Adam Smith's thought is known to us primarily through his Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations. We also possess a number of posthumously published essays on the history of science and the arts, as well as several sets of student notes of his lectures on jurisprudence and on belles lettres and rhetoric (none was authorized or reviewed by Smith). Smith conceived of himself as constructing a comprehensive system; what we have are parts of that system. The fragmentary character of the corpus, and the absence of a treatise on “the theory of the imagination,” mean that Smith's theory of the imagination must be woven together from a number of passages, of which fortunately there are quite a few. The imagination is a continuous and important theme throughout his work and would likely have been an important theme in the work he did not live to complete. In this claim about the imagination's crucial role in human life and cognition, Smith was not (and did not pretend to be) radically innovative; his emphasis on the imagination, and indeed on its creative capacity, unquestionably represents an appropriation of Hume.
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