Adam Smith is best known today as the founder of modern economics, but he was also an uncommonly brilliant philosopher who was especially interested in the perennial question of how to live a good life. Our Great Purpose is a short and illuminating guide to Smith’s incomparable wisdom on how to live well, written by one of today’s leading Smith scholars.
In this inspiring and entertaining book, Ryan Patrick Hanley describes Smith’s vision of “the excellent and praiseworthy character,” and draws on the philosopher’s writings to show how each of us can go about developing one. For Smith, an excellent character is distinguished by qualities such as prudence, self-command, justice, and benevolence—virtues that have been extolled since antiquity. Yet Smith wrote not for the ancient polis but for the world of market society—our world—which rewards self-interest more than virtue. Hanley shows how Smith set forth a vision of the worthy life that is uniquely suited to us today.
Full of invaluable insights on topics ranging from happiness and moderation to love and friendship, Our Great Purpose enables modern readers to see Smith in an entirely new light—and along the way, learn what it truly means to live a good life.
Ryan Patrick Hanley is professor of political science at Boston College. He is the author of Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue and the editor of Adam Smith: His Life, Thought, and Legacy (Princeton) and the Penguin Classics edition of Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments.