CL Press
A Fraser Institute Project

Adam Smith

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James Anson Farrer (1849–1925) was a Barrister and writer who wrote a too-forgotten book on Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS).  The title of Farrer’s 1881 book—simply Adam Smith—is misleading in that the book is not about the whole of Smith’s thought, but only TMS. Farrer’s book presents many of the main ideas in TMS, quoting amply.

In the final chapter “Review of the Principal Criticisms of Adam Smith’s Theory,” Farrer draws from Dugald Stewart, James Mackintosh and especially Théodore Simon Jouffroy and Thomas Brown, interlacing their criticisms with suggestions on how Smith might have responded. At the end the book, Farrer signals a turn to his own voice and judgment, and renders judgments more or less in line with the many earlier critics of TMS.

Farrer’s treatment of the criticisms are valuable, both as intellectual historiography and, in its own right, as philosophical criticism of Smith. Those who warm to TMS need to engage and respond to the long and rich lines of serious criticism, lines that include Farrer.