How empirical was Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations? What about some other "big books"?

That is, how much empirical research does it contain?

And thus, what kind of "epistemological accuracy" does it have?


I want to understand whether books that are regarded as "standards" in political science and economics are actually "scientific" in the sense that they contain empirical proof for the theses that they put forward. Since I speculate that some portion of "economic belief" is "a priori opinion" or "normative statements" (what ought to be vs. what is).

Empirical research is more valid than philosophical, when the theses deal with things that are claimed to exist in other ways than mere beliefs. Empirical research (in the humanities) thus means validating theses through studying how people actually behave or formulating theses based on observing people.

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    $\begingroup$ The question sounds too broad to me. Can you narrow down the focus a bit? For example, why you are interested in knowing this, and what are your criteria of what counts as "empirical research". $\endgroup$ – Herr K. Sep 9 '17 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ Haven't read it yet; have read about it; I would guess that the answer to your motivation is 'scarcely so'; also, empirical research is not 'more valid' but it may be more accessible; why is it behavior of 'people' and not 'groups of people' that in\validates theses? $\endgroup$ – user14471 Sep 10 '17 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ I think empirical research or observation offers always more accuracy than purely a prioric statements. $\endgroup$ – mavavilj Sep 11 '17 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ This is a very poor question. TWoN is a standard because the observations that Adam Smith made helped his contemporaries understand the world they saw and still helps us understand the world we see. Many things have been later validated empirically, according to modern 'scientific' standards (not all -see the section on the emergence of money). Smith himself used 'empirical observations' if you will when, e.g., describing the division of labor in a pin factory or his description of the behaviour of rent-seeking groups). $\endgroup$ – Fato Sep 11 '17 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ Scientific research wasn't as formalized back then as it is now. By modern standards the bok is based on empirical observations that might even seem anecdotal. If Mr Smith would have written the book today, it would need references to statistics to back up the claims. I recommend that you read it, or the first chapters. It is available for free online and it is not hard to read. $\endgroup$ – Klas Lindbäck Sep 12 '17 at 6:24

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