Adam Smith and cultural relativism
Keywords:Adam Smith, culture, relativism, anthropology, moral judgment
This paper explores the presence of both relativistic and universalistic elements in Adam Smith’s moral philosophy. It argues that Smith is more sympathetic to the concerns of anthropologists than most philosophers have been, but still tries to uphold the possibility of moral judgments that transcend cultural contexts. It also argues that the tensions between these aspects of his thought are not easy to resolve, but that Smith’s sensitivity to the issues that give rise to them makes him a useful figure with whom to think through the relationship between anthropology and moral philosophy to this day.