Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

My Understanding of Adam Smith’s Impartial Spectator: A Symposium Prologue


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This article is the Prologue to a symposium undertaken to prompt Adam Smith scholars to explain their understanding of Smith’s impartial spectator, particularly in Smith’s highest sense of that expression. The symposium is not intended to serve as a primer on Smith’s impartial spectator; the spirit is coffee-house conversation among Smith scholars, as they address searching questions about the impartial spectator. What is the impartial spectator, in Smith’s highest sense of that expression? Does the impartial spectator have knowledge that is super-human? Is the impartial spectator universal? How does the impartial spectator relate to “the man within the breast”? To the being whose hand is invisible? To God?