Early Writings: Science and the Role of the Imagination 

Andrew Stewart Skinner

in A System of Social Science

Second edition

Published in print March 1996 | ISBN: 9780198233343
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191678974 | DOI:
Early Writings: Science and the Role of the Imagination 

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The Lectures on Rhetoric clearly illustrate Smith's interest in the principles of human nature and the emphasis that he placed upon the faculties of reason and imagination, together with man's propensity to discover patterns of causality or to classify phenomena. While these faculties and propensities are illustrated by reference to a wide range of literary works, they are further illustrated by writings of a more philosophical or scientific kind. It is probable that Smith's essay on the ‘External Senses’ dates from the early 1750s, and it is known that at least part of his study of the ‘Imitative Arts’ was read to a society in Glasgow. However, Smith had a very wide knowledge of scientific literature. He also drew attention to the importance of the ‘subjective side of science’, both in emphasizing the role of the imagination when reviewing the basic principles of human nature and in illustrating the working of these principles by reference to the history of astronomy.

Keywords: Adam Smith; human nature; reason; imagination; Lectures on Rhetoric; causality; scientific literature; astronomy; science

Chapter.  11140 words. 

Subjects: Economic History

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