ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Emotion, Context And Rhetoric: Adam Smith’s Informal Argumentation

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logo  2002-1The purpose of this paper is to analyze Adam Smith’s use of informal logic in contemporary terms. I intend to show that many recent advances in informal logic theory were, at least in some sense, anticipated by Smith, and that Smith’s moral theory bolsters the case that argumentation must be contextual and more rhetorically and emotively concerned. I will do this by emphasizing the ways in which Smith describes the psychology of argumentation in his work, and then advance this in terms of four core problems in informal logic: “premise acceptability; premise relevance, argument reconstruction (the problem of missing premises); and argument cogency (the problem of premise sufficiency” (M. Weinstein 1996, 26). After a brief discussion of the parameters of Smith’s argumentation theory, I will provide an overview of contemporary themes that will be relevant to my discussion. Then I will focus on a reconstruction of his theory of reasoning.
There are three difficulties that permeate this project, the first two are practical; the third is theoretical. The first difficulty is the historical impropriety of the problematic. Smith had no explicit theory of informal logic, and although it is possible to trace discussions of the topic, at least, to Aristotle’s conception of practical rationality, the terminology and methods of informal logic are themselves quite contemporary. Much of my investigation may appear “superimposed” on Smith’s work. Nevertheless, as I will argue, I do see a theory of informal logic implicit in Smith’s work, even if he himself would not have identified it as such. The second difficulty relates to time considerations. A detailed study of this topic would require much more attention to the text than I can provide in this paper. It is simply impossible to offer the examples and detail that any audience would prefer in such a short discussion. I therefore ask my readers to be sympathetic to the fact that this paper is more embryonic than conclusive.
The third difficulty – the first theoretical one – is the consequence of competing assumptions. Smith rejects the fundamental division between emotion and reason that underlies many traditional understanding of the “logical”. For Smith, there is no radical division between the rational and the emotive. He assumes that emotions initiate, are the consequence of, and are often indistinguishable from reason. One obvious consequence of this is that certain fallacies – the appeal to emotion, for example – may not, under his scheme, be fallacious. For Smith, appealing to a person’s sentiments may very well be a legitimate and “logical” way of accessing premises and coming to conclusions. According to his The Theory of Moral Sentiments, the sympathetic process – the process by which a spectator imagines a “fellow-feeling” with an actor – is a component of, and sometimes even identical to, reasoning. Martha Nussbaum, who has indicated explicitly and by example, that her work is deeply influenced by Smith, shows how emotions may be understood as rational (Nussbaum 1995, xvi). About emotions, she writes:
First of all, they are about something: They have an object… Second, the object is an intentional object: that is, it figures in the emotions as it is seen or interpreted by the person whose emotion it is… Third, these emotions embody not simply ways of seeing an object, but beliefs – often very complex – about the object… Finally, we notice something marked in the intentional perceptions and the beliefs characteristic of the emotions: they are concerned with value, they see the object as invested with value or importance (Nussbaum 2001, 27-30).

For Nussbaum, as for Smith, emotions are not unintelligent arrows aimed unthinkingly or spontaneously at some object. They are complex value-laden consequences requiring interpretation and reconstruction. They are representatives of a process of reason, and components of larger arguments and deliberations that lay at the core of the human intellectual experience.
Thus, this third difficulty in analyzing Smith’s informal logic is that he includes those components of rational theory that many intentionally exclude: components, the exclusion of which, are often the very goal of argument analysis. What then does Smith mean be argumentation?
There are, in Smith’s work, four examples of argumentation: Moral, Economic, Scientific, and Aesthetic. Each involves the discovery and defense of seemingly objective conclusions derived after an epistemological leap. His theories assert, for example, that actors, over time, construct normative moral rules, that participants in the market become aware of a product’s natural prices, that theoreticians develop coherent explanatory systems, and that spectators become aware of the rules of beauty and simplicity. The problem for Smith is that all of these objective standards can only be derived from clear analyses of the activities, arguments, and sentiments of the members of a person’s community. For Smith, informal reasoning is, to some extent, applied epistemology. I thus offer a tentative definition of argumentation applicable in this context. For Smith, argumentation means the process by which an individual or the community determines relevant data, gathers that data, and uses that data to construct or discover either facts about the world or prescriptive rules, to react appropriately to these facts and rules, and to convince others of the propriety of those facts rules. Argumentation must include within it the self-regulating aspect that points outside itself. This latter requirement is, for Smith, both the most problematic and the most interesting part.

We can already see many similarities between Smith’s view and more contemporary theories of argumentation. In addition to commonalities with Nussbaum, we see, for example, a contextually sensitive argumentation, and an assertion that argumentation is epistemological. To move forward, then, I would suggest a brief overview of some recent and important advances in informal logic. These accounts are in no way inclusive, they are intended to be little more than sound bites highlighting certain themes that will be useful in our interpretation of Smith’s argumentation theory(i).
First and foremost, is Stephen Toulmin’s theory in The Uses of Argument. Toulmin moves away from the mathematical model of argument, suggesting instead, that a jurisprudential model is a more appropriate means of analyzing everyday argumentation. He argues, reminiscent of Aristotle, that different areas of interest have different ranges of precision, and that context determines the nature of argument. According to Toulmin, although logically normative terms may be field-invariant, the criteria for actual assessment are field-variant. In other words, the terms used to designate good or bad argument remain consistent regardless of context, but the standards that these terms designate are fluid. Toulmin asks us to investigate the procedure behind arguments rather than the mathematical notion of validity. In making this move, we are forced to look at arguments differently, seeing arguments in numerous forms, including both actions and reactions. This point will be essential in that Smith’s notion of argumentation is based upon behavior rather than argument articulation, and his sociological theory assumes a method of reasoning resting on the interaction between social influence and the individual’s searching for normative standards to which he or she can authentically assent. Field-variant argumentation, combined with the awareness that action itself is somehow involved in argumentation, makes reasoning much more complicated than mathematical logic suggests. The more we understand that argumentation is field-variant, the better we understand that the nature of fields is itself fluid.

A scone philosopher, Matthew Lipman argues that critical thinking is only one component in a three-fold categorization of higher order thinking. Lipman identifies three types of higher order thinking, critical, creative, and caring. He emphasizes that the boundaries between the three are often unclear, and he does suggest that the three may overlap(ii). He argues that caring is a form of thinking and should be regarded as such, and that at root, emotions have reasons. For Lipman, as for Smith, part of understanding emotions is comprehending the reasons behind the emotions. He also suggests that it is possible to teach the propriety of emotions. To do so is to acknowledge the rational component of emotion – a position that reverberates in Smith’s approach to the evaluation of sentiments and their appropriateness.
In essence Lipman, along with Smith, suggests that caring is rational. Reasons are a part of emotions and are, at least to a large degree, critical. We are then left with the understanding that argumentation, to be authentic, must represent, more than traditionally acknowledged, a person’s whole mode of thinking. Christopher Tindale’s recent “rhetorical model” of argument adds new dimensions to this by providing an account of argumentation that restores the importance of the audience. This is a very important shift for our purposes. It suggests that argumentation is to be understood both as an act and as a relationship. Tindale writes, “This aim of argumentation is not purely intellectual adherence, but includes the inciting of action or creating a disposition to act, which in turn involves attention not to the faculties … but to the whole person” (Tindale 1999, 70). Tindale’s claim here is twofold. First, that argumentation must be inclusive, it ought not exclude certain reactions simply because they do not fit into traditional modes of reasoning. Second, Tindale suggests that argumentation must inspire action, not just intellectual commitment. This claim, of course, resonates with many Eighteenth century philosophers, not the least of which is David Hume. Hume and Smith were best friends, and Hume, the elder, was a great influence on Smith. However, whereas Hume’s solution to argumentative motivation was to claim that reason is the slave to the passions, Smith, in a certain sense, equates the two.

Before turning back to Smith, it is necessary to say a few words about Alasdair MacIntyre. More than the other contemporary thinkers noted, MacIntyre takes an expansive look at argumentation. Rationality, for MacIntyre, is defined by the standards developed by the progression of a tradition. It provides the tools for both internal evaluation of moral adjudication, and procedures for analyzing moral conclusions from outside traditions. His point, however, is that one cannot evaluate from a neutral perspective, that all adjudication and analysis represents the standards of a particular tradition, and that rationality is the product of a lengthy and communal history. Traditions are constructed retrospectively, and to understand and critique standards of rationality, one must reconstruct the progression of argument over time (Weinstein 2002). The tradition forms a narrative, a coherent chronology of events with a goal, and with an understanding of how these events contribute to these goals. The telos – MacIntyre’s goal is Aristotelian – supplies the directionality which then allows for normative standards. This too will resonate with Smith’s readers. For Smith, history, personal and collective, are essential for evaluating sentiment propriety, and most argument reconstruction is done after the fact. Actions may be undertaken by looking forward, but they are explained and justified retrospectively.
The picture of argumentation that develops from these contemporary thinkers is strikingly different from the mathematical model that Toulmin rejects. It is a lived-argumentation that takes history, perspective, audience, and emotion into account. It regards action as valuable, and emphasizes communicative intent. It acknowledges the powerful influence of community, and locates reasoning within human relationships. It is this picture of reasoning that would be most familiar to Smith’s readers, although his eighteenth century contemporaries would not have had the vocabulary to describe it in this form. For Smith, argumentation is tied to the growth in social awareness. To mature is to absorb and modify socially constructed identity and argument procedure. It is also to gather vast amounts of data, and to systematize it in such a way that one becomes aware of an objective standard of propriety. This may take, for example, the form of an account of the standards of beauty, or proper moral action, or of the appropriate cost for a product (the natural price).

Adam Smith is most famous for synthesizing disparate economic theories into a coherent system in his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776. He was, however, more than an economist. Smith was a philosopher whose wide-ranging work spanned philosophy and history of science, aesthetics, political commentary, and moral theory. During the eighteenth century, economics, as we understand it, did not exist. Smith wrote on “political economy”, a discipline best described as the general science of politics and related human issues. Thus economics was inseparable from political and moral theory, as well as from sociology and psychology. The Wealth of Nations was a specific application of his social and moral theory as outlined in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments, first published in 1759 (Weinstein 2001).
In short, in TMS Smith argues that actors identify moral rules by harmonizing their sentiments with those around them. This process of harmony is Smith’s ‘sympathy’. Smith divides people into actors and spectators, an actor being the moral agent and the spectator being the person who evaluates the propriety of the moral act. Over time, actors develop the ability to create an imagined impartial spectator who, being somewhat objective, allows people to avoid being governed completely by their passions. It also preserves their capacity for critical reflection on communal beliefs. The impartial spectator is the unification of spectator and actor: a theory of conscience that allows an actor to develop moral judgments without the assistance of the community. The impartial spectator is not an ideal observer. It is a creation of the imagination and thus limited by the human capacity to create. It is community informed and its sophistication and accuracy evolves over time. The process of deliberation over the propriety of acts and sentiments is the location of moral deliberation, and the epicenter for Smith’s informal logic.

Adam Smith’s first faculty position was as the chair of Logic at Glasgow University. However, whatever discussion of logic he may have had in classes are lost to history. He never published on the topic(iii). Instead, we have Smith’s Lectures on Rhetoric, as recorded by a student attending his class during the 1762 – 1763 academic year. As one might imagine, these lectures emphasize language use and the proper style for persuasion in different contexts. Smith compares, for example, the use of exclamation and authorial voice in oratory and in history. He also offers discussions of argumentation and intentional manipulation in legal reasoning. This association of argumentation with rhetoric already puts him in-line with the newest work in argumentation theory. Informal logic, when placed in a discussion of rhetoric, removes the mathematical content of reasoning. Granted, Smith lived one hundred and fifty years before the beginning of the analytic tradition, however, it is noteworthy that he did not approach reasoning in isolation as Kant his contemporary did, nor did he adopt the scholastic model of rigorous proofs as puzzles to be manipulated. Instead, Smith saw informal reasoning as more governed by aesthetic rules: simplicity and clarity provide standards of soundness.
For Smith, the ultimate test for written language is not whether the author feels his or her ideas are adequately represented on paper, but, instead, whether the reader has understood correctly. Accordingly, communication is successful when the two minds, that of the author and that of the reader, find some sort of meeting point; a shared understanding of the substance and emotion within the text. This both anticipates Smith’s theory of sympathy and indicates a tendency towards emphasis on argument reconstruction and the availability of hidden premises. The author must make all of his or her claims explicit otherwise persuasion is impossible. Yet, writing is more than just the sum of its components. Smith argues that good writing is both descriptive and prescriptive – a claim that causes great difficulty for Smith himself, since he often shifts back and forth between the two without warning or transition. Historical writing, for example, informs its reader, not only of that which has happened, but also of that which should or should not happen again. Implicit in this discussion is the assertion that arguments imply moral imperatives. Therefore, an historian must present an account of events “as if he were an impartial narrator of the facts; so he uses [no] means to affect his readers,… he does not take part with either side, and for the same reason he never uses any exclamations in his own person” (LR i.83)(iv).
Here Smith introduces the notion of objectivity or impartiality. Accurate adjudication requires stepping away from one’s own passions and adopting a position that allows for the evaluation of all competing information. However, this notion of objectivity should not be taken so far as to suggest some Archimedean point that is free of all biases. Smith, like MacIntyre, is well aware that absolute objectivity is impossible. He is not, for example, claiming that the historian should seek a ‘God’s eye’ view, and record facts that are somehow beyond critical consideration. Instead, Smith is making a point about language use. He indicates that certain styles of writing and speech are more conducive to imparting information, and he is very concerned with methods of providing facts as well as ways of describing objects. Implicit in Smith’s rhetoric is a standard for argument. Superfluous premises are not simply unnecessary they are detrimental to understanding and thus impair communication.

Smith defines the purpose of rhetoric as “the perfection of stile.” (LR i.133) He explains that it “consists in Expressing in the most concise, proper and precise manner the thought of the author, and that in the manner which best conveys the sentiment, passion or affection with which it affects or he pretends it does affect him and which he designs to communicate to his reader.” (LR i.133) Smith sees rhetoric as communicating sentiment, and sentiment is that which communicates a person’s virtues and vices. Language use must therefore adequately represent who the author is as well as the nature of his or her character. Thus, it is not simply that argumentation implies a moral imperative. It is also the case that argumentation implies character. One can learn about the author from his or her writing, and condemning a body of argument may suggest a condemnation of the arguer. For example, Smith compares Jonathan Swift’s style of writing to Lord Shaftesbury’s, arguing that Swift’s plain and direct writing style is more conducive to understanding, while Shaftesbury’s very ornate style is used by the author to hide his intellectual inadequacies. Smith illustrates this point with an unfortunate ad hominum against Shaftesbury in which he describes Shaftesbury’s sickly childhood as evidence of the author’s weak intellect. (LR i.137-153). At first read, this might make Smith’s readers cringe, and rightly so. But in retrospect, Smith’s readers are forced to ask whether ad hominum is always a true fallacy, or whether the joining together of message and messenger requires that we reinvestigate the standard separation between the two(v). Certainly, if argument communicates sentiment, then reasoning and character are more “intimate” than we are usually lead to believe and argument may very well tell us something about moral character. While reading LRBL, the reader is impressed by how quickly discussions of rhetoric become discussions of philosophy. Rules prescribing language-use become rules prescribing both human action and character development.

Smith prescribes two requirements for scientific and philosophical treatises, (Smith calls them “didactick” texts). In Lecture 18, Smith criticizes those who leave gaps in historical or argumentative narratives. Then, in Lecture 24, he argues that one should not argue from particular to general, as Aristotle does, but, instead, look towards Newton’s method of inquiry, and argue from general to particular. These requirements are related because both generalization and holes in reasoning leave room for uncertainty and doubt. For Smith, writing is supposed to cultivate sympathy. Sympathy is triggered by the communication of information and context. When information is left incomplete, such as when a narrator leaves out part of a chronology, the reader becomes attentive to that which is left out and wonders whether there is further information that ought to preclude sympathy. Smith writes: “We should never leave any chasm or Gap in the thread of the narration even tho there are no remarkable events to fill up that space. The very notion of a gap makes us uneasy for what should have happened in that time” (LR ii.36). Gaps in narratives interfere with the success of persuasion. Yet again, Smith is emphasizing the problem of missing premises. He is also, in some sense, foreshadowing Pierce’s Fixation of Belief.
To further understand this point, we can look to Smith’s unpublished essay titled The Principles Which Lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries; Illustrated by the History of Astronomy, the only fragment which Smith suggested might be both complete and worthy of publication (Corr. 137, 248). The purpose of Astronomy is twofold. First, it expresses the human motivation to learn and do philosophy. Here Smith attempts to show what it is that inspires human beings’ inquiry, and attempts to develop a methodology that takes such human motivation seriously. Second, Astronomy seeks to show why one system of thought is said to replace a previous system, and by what criteria systems should be rejected.
According to Smith, our desire to know is rooted in a series of emotions: surprise, wonder, and admiration. This is reminiscent of Aristotle’s claims in Metaphysics (Met 982b ). That which is unexpected brings about surprise, that which is expected brings about wonder, and that which is great or beautiful brings about admiration. (Astronomy, intro.1) Yet, the three sentiments do not act alone; they act in concert. Smith writes, “these sentiments, like all others when inspired by one and the same object, mutually support and enliven one another” (Astronomy, intro.6).
Smith sees inquiry as an investigation of a chain of thought, and philosophy guides inquiry. In Astronomy, Smith defines philosophy as “the science of the connecting principles of nature” (Astronomy, II.12). Accordingly, Smith indicates that a philosopher is motivated to create systems because his or her mind is more finely tuned to the gaps in the chain of events. The philosopher sees missing information where others do not.
For Smith, the ultimate criteria for believability must always be the sentiments, a claim that seems similar in a certain sense to the intimacy between the emotive and the critical elements of thinking. Persuasion – believability – is an emotional issue, and not simply an epistemic one. Smith’s essay enumerates numerous systems of astronomy, and in doing so, he shows how, viewed over time, systems become more intricate. The more intricate a system becomes, the less communicable, and thus, the less believable it is. If systems become examples of wonder or surprise instead of admiration – if they confuse instead of explain – then they are rejected.
For Smith, and probably for everyone else who studies astronomy, the paradigmatic example of complexity will always be the epicycle, the spiral circular motion ascribed to planets that were said to complement a planet’s orbit. Ptolemy’s theory ceased to be believable because its complexity inhibited its greatness, and its unpredictability always elicited surprise. This gave way to wonder and anxiety. According to Smith, Ptolemy’s theory is to be condemned because it is too complex; it has too many superfluities. Epicycles are unnecessary ornamentation, and Smith condemns their use. This is the same criterion Smith utilized in his discussion of Swift and Shaftesbury
Unnecessary ornamentation is problematic because it interferes with sympathy. Since superfluities are unnecessary, there is little chance that the spectator will reconstruct an argument with the same extravagances as the actor, and thus the two will not create analogous sentiments or arguments, and sympathy cannot occur. Sympathy does refer to the “fellow feeling” of “any-passion whatever” observed in others (TMS, I.i.I.5). However, according to Smith, the spectator does not create analogous emotions by only looking at the agent’s emotions. Instead, the spectator looks at the cause and context of the emotions and then determines how one should react given the same context. According to Smith, the spectator is making a judgment based upon the facts of the case. He or she is reconstructing the argument implicit in the sentiment and determining its propriety. The simpler the argument is – the more necessary the conclusions – the more the argument will flow naturally from the cause and context to the sentiment. Thus, for Smith, what happened to the person is ultimately more important than the emotion that the person appears to be expressing.

Smith repeatedly emphasizes that until the exact cause of the emotion is clear to the spectator, sympathy will not even approach a measure of emotion that could be considered analogous. More so, in order to accurately sympathize with the agent, the spectator must be aware of minute details extending as far back in time as one is able, but the spectator must also be aware of any possible consequences not yet experienced. Sympathy is a creative act in Lipman’s sense of “creative thinking.” The spectator imagines the argument put forth by the actor and then judges its soundness. Smith emphasizes the role of the imagination because there is an important tension within Smith’s appraisal of the human condition, Individuals can never know for certain what it is other people feel and must therefore rely on their imagination and their own experiences regarding the emotion in question to inform them of the sensations of others. Smith uses the imagination to overcome the difficulties that are generally associated with the problem of other minds. According to Smith, we cannot access direct or privileged experience of others. We can only imagine what the experiences of others might be based upon observable signs and based on our own experiences.
The essential problem for sympathy is the process of the spectator learning all of the information relevant to the context. The spectator must not only understand how a person should act in a given situation, but how this particular person should act in this particular situation. He writes,
When I condole with you for the loss of your only son, in order to enter into your grief I do not consider what I, a person of such a character and profession, should suffer, if I had a son, and if that son was unfortunately to die: but I consider what I should suffer if I was really you, and I not only change circumstances with you, but I change persons and characters. My grief, therefore, is entirely upon your account, and not in the least upon my own (TMS VII.iii.1.4).

Ideally, a spectator must determine, how an actor thinks, all of the information the actor is taking into account, whether this information is relevant to the moral dilemma at hand and, ultimately whether the actor’s moral actions are justified or, in other words, whether the process of moral adjudication warrants the given conclusion. Learning the history of the moral agent in order to ask how this particular person should or should not act in this particular situation is a form of identifying missing premises; the spectator’s determination of whether he or she knows enough information to judge the agent’s act as proper or improper is another form of the problem of argument cogency; the spectator’s determination of which information to try to learn about and which to filter out (what background information counts and what does not) is another form of determining premise relevance; and, finally, the impartial spectator’s determination of the act’s moral propriety is another form of determining premise adequacy – is the act adequate given the particular situation?
Sympathy is clearly a form of rational deliberation, but it is constituted by more than just rational deliberation. It is, itself, a non-rational (but not irrational) process, according to the standard opposition of emotions and reason. According to Smith, the desire for sympathy is hard-wired into the human experience: we are born with the capacity to sympathize, the desire to sympathize, and the need for spectator approval. We incorporate into our understanding all elements which may affect our judgment, including the care we feel for other people, the pleasure and pain of experiences, the subconscious motivations and biases which direct us (this, of course, contributes to the difficulty of argument reconstruction), the emotions we feel, the arbitrariness of custom, the randomness of luck, and the lack of control we have over the events we experience. Purely “rational” argumentation cannot account for all of these influences. Human beings are illogical in many ways. The discipline that helps us make sense of the world must have room for all of those influences, not just the rational ones. Thus we have the relevance of Smith’s most famous phrase “the invisible hand”: a phrase meant to be a description of the combination of the rational decision making procedure that is overseen by the impartial spectator and the non-rational/emotive procedure which is captured by the natural urge and capacity to sympathize with others.
Despite its notoriety, Smith uses the phrase “the invisible hand” only twice in his published writings. It serves as a link between Smith’s moral psychology and his social and economic work (TMS IV.i.10 and WN IV.ii.9). The phrase “invisible hand” is a metaphor meant to illustrate that despite the human desire to see reason and rationality as a motivational force, the movement and fluctuation of organizational structures are imposed on a person without he or she intending it or knowing it. In both cases, Smith uses the phrase to describe economic events, but in Astronomy­, an unpublished work, Smith uses it a third time to describe early human’s reactions to unexplained natural events (Astronomy III.2). Thus, it is clear that the phrase implies uncertainty in more than just the economic realm.

In short, Smith’s invisible hand metaphor is meant to illustrate that the rules governing individual human interaction do not govern the fluctuations of the system as a whole. According to Smith, a natural love of system inspires individuals to postulate imaginary machinery that explains the fluctuations of the market and of the progress of the human species. In reality, these things cannot be predictably manipulated since, if there is a guiding principle, we can never know what it is, and even if we could identify the principle, we cannot possibly know all data relevant for prediction. The movement of the whole is not guided except as if by an invisible hand (the cumulative effect of all activity) which its members can only reconstruct after the fact. I do not mean to suggest that the movement of the system is irrational, random or arbitrary. There are certain principles that may help prediction in some instances, such as supply and demand. However, the cumulative effect is non-rational. Sympathy is guided both by rational and non-rational influences and people act in such a way that may be neither absolutely predictable nor completely understandable. This doesn’t preclude all prediction or understanding, it just precludes absolute and certain prediction and understanding in all cases. Explanation is always more effective after the fact.
Thus the invisible hand may be understood as a metaphor for Smith’s informal logic as well as for his economic and moral doctrines. For Smith, argumentation is influenced by so many different pieces of information that logic alone cannot account for: the chain of premises, how they hang together, what they conclude, the moral component implicit in the conclusions, and the action inspired by the argument, to name a few. All of this is packaged in human deliberation, and all of this can only be described with a larger more approximate theory: a theory that, as I have suggested, anticipated many of the complexities now under investigation in the contemporary study of informal logic.
Smith’s theory of argument contains elements found in the most contemporary of theories of informal logic. His work on narrative and retrospective argument construction anticipates MacIntyre, his use of rhetoric anticipates Tindale, his use of emotion anticipates Lipman, and his context-based reasoning anticipates Toulmin. I do not mean to suggest that the entirety of any of these theories are present in Smith, nor do I mean to minimize their contributions or the ways in which these four thinkers may overlap. I only hope to show that Smith’s theory of argumentation is still relevant, and that despite its age, it is sophisticated enough that a second, more contemporary look at it may contribute to advances in contemporary discourse in logic theory. Smith’s work helps bolster the case that logic is more than mathematics or rigid argumentation. In an informal logic that is purely argumentative, there would be no unpredictability or ambiguity. It is the other elements that interlocutors carry with them that creates the ambiguity within reasoning, and it is the awareness that emotions, creativity, and even care play a role in reasoning that helps explains divergence of opinion and, ultimately, the difficulties in argument reconstruction.

i. It is important to distinguish between Smith’s method of Inquiry and Smith’s theory of argumentation. Whereas many have attempted to articulate Smith’s own method of investigation, few have spent much time on Smith’s theory of deliberation. In other words, whereas J Ralph Lindgren, for example, seek to identify how Smith came to his particular conclusion, my focus is on the deliberative mechanism implicit in his moral psychology – I am concerned with the people Smith describes, not his method of developing that description (Lindgren 1969).
ii. “When we are thinking critically, we are applying to our thinking the rules, criteria, standards, reasons and orders that are reasonable and appropriate to it. When we are thinking creatively, we are inventing ways of expressing ourselves and/or the world around us, we are trying to go beyond the ways we have thought in the past; we are imagining details of possible worlds and proposing unprecedented innovations. When we are thinking caringly, we attend to what we take to be important, to what we care about, to what demands, requires or needs us to think about it” (Lipman 1995, 6).
iii. We do have a very brief fragment of an essay titled The Principles Which Lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries Illustrated by the History of the Ancient Logics and Metaphysics (roughly nine book pages). The date of this is uncertain, although it seems likely that it was written while Smith was living in Kirkaldy (1746-1748) before he was elected to the chair of Logic (Wightman 1980, 8). The fragment contains very little about logic and was condemned by Smith in 1773, in a letter to David Hume (Corr. 137). In it, Smith defines logic as that which “endeavoured to ascertain the general rules by which we might distribute all particular objects into general classes, and determine to what class each individual object belonged (Ancient Logics 1). However, this seems more a definition of dialectic, which he discusses immediately after, and there is no evidence that Smith saw himself as continuing this “ancient” science.
iv. Following the standard form of Smith citations: LR adverts to The Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, Corr. adverts to Correspondences of Adam Smith, Ancient Logics, adverts to “The Principles Which Lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries Illustrated by the History of the Ancient Logics and Metaphysics”, Astronomy adverts to “The Principles Which Lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries; Illustrated by the History of Astronomy”, TMS adverts to The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and WN adverts to An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
v. These comments were, of course, presented in the classroom. It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the comment about Shaftesbury’s sickly childhood were little more than a passing snide comment composed for the amusement of his students. Nevertheless, Smith is repeatedly critical of Shaftesbury, and the philosophical status of ad hominum is still worth investigating.

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