By Albion Woodbury Small
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Additional resources for Adam Smith and Modern Sociology a Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences
In other words, what we know of Adam Smith’s whole scheme of thinking justifies the interpretation that, as it presented itself to his mind, what we now formulate as the general sociological problem might be explained as follows: The destiny of mankind is to work out a certain moral achievement. The great intellectual task is to understand the conditions and implications of that destiny. There are certain grand divisions of that task. Not touching upon those which belong within the scope of so-called natural or physical science, the first division of the intellectual problem of discovering the conditions and implications of human destiny — that is, the terms in accordance with which mankind must learn how to achieve well-being, or happiness, or progress, or Page 39 ----------whatever term we may prefer to use as the algebraic x to denote the content of that undetermined resultant of human endeavor toward which we look when we employ the concept destiny — the first division of the problem of human life in the large, is religious.
The philosophical and conscious approximation which we now use has been gradually framed by the continual purification of the rough and vague idea which he employed. In this way Adam Smith is the legitimate progenitor of Ricardo and of Mill. Their books would not have been written in the least as they are now, most likely would never have been written at all, unless Adam Smith, or some similar writer, had written as he has. But, on the other hand, Adam Smith is the beginner of a great practical movement too.
But in reality he looks as if he were more practical, only because his analysis is less complete. 47 But the mass of mankind have a difficulty in understanding this. They think Adam Smith practical because he seems to deal with all the real facts of man’s life, though he actually exaggerates some, and often omits others; but they think modern economists unpractical because they have taken the most business-like step towards real practice — that of dealing with things one at a time. And it is precisely this singular position of Adam Smith which has given him his peculiar usefulness.
Adam Smith and Modern Sociology a Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences by Albion Woodbury Small