By James R. Otteson
Adam Smith wrote books, one approximately economics and the opposite approximately morality. How do those books cross jointly? How do markets and morality combine? James Otteson offers a complete exam and interpretation of Smith's ethical idea and demonstrates how his perception of morality applies to his knowing of markets, language and different social associations. contemplating Smith's notions of typical sympathy, the neutral spectator, human nature and human sense of right and wrong, the writer addresses no matter if Smith thinks that ethical judgments get pleasure from a transcendent sanction.
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Additional resources for Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life
Smith’s position on this point must instead be pieced together from what he says in this discussion and from other discussions throughout TMS. Part VI, new to the sixth edition, is something of a catalogue of virtues, reminiscent of (and perhaps occasioned by) the similar discussion in the latter parts of Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Here Smith discusses four principal virtues—justice, benevolence, prudence, and self-command—and the place each of them occupies in a virtuous person.
Whatever sympathy might exist between his feelings and ours is instead entirely predicated in terms of our own past experiences and our own sensibilities. We imagine what we would feel were we in his situation, and we imagine how we would behave given what we would feel. If our brother’s behavior is similar to what we imagine ours would be, we conclude that his feelings are similar to what ours would be, and a sympathy thus exists between our imagined feelings and his actual feelings. When Smith writes that, on viewing our brother’s misery, “we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him,” we must hence not misunderstand his meaning: we enter his body and become the same person with him in the sense that we imagine ourselves occupying the same physical position as he, in the same circumstances as those in which he actually is.
Smith’s answer to the ﬁrst question is “propriety,” or an action’s suitableness to the object that excites it. Smith’s answer to the second question is “by . . a modiﬁcation of sympathy” (TMS, 266), or the degree to which we can sympathize with the motives and actions of the person principally concerned (as Smith often calls the agent). Part I of TMS, “Of the Propriety of Action,” includes Smith’s examination of the answers he gives to these two questions. It turns out that our natural sympathy can be modiﬁed in two ways.