By Stephen J McKenna
The 1st book-length therapy of Adam Smith’s rhetorical idea.
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Extra info for Adam Smith: The Rhetoric of Propriety
Where language is used metaphorically, propriety is of even greater consequence. 14 In either case, frigidity results because the intelligibility of the language and the object to which it refers is impaired. The interconnection of clarity and propriety is significant in Smith’s rhetoric as well; Smith similarly demands a close correlation between propriety and correct and clear diction. In an intriguing parallel with Aristotle’s notion that inappropriate metaphors occasion ridicule, Smith also holds that inappropriate actions—those out of proportion to that with which a (metaphorical) 38 A DA M S M IT H impartial spectator could sympathize—similarly generate ridicule.
Yet discursive propriety does not induce stupefied wonder, nor does it bring about the submersion and disappearance of the speaker into a background of convention. ) Lastly, one important quality of Smith’s work in rhetoric and ethics is the way he often avoids much of the language of empiricism and its mechanistic psychology, which together entailed rigid dichotomies of internal/ external, self/other, subject/object. Already in these earliest instances of rhetorical propriety, several characteristics occur which will continue to typify theories of appropriateness in speech: (1) its origins are in the cosmic or natural order; (2) it is associated with clear perception through the senses, especially vision; (3) it occasions a pleasurable aesthetic response in hearers; and (4) it results in conspicuous social appearance for the speaker.
92). Hume wrote approvingly of it, but thought that a book of such detail would be slow to reach a public indisposed to giving the requisite attention. , 150). Hume must have been surprised, as was Smith’s publisher, when in fact WN was very popular: the first edition sold out in six months. What was new, and quite likely a significant cause of this surprising success, was the style of Smith’s writing, which was, like that of his previous book, widely remarked to be lucid and compelling. John Millar, in a letter to Hume, remarks on some complaints Hume apparently had about the style of the book, but the nature of Hume’s criticism is not known, and such a view would have been in the minority.
Adam Smith: The Rhetoric of Propriety by Stephen J McKenna