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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Adam Smith was arguably the first great Enlightenment thinker to offer a thorough and considered response to the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the first great Counter-Enlightenment thinker. As recent scholarship has stressed, Smith sympathized with many aspects of Rousseau’s wide-ranging critique of commercial society. In the end, however, their differences were far more fundamental. This essay examines four key areas of divergence between the two, namely their views on the popular dissemination of the arts and sciences (and popular ‘enlightenment’ more generally); the moral effects of commerce; the nature of liberty and citizenship; and the idea of progress. In each case, Smith stood closer to the leading figures of the French Enlightenment—thinkers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot—than he did to their great critic Rousseau.

Keywords: Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, enlightenment, commercial society

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