestion that I investigate Smith’s rhetoric lectures, and who guided me as my interest first deepened into a dissertation, and later took shape as a book. I hope she won’t regret the suggestion; I’m simply grateful. Christopher Wheatley and Jerry Z...


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pp. ix-x

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1. Smith and the Problem of Propriety

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pp. 1-24

...who regard rhetoric as merely the verbal manipulation of an audience may be forgiven for supposing, from its title, that this book is about an abuse of method by Adam Smith—that it would show how propriety, a key idea in Smith’s rhetorical and ethical thought, is craftily deployed in his sociological system to advance the twin causes of free market capitalism and genteel morality. It is true that we need look no farther than the first extant lecture of Smith’s...

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2. Smith and Propriety in the Classical Tradition

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pp. 25-52

...steeped in knowledge of classical literature, Smith rarely parades his learning, nor does he always explicitly draw upon it.When mentioning classical rhetoric in LRBL, he is often dismissive, as when he derides rhetorical works obsessed with categorizing schemes and tropes as “generally a very silly set of books, and not at all instructive” (1.59), and one might easily mistake this for his attitude toward of all of ancient rhetoric (in fact, he is referring to modern rhetorics as well here)...

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3. Rhetorical Propriety in Eighteenth-Century Theories of Discourse

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pp. 53-72

...Smith’s theory of propriety in rhetoric and ethics was undoubtedly influenced by his encounter with classical propriety, his thinking also clearly drew on and responded to a vigorous attention to propriety and related concepts by scholars and writers in his own time.The strands of interest in rhetorical propriety in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain that influenced Smith...

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4. Propriety in Smith’s Rhetoric Lectures

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pp. 73-110

...The work published as Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres comes not directly from Smith’s hand—presumably it went up in smoke with the papers he had burned at the end of his life. We must settle instead for a set of student notes discovered in 1958, titled simply “Notes of Dr. Smith’s Rhetorick Lectures.” Given that Smith was reputed in one obituary to have discouraged student note taking...

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5. Propriety in The Theory of Moral Sentiments

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pp. 111-132

...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.” This statement by Adam Smith appears not in his rhetoric lectures but near the end of his treatise on moral philosophy (7.4.25). Smith published...

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6. Conclusions, Provocations

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pp. 133-148

...The purpose of this study has been twofold. First, I have attempted to explain the basic problem of propriety and delineate some of the main ways it has been articulated and dealt with in rhetorical theory up to the time of Adam Smith. Second, against this backdrop, I have described Smith’s own treatment of rhetorical propriety, argued that while it shares much with classical sources, his treatment of it is insightful and new, and shown that it serves as a key bridge between his ideas on communication and ethics...

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Smith and Rhetoric: A Critical Note on Sources and Scholarship

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pp. 149-156

...Adam Smith is truly one of the titanic intellectual figures of the modern age, whose work cuts across several modern disciplines; unsurprisingly, the scholarship and other secondary writing on him is both vast and varied. It would be impossible to survey more than a tiny portion of that work here. This note simply aims to provide some preliminary guidance to researchers interested in pursuing further reading on Smith and his rhetorical theory and practice; it is limited to discussing...


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pp. 157-168


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pp. 169-178


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pp. 179-184

Back Cover

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p. 196-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386239
E-ISBN-10: 0809386232
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791465820
Print-ISBN-10: 0809386232

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2006