The Rhetoric of Propriety
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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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 in-vestigate Smith’s rhetoric lectures, and who guided me as my interest firstdeepened into a dissertation, and later took shape as a book. I hope she won’t...
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1. Smith and the Problem of Propriety
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Those who regard rhetoric as merely the verbal manipulation of anaudience may be forgiven for supposing, from its title, that this bookis about an abuse of method by Adam Smith—that it would showhow propriety, a key idea in Smith’s rhetorical and ethical thought, is craftilydeployed in his sociological system to advance the twin causes of free marketcapitalism and genteel morality. It is true that we need look no farther thanthe first extant lecture of Smith’s early Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres...
2. Smith and Propriety in the Classical Tradition
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Though steeped in knowledge of classical literature, Smith rarely pa-rades his learning, nor does he always explicitly draw upon it.Whenmentioning classical rhetoric in LRBL, he is often dismissive, aswhen he derides rhetorical works obsessed with categorizing schemes andtropes 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 ancientrhetoric (in fact, he is referring to modern rhetorics as well here).We can...
3. Rhetorical Propriety in Eighteenth-Century Theories of Discourse
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While Smith’s theory of propriety in rhetoric and ethics was undoubtedly influenced by his encounter with classical propri-ety, his thinking also clearly drew on and responded to a vigor-ous attention to propriety and related concepts by scholars and writers in hisown time.The strands of interest in rhetorical propriety in seventeenth- andeighteenth-century Britain that influenced Smith flowed from a larger setof concerns dominating intellectual discourse, including a commitment to...
4. Propriety in Smith’s Rhetoric Lectures
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The work published as Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres comes notdirectly from Smith’s hand—presumably it went up in smoke withthe papers he had burned at the end of his life.We must settle in-stead 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 obituaryto have discouraged student note taking (though other reports say he al-lowed it), we may well ask how reliably they reflect Smith’s thought (Rae,...
5. Propriety in The Theory of Moral Sentiments
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...he desire of being believed, the desire of persuading, of leadingand directing other people, seems to be one of the strongest of all our natural desires. It is perhaps, the instinct upon which isfounded the faculty of speech, the characteristical faculty of human nature.”This statement by Adam Smith appears not in his rhetoric lectures but near the...
6. Conclusions, Provocations
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The purpose of this study has been twofold. First, I have attempted toexplain the basic problem of propriety and delineate some of themain ways it has been articulated and dealt with in rhetorical theoryup to the time of Adam Smith. Second, against this backdrop, I have describedSmith’s own treatment of rhetorical propriety,argued that while it shares muchwith classical sources, his treatment of it is insightful and new, and shown thatit serves as a key bridge between his ideas on communication and ethics.While...
Smith and Rhetoric: A Critical Note on Sources and Scholarship
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Adam Smith is truly one of the titanic intellectual figures of the modern age,whose work cuts across several modern disciplines;unsurprisingly,the scholar-ship and other secondary writing on him is both vast and varied. It would beimpossible to survey more than a tiny portion of that work here.This notesimply aims to provide some preliminary guidance to researchers interested in...
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Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2006
Series Title: Rhetoric in the Modern Era