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Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history.

Dec 17, 2014

Mary: Welcome to mayor rhetoric a podcast for beginners and inspirers that got ideas of people and movement who shape historical history today we have two great surprises one is the topic. We’re going to start our new series on people you didn’t know were rhetoricians, and were going to talk about Adam Smith in particular who was actually a rhetorician despite most people knowing him as an economist and because of that we have a second surprise which is our guest today, which is my own brother my favorite economist, Dave Hedengren.




Dave Hedengren: Hi Mary thanks for letting me be on the podcast, I’m a big fan.




Mary: Oh shucks, your just saying that because you’re my brother




Dave Hedengren: Well I’m listening to the podcast because I’m your brother, I’m saying that because I’m a big fan... anyway so I was shocked when you said Adam Smith worked in rhetoric.




Mary: Yea he did in fact it was his first job coming out of college was his equivalent of a star buck’s job in many ways,




Dave Hedengren: So what did they ask? so you told me he worked at rhetoric but I was like yea but it is like he had to teach fresh men writing his first year as a professor, like what do you mean he worked at rhetoric?




Mary: Well it was actually pretty prestigious, he was a lecturer, because back in the eighteen century they didn’t have Xbox so they didn’t have much to do, so they would have these societies where people would study things and they would hire somebody to come in and teach them about something Adam Smith was actually they hired to come and teach them about rhetoric.




Dave Hedengren: That’s cool, what kind of gig is that is it like a single off speaking fee where you like come in and you get to have some refreshments with some interested locals or is it like every week your there and people like keep talking to you.




Mary: The ladder they were societies and in fact the society that we think sponsored, Adam Smith was originally a medical society it was called the philosophical society of embrown. Which doesn’t really sound like it would be a medical society, but it was it started as a group of medical people learning more about medicine, doctors and then it eventually expanded to include science and literature and all of those things and they needed somebody to in and talk about rhetoric so they got Adam Smith to be the one to do it.




Dave Hedengren: That’s cool so he’s kind of younger guy's starting out his career and he does that.




Mary: Yea fresh out of college.




Dave Hedengren: And it’ the expectation that you’re expecting new ideas in these seminars, or you just kind of re-hashing, are you teaching that’s already known or are you expressing your original opinion on the topic.




Mary: Well what happens when a professor teaches a class.




Dave Hedengren: For undergrads I just assume they just teach what they already know what to read upon and then when you’re talking to lawmen, I assume it would be even more of the case you just get to the real basics of what the discipline teaches.




Mary: Well it’s kind of your interpretation of it right, so you start with what is generally accepted but you give sort of your commentary in your interpretation which is actually what Adam Smith has in these lectures so you will hear things like his opinion on the classics, so you can think about a long time to classics were a really big deal and people would go back and sort of extol especially Cicero and Adam Smith he does think highly of Earald Stotle and Cicero and Quintilian, but he wasn’t married to their ideas so he was willing to accept they had good ideas but only as much as it could be backed up with things that could be found, deductively from first principles that were important to him, propriety and what was the other one I was thinking about,[Dave Hedengren: Sympathy]yea propriety and sympathy.




Dave Hedengren: Yea so in your lecture notes, I feel like you’re going to go all stirred up, but the lecture notes you sent me he describes the classics as a very silly set of books and not of all instructive, I feel like you’re kind of soft pedaling it when you say it like Quintilian and Cicero, but you called the rest silly like was that.




Mary: But yea he did he thought it was silly and not instructive because it didn’t seem to match up with what he saw as the basic principle and in fact his ideas of what those basic principles were, were a little bit different from how we interpret the classics, so we’re use to thinking of Earald Stotle and Cicero and especially Quintilian as being really heavily invested in invention and spending a lot of time talking about how do you find topics that’s one of the common places things like that, but Sniff doesn’t really interpret it that way, so he does this quote where he says Cicero, Quintilian and all the best authors of rhetorical composition, treat the invention of arguments or topics and the composition or arrangement of them as very slight matters and of no great difficulty and never seem to be in earnest, unless they give directions concerning the ornaments of language and expression so you listen to the podcast [Dave Hedengren: Yea] does that sound like there classics








Dave Hedengren: No, it doesn’t sound like the classics.




Mary: Because that sounds like, I don’t know Petrous Raymous.




Dave Hedengren: That silly Petrous Raymous, oh my goodness, Petrous Raymous is a time traveler. [Mary: No] well if you’ll explain it




Mary: It could just mean that Adam Smith just had a misinterpretation of the classics because that’s certainly not how we see it is a little bit fuddling to hear that [Dave Hedengren: Yea] it’s possible that no... he probably.




Dave Hedengren: But so now okay let’s take a step back here, because we’re talking about what Adam Smith said about rhetoric but his final wish he was reaching out with his dying breath and said "You know those lectures I did on rhetoric ".




Mary: Don’t give away the end Dave




Dave Hedengren: Let’s talk about sympathy and propriety




Mary: So what did you actually did pick , so he was skeptical of some of the what he saw, classical emphasis on forms, instead of what we think of as rhetorical flourishes the kind that makes people mad when you’re talking about rhetoric he was very focused on clarity, and conciseness and a lot of the things we really see as a part of the angle American style and so he would say that the perfection of style consist in expressing in the most concise, proper and precise manner the thought of the author and not the manner which best convey is the sentiment passions or affection with which it affects him in which he design to communicate to his reader. So you have, it sounds a lot like common sense right, listen to this, this is another part that Smith says: When the sentiment of the speaker is expressed in a neat, plain and clever manner and the passion or affection he is possessed of and intended by sympathy to communicate to his hearer is plainly and cleverly hid off, then and only then the expressions have all the force and beauty that language can give it.




Dave Hedengren: Yea, which I totally dig, I think that’s a nice way to, I mean maybe this is just my simplistic not of the tradition reading of it, but it seems like yea that’s exactly what rhetoric should be going for say what you want to say but make it said.




Mary: Would you say that its common sense.




Dave Hedengren: it is common sense, did he create did Adam Smith invented common sense.




Mary: Well let’s not get carried away, I mean there was a whole social mehu here of common sense the Scottish philosophers were really digging this idea [Dave Hedengren: yea] so yea this was capital c capital s  common sense and it sounds a lot like Hugh Blair who was actually one of the people who listen to these lectures.




Dave Hedengren: Hey speaking of Hugh Blair another part of Adam Smith’s kind of two ideas of rhetoric propriety and sympathy and I wanted to read the sympathy quote that you sent me over in the show notes that says the man that keep sympathy keep time with to my grief cannot but admit the reasonableness, or propriety of my sorrow he who admires the same poem or same picture or admires them exactly as I do must surely allow the justness of my admiration. He who laughs at the same joke and laughs along with me cannot well deny me the propriety of my laughter and that also struck me as a very Hugh Blarian idea. Is that right?




Mary: Yea, sure. It also reminds me a lot about how your one of the only people who laugh at my jokes.




Dave Hedengren: Also true, but that’s because we share a brotherly, a sibling sympathy, right.




Mary: Yea, so sympathy is sort of the idea that you can trace back to Cicero as a matter of fact as this idea that I feel something and you with me start to feel the same thing, and me as a writer its my responsibility to make sure were on the same page emotionally, so you can see in both proprietary and in sympathy, this real, all these threads that come from the general philosophical view of the Scottish enlightenment period.




Dave Hedengren: Yea, so now sympathy is also come in and you can decide whether or not to add this part in the rhetoric podcast, but sympathy comes up a lot in the theory of moral sentiments. Talking about the way we need to relate to one and other, and it’s kind of his idea of the basic fundamental motivating enterprise of humanity is that we have sympathy towards one and other and towards ourselves.








Mary: Yea absolutely and you can trace some of the threads from his early work into his later work and then there’s going to be some continuity there.




Dave Hedengren: Which we can see, that it seems like he didn’t want us to see can we go there now.




Mary: Not yet.




Dave Hedengren: We should have written an outline.




Mary: No this is going great, what are you talking about.[Dave Hedengren: Okay] well because what your describing talking about sympathy emotions is not something that a lot of our rhetoric viewers really associate with Adam Smith, so a lot of people they think about Adam Smith as they think sort of like social Darwinism and they think sort of like, I think about what’s important for me, you think about what’s important for you, we hate watch other, were sort of strictly hughtilyterian, that kind of stuff, and that might be an unfair stereo type.




Dave Hedengren: No that’s a hundred percent of an unfair sterio type and I’m shock is that what people really think, I’ve been in the disciplin so long I forgot people really feel that way about Adam Smith. Like we think of him as a heartless calculating hughlilaterian.




Mary: Yea some people might think that Adam Smith was a little heartless and you can sort of think about these characters like, Grad Grind in hard times, sort of like strictly hughlilaterian, who cares about beauty and art but actually Adam Smith did care about beauty and art.




Dave Hedengren: Hugely, so this is something that really bothers me about the interpretation of Adam Smith in the modern era so I've heard of a German expression and as soon as its brought up in intro philosophy classes that they call, Adam Smith problems, I don’t know why they don’t translate the rest of it, but that’s what the intro teacher say they say how could the same man who wrote the theory of moral sentiments with all of its inclinations towards beauty and art and the soul of man also write the wealth of nation which is so cold and calculating. That drives me nuts, because there’s no contradiction there if you read either or both of them you see that their both talking about the same ideas they both have the same underlying view of humanity in fact the wealth of nations was written in between the theory of moral sentiments that he wrote he did one edition of the theory of moral sentiments, then wrote the wealth of nations, then the revised theory of moral sentiment and there all part of the sentimental prize of trying to understand how humans behave and why.




Mary: Yea and Adam Smith at least in his early rhetoric lectures he kind of has that same thread the sort of continuity and connections between all types of beauty and in his rhetoric lectures he talks about the important of beauty everywhere including the beauty of moral act a liter scholar will put out that he speaks of ethical judgment in hysteric terms and he like his contemporaries relate to beauty so in some ways Adam Smith is sort of prefiguring the arch romantics like, keets in the idea of truth is beauty and beauty truth.




Dave Hedengren: I totally agree with that it’s a great line in the moral sentiments that says that it is the objective the object of man is to be loved and to be lovely and I don’t really thinks that captures a lot about what I’m about and I think humans are about.




Mary: Oh well I think you’re a lovely human.




Dave Hedengren: Oh thanks Mary I think that you’re a lovely too.




Mary: So you want to talk about  berthing




Dave Hedengren: So much, oh my gosh I've even chopped up the bit they call podcast so okay we’ve been talking about this continuity of thought that you can kind of see in choate ideas that pop up later in the moral sentiments in these early rhetoric lectures but it seems like Adam Smith doesn’t want us to see that view his dying wish is that they burnt sixteen volumes of his work that he’s just, that other stuff besides the theory of world sentiments the moral of a nation, burn it to the ground and it seems like he felt like he must it seems like, and I can't speak for him because he's dead and I’ve never met him but it sounds like he's doing what I somewhat of wish I could do with some of my freshmen papers and I'm like so embarrassed and its like high school papers and that left poem is clearly about so and so, boy I'm embarrassed that I wrote that and he wanted to burn them and you think that’s he was going for was he embarrassed by him did he think that these were simplifications of his ideas that he didn’t want propagating.




Mary: Well I can kind of speak for him, because he did tell two of his friends sort of what he wanted and he was worried that they would detract from his other works that people would sort of [Dave Hedengren: Okay] either they were stupid they did not want people to know about it or it wouldn’t be as important as the stuff that he did multiple revisions on over and over again I just wanted to get rid of them these rhetoric lectures, they were important to his early career i always thought and he did the lectures first as sort of this, community group kind of thing and later he had a share in Glasscock as a rhetoric professor and he thought there too so even though he burnt it he thought a lot of students. You see a lot of Adam Smith ideas from these lectures showing up in Hugh Blair and George Campbell too. You can sort of say his proprietary on these ideas because it was sort of in the air in Edin Berough at the time, but there pretty important ideas and it would have been lost to us if it had been burnt as Adam Smith wanted.








Dave Hedengren: So how do we get a copy of these things.




Mary: Well, sometimes when teachers teach students take notes [Dave Hedengren: I've heard of that] yea and it wasn’t until 1957. That there was a professor that was going through and old country house library and he finds this manuscript like literally manuscript in two volumes with notes and it turns out it was students notes from when Adam smith was teaching in Glasco, and it was like people took notes then like its sort of hard for us to remember but the professor would stand up there and sort of talk out of book and students would write it down so you could assume to write it down so if you remember how episode how we talked about  Hugh Blair it was a similar thing he didn’t write the lectures on bell lectures to be like a book he wrote them because students were taking notes and then selling those notes that they had it copied so he sort of had to make sure that they were fixed and under his name. Well Adam Smith had sort of a opposite thing happen where he was trying to destroy everything and here was somebody who verbatim what his notes were from his lecture, so he would talk it  and people would write it and.




Dave Hedengren: none of my students write down what i say people just faster writer, slower speakers had better things to things to say back then.




Mary: Yea, I mean like it wasn’t now a days you take notes of whatever you think is going to be on the test some short snippets the main idea, back then it was really about capturing full sentences and complete ideas and the professor would stand up there and essentially read a book out loud slowly and clearly and the students would take notes and write them all down. So that’s how we ended up with it and again that being said there’s plenty of room for human error it’s possible that this student, got something’s wrong or didn’t show up for class one day or something like that but it’s impossible no, because again Adam Smith burnt them.




Dave Hedengren: No oh Adam and let this be a lesson to all of us don’t erase those freshmen papers they might be embarrassing to you but don’t worry we won’t read them until your dead.


Mary: Yea let us be the ones to decide what’s important and what’s not important, because I don’t think this detracts from Adam Smith for me it opens him up as a rhetorician as a guy who's interested in writing


and thoughts and beauty a lot of things that we don’t associate with Adam Smith generally, so if you have a story about things that you burnt and wish you didn’t or things that you wished you burnt, why not drop us a line at thanks about coming Dave.




Dave Hedengren: Great to be here I’m going to stick around to the ending music.