Comments on Adam Smith’s Use of the ‘Gravitation’ Metaphor
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I offer a comment on a paper by Prof David Andrews, ‘Adam Smith’s Natural Prices, the Gravitation Metaphor, and the Purposes of Nature’, 2014, published in Economic Thought, 3.1, pp. 42-55, which takes a philosophical view of Adam Smith’s use of the ‘gravitation’ metaphor from ideas of Aristotle and Empedocles, in contrast to Isaac Newton’s. Instead, this paper takes the view that Smith simply used a metaphoric ‘figure of speech’ that followed his teachings (1748-64) on Rhetoric, as in his “Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres’ (LRBL, 1762-3). Smith’s use on this occasion was not based on a deeper philosophical meaning of the word ‘Gravitation’, interesting as that view may be, as shown by David Andrews. Nor was the deeper philosophical interpretation entirely relevant to Smith’s literary purposes on this occasion. His purely rhetorical use of ‘gravitation’ is consistent with his LRBL teachings on perspecuity of style and illustrated in his long explanation of the dynamic relationships between ‘natural’ and ‘market’ prices in WN (1776: I.vii-xi.p, pp.72-267).