Philosophy 521

Discussion Questions on Adam Smith, Book I, chapters 1-5

1.  What does Smith aim to accomplish in Book I and, more specifically in each of the five chapters assigned?

2.  What are the causes and effects of the division of labor, and why is the division of labor so important?

3.  Smith attempts to explain many things in the first five chapters.  List some of them and try to figure out what form or structure his explanations take.  Can they be seen as sketches of deductive-nomological explanations?

4.  Would you say that Smith is interested in mechanisms?  Can you give examples of mechanisms he identifies?

4.  In what sense are Smith's explanations individualistic? Do his explanations differ in how individualistic they are?  Do features of people explain features of society, or do features of society explain features of people, or both?

5.  Do the social benefits of the division of labor explain its origins?

6.  What else does Smith do that is of value besides offering explanations?

7.  What role does psychology play in the explanations Smith offers of aspects of the economy?

8.  Does Smith assume that people are selfish?  What role does self-interest play in Smith's many explanations?

9. Smith introduces the notions of real, nominal, actual, and natural prices.  What does he mean? How observable are these prices?  How can they be known?