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The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)

de Adam Smith

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Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) lays the foundation for a general system of morals, and is a text of central importance in the history of moral and political thought. It presents a theory of the imagination which Smith derived from David Hume but which encompasses an idea of sympathy that in some ways is more sophisticated than anything in Hume's philosophy. By means of sympathy and the mental construct of an impartial spectator, Smith formulated highly original theories of conscience, moral judgment and the virtues. The enduring legacy of his work is its reconstruction of the Enlightenment idea of a moral, or social, science encompassing both political economy and the theory of law and government. This 2002 volume offers a new edition of the text with clear and helpful notes for the student reader, together with a substantial introduction that sets the work in its philosophical and historical context.… (més)
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LT The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith, Adansonia Publishing, 2018, 1/1-6/11/23
Freakonomics interview of Smith scholar, hard copy is in BCSA philosophy section?

Theme: “The Ethical, Philosophical and Psychological Underpinning of the Author’s Economic Theory”
Type: philosophy
Value: 1-
Age: college+
Interest: fairly high, final third somewhat tedious (over-analytical in psychology analysis—“should I take the time to sort through his definitions which were so nuanced?” I didn’t)
Objectionable: humanistic (some awareness of God)

SECTION I. Of the sense of propriety Page 1.
Chap. I. Of Sympathy 6
8 We sometimes feel for another, a passion of which he himself seems to be altogether incapable; because when we put ourselves in his case, that passion arises in our breast from the imagination, though it does not in his from the reality.
8 Of all the calamities to which the condition of mortality exposes mankind, the loss of reason appears, to those who have the least spark of humanity, by far the most dreadful, and they behold that last stage of human wretchedness with deeper commiseration than any other.
Chap. II. Of the Pleasure of mutual Sympathy 9
10 It is to be observed accordingly, that we are still more anxious to communicate to our friends our disagreeable than our agreeable passions, that we derive still more satisfaction from their sympathy with the former than from that with the latter, and that we are still more shocked by the want of it.
10 To seem not to be affected with the joy of our companions is but want of politeness; but not to wear a serious countenance when they tell us their afflictions, is real and gross inhumanity.
11 Love is an agreeable, resentment a disagreeable passion; and accordingly we are not half so anxious that our friends should adopt our friendships, as that they should enter into our resentments.
Chap. III. Of the manner in which we judge of the propriety or impropriety of the affections of other men, by their concord or dissonance with our own 11
14 Originally, however, we approve of another man’s judgment, not as something useful, but as right, as accurate, as agreeable to truth and reality: and it is evident we attribute those qualities to it for no other reason but because we find that it agrees with our own.
16 The mind, therefore, is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquillity and sedateness. The breast is, in some measure, calmed and composed the moment we come into his presence. We are immediately put in mind of the light in which he will view our situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in the same light; for the effect of sympathy is instantaneous. We expect less sympathy from a common acquaintance than from a friend: we cannot open to the former all those little circumstances which we can unfold to the latter: we assume, therefore, more tranquillity before him, and endeavour to fix our thoughts upon those general outlines of our situation which he is willing to consider. We expect still less sympathy from an assembly of strangers, and we assume, therefore, still more tranquillity before them, and always endeavour to bring down our passion to that pitch, which the particular company we are in may be expected to go along with. Nor is this only an assumed appearance: for if we are at all masters of ourselves, the presence of a mere acquaintance will really compose us, still more than that of a friend; and that of an assembly of strangers still more than that of an acquaintance.
Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self-satisfaction and enjoyment. Men of retirement and speculation, who are apt to sit brooding at home over either grief or resentment, though they may often have more humanity, more generosity, and a nicer sense of honour, yet seldom possess that equality of temper which is so common among men of the world.
Chap. IV. The same subject continued 13
Chap. V. Of the amiable and respectable virtues 17
SECTION II. Of the degrees of the different passions which are consistent with propriety 19
Chap. I. Of the passions which take their origin from the body 20
20 It is the same case with the passion by which Nature unites the two sexes. Though naturally the most furious of all passions, all strong expressions of it are upon every occasion indecent, even between persons in whom its most complete indulgence is acknowledged by all laws, both human and divine, to be perfectly innocent. There seems, however, to be some degree of sympathy even with this passion. To talk to a woman as we should to a man is improper: it is expected that their company should inspire us with more gaiety, more pleasantry, and more attention; and an entire insensibility to the fair sex, renders a man contemptible in some measure even to the men.
22 What a tragedy would that be of which the distress consisted in a colic. Yet no pain is more exquisite. These attempts to excite compassion by the representation of bodily pain, may be regarded as among the greatest breaches of decorum of which the Greek theatre has set the example.
The little sympathy which we feel with bodily pain is the foundation of the propriety of constancy and patience in enduring it.
Chap. II. Of those passions which take their origin from a particular turn or habit of the imagination 22
24 It is for a reason of the same kind, that a certain reserve is necessary when we talk of our own friends, our own studies, our own professions. All these are objects which we cannot expect should interest our companions in the same degree in which they interest us. And it is for want of this reserve, that the one half of mankind make bad company to the other. A philosopher is company to a philosopher only; the member of a club, to his own little knot of companions.
Chap. III. Of the unsocial passions 24
25 Upon most occasions, the greater his patience, his mildness, his humanity, provided it does not appear that he wants spirit, or that fear was the motive of his forbearance, the higher the resentment against the person who injured him. The amiableness of the character exasperates their sense of the atrocity of the injury.
27 How many things are requisite to render the gratification of resentment compleatly agreeable, and to make the spectator thoroughly sympathize with our revenge? The provocation must first of all be such that we should become contemptible, and be exposed to perpetual insults, if we did not, in some measure, resent it. Smaller offences are always better neglected; nor is there any thing more despicable than that froward and captious [disposition to point out trivial faults] humour which takes fire upon every slight occasion of quarrel.
Chap. IV. Of the social passions 28
Chap. V. Of the selfish passions 29
30 The man, who, by some sudden revolution of fortune, is lifted up all at once into a condition of life, greatly above what he had formerly lived in, may be assured that the congratulations of his best friends are not all of them perfectly sincere. An upstart, though of the greatest merit, is generally disagreeable, and a sentiment of envy commonly prevents us from heartily sympathizing with his joy. If he has any judgment he is sensible of this, and instead of appearing to be elated with his good fortune, he endeavours, as much as he can, to smother his joy, and keep down that elevation of mind with which his new circumstances naturally inspire him. He affects the same plainness of dress, and the same modesty of behaviour, which became him in his former station. He redoubles his attention to his old friends, and endeavours more than ever to be humble, assiduous, and complaisant. … If the chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved, as I believe it does, those sudden changes of fortune seldom contribute much to happiness.
Nothing is more graceful than habitual chearfulness, which is always founded upon a peculiar relish for all the little pleasures which common occurrences afford. We readily sympathize with it: it inspires us with the same joy, and makes every trifle turn up to us in the same agreeable aspect in which it presents itself to the person endowed with this happy disposition. Hence it is that youth, the season of gaiety, so easily engages our affections. That propensity to joy which seems even to animate the bloom, and to sparkle from the eyes of youth and beauty, though in a person of the same sex, exalts, even the aged, to a more joyous mood than ordinary. They forget, for a time, their infirmities, and abandon themselves to those agreeable ideas and emotions to which they have long been strangers, but which, when the presence of so much happiness recalls them to their breast, take their place there, like old acquaintance, from whom they are sorry to have ever been parted, and whom they embrace more heartily upon account of this long separation.
It is quite otherwise with grief. Small vexations excite no sympathy, but deep affliction calls forth the greatest. The man who is made uneasy by every little disagreeable incident, who is hurt if either the cook or the butler have failed in the least article of their duty…
31 But if your misfortune is not of this dreadful kind, if you have only been a little baulked in your ambition, if you have only been jilted by your mistress, or are only hen-pecked by your wife, lay your account with the raillery of all your acquaintance.
SECTION III. Of the effects of prosperity and adversity upon the judgment of mankind with regard to the propriety of action; and why it is more easy to obtain their approbation in the one state than in the other 32
Chap. I. That though our sympathy with sorrow is generally a more lively sensation than our sympathy with joy, it commonly falls much more short of the violence of what is naturally felt by the person principally concerned. 32
33 What can be added to the happiness of the man who is in health, who is out of debt, and has a clear conscience? To one in this situation, all accessions of fortune may properly be said to be superfluous; and if he is much elevated upon account of them, it must be the effect of the most frivolous levity. This situation, however, may very well be called the natural and ordinary state of mankind.
Chap. II. Of the origin of ambition, and of the distinction of ranks 36
37 Do they imagine that their stomach is better, or their sleep sounder in a palace than in a cottage? the contrary has been so often observed, and, indeed, is so very obvious, though it had never been observed, that there is no body ignorant of it. From whence, then, arises that emulation which runs through all the different ranks of men, and what are the advantages which we propose by that great purpose of human life which we call bettering our condition? To be observed, to be attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and approbation, are all the advantages which we can propose to derive from it. It is the vanity, not the ease, or the pleasure, which interests us. But vanity is always founded upon the belief of our being the object of attention and approbation.
38 To treat them in any respect as men, to reason and dispute with them upon ordinary occasions, requires such resolution, that there are few men whose magnanimity can support them in it, unless they are likewise assisted by familiarity and acquaintance.
Chap. III. Of the corruption of moral sentiments, which is occasioned by this disposition to admire the rich and the great, and to despise or neglect persons of poor and mean condition. 43
43 That wealth and greatness are often regarded with respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; And that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages.
44 In equal degrees of merit there is scarce any man who does not respect more the rich and the great, than the poor and the humble. With most men, the presumption and vanity of the former are much more admired, than the real and solid merits of the latter.
45 It is from our disposition to admire, and consequently to imitate, the rich and the great, that they are enabled to set, or to lead what is called the fashion.
PART II. Of Merit and Demerit; or of the objects of reward and punishment. 47
SECTION I. Of the sense of merit and demerit 47
Chap. I. That whatever appears to be the proper object of gratitude, appears to deserve reward; and that, in the same manner, whatever appears to be the proper object of resentment, appears to deserve punishment 47
Chap. II. Of the proper objects of gratitude and resentment 49
Chap. III. That where there is no approbation of the conduct of the person who confers the benefit, there is little sympathy with the gratitude of him who receives it: and that, on the contrary, where there is no disapprobation of the motives of the person who does the mischief, there is no sort of sympathy with the resentment of him who suffers it 50
Chap. IV. Recapitulation of the foregoing chapters 52
Chap. V. The analysis of the sense of merit and demerit 53
SECTION II. Of justice and beneficence 54
Chap. I. Comparison of those two virtues 54
Chap. II. Of the sense of justice, of remorse, and of the consciousness of merit 57
58 We must, here, as in all other cases, view ourselves not so much according to that light in which we may naturally appear to ourselves, as according to that in which we naturally appear to others. Though every man may, according to the proverb, be the whole world to himself, to the rest of mankind he is a most insignificant part of it. Though his own happiness may be of more importance to him than that of all the world besides, to every other person it is of no more consequence than that of any other man. Though it may be true, therefore, that every individual, in his own breast, naturally prefers himself to all mankind, yet he dares not look mankind in the face, and avow that he acts according to this principle.
Chap. III. Of the utility of this constitution of nature 60
60 Justice, on the contrary, is the main pillar that upholds the whole edifice. If it is removed, the great, the immense fabric of human society, that fabric which to raise and support seems in this world, if I may say so, to have been the peculiar and darling care of Nature, must in a moment crumble into atoms. … Men, though naturally sympathetic, feel so little for another, with whom they have no particular connexion, in comparison for what they feel for themselves; the misery of one, who is merely their fellow-creature, is of so little importance to them in comparison even of a small conveniency of their own; they have it so much in their power to hurt him, and may have so many temptations to do so, that if this principle did not stand up within them in his defence, and overawe them into a respect for his innocence, they would, like wild beasts, be at all times ready to fly upon him; and a man would enter an assembly of men as he enters a den of lions.
63 When the preservation of an individual is inconsistent with the safety of a multitude, nothing can be more just than that the many should be preferred to the one.
SECTION III. Of the influence of fortune upon the sentiments of mankind, with regard to the merit or demerit of actions 64
66 We are delighted to find a person who values us as well as we value ourselves, and distinguishes us from the rest of mankind, with an attention not unlike that with which we distinguish ourselves.
Chap. I. Of the causes of this influence of fortune 65
Chap. II. Of the extent of this influence of fortune 68
Chap. III. Of the final cause of this irregularity of sentiments 73

Chap. I Of the Principle of Self-approbation and of Self-disapprobation 78
79 Our first ideas of personal beauty and deformity, are drawn from the shape and appearance of others, not from our own.
Chap. II Of the love of Praise, and of that of Praise-worthiness; and of the dread of blame, and of that of Blame-worthiness
80 [Right-wrong and beauty-ugliness are determined by how others (people in general] perceive us. (I disagree.)]
82 Nature, when she formed man for society, endowed him with an original desire to please, and an original aversion to offend his brethren.
90-92 [caring what others think] The all-wise Author of Nature has, in this manner, taught man to respect the sentiments and judgments of his brethren; to be more or less pleased when they approve of his conduct, and to be more or less hurt when they disapprove of it. … But though man has, in this manner, been rendered the immediate judge of mankind, he has been rendered so only in the first instance; and an appeal lies from his sentence to a much higher tribunal, to the tribunal of their own consciences, to that of the supposed impartial and well-informed spectator, to that of the man within the breast, the great judge and arbiter of their conduct. The jurisdictions of those two tribunals are founded upon principles which, though in some respects resembling and akin, are, however, in reality different and distinct. … In such cases, the only effectual consolation of humbled and afflicted man lies in an appeal to a still higher tribunal, to that of the all-seeing Judge of the world, whose eye can never be deceived, and whose judgments can never be perverted. [#3 a magistrate judge Pro 16:9]
Chap. III Of the Influences and Authority of Conscience 93
94-95 [showing sympathy] Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment… One individual must never prefer himself so much even to any other individual as to hurt or injure that other in order to benefit himself, though the benefit to the one should be much greater than the hurt or injury to the other. … There is no commonly honest man who does not more dread the inward disgrace of such an action, the indelible stain which it would for ever stamp upon his own mind, than the greatest external calamity which, without any fault of his own, could possibly befall him; and who does not inwardly feel the truth of that great stoical maxim, that for one man to deprive another unjustly of any thing, or unjustly to promote his own advantage by the loss or disadvantage of another, is more contrary to nature than death, than poverty, than pain, than all the misfortunes which can affect him, either in his body, or in his external circumstances.
97 The man who should feel no more for the death or distress of his own father or son than for those of any other man’s father or son, would appear neither a good son nor a good father. Such unnatural indifference, far from exciting our applause, would incur our highest disapprobation. … Those of the parents seldom depend upon that of the child. Nature, therefore, has rendered the former affection so strong, that it generally requires not to be excited, but to be moderated; and moralists seldom endeavour to teach us how to indulge, but generally how to restrain our fondness, our excessive attachment, the unjust preference which we are disposed to give to our own children above those of other people. They exhort us, on the contrary, to an affectionate attention to our parents, and to make a proper return to them in their old age for the kindness which they had shewn to us in our infancy and youth. In the Decalogue we are commanded to honour our fathers and mothers. No mention is made of the love of our children. Nature had sufficiently prepared us for the performance of this latter duty.
99 As, of all the external misfortunes which can affect an innocent man immediately and directly, the undeserved loss of reputation is certainly the greatest; so a considerable degree of sensibility to whatever can bring on so great a calamity does not always appear ungraceful or disagreeable.
102 Happiness consists in tranquillity and enjoyment. Without tranquillity there can be no enjoyment; and where there is perfect tranquillity there is scarce anything which is not capable of amusing.
103-4 (get over undesirable) (Whit) In the end, time, the great and universal comforter, gradually composes the weak man to the same degree of tranquillity which a regard to his own dignity and manhood teaches the wise man to assume in the beginning. The case of the man with the wooden leg is an obvious example of this. In the irreparable misfortunes occasioned by the death of children, or of friends and relations, even a wise man may for some time indulge himself in some degree of moderated sorrow. An affectionate, but weak woman, is often upon such occasions almost perfectly distracted. Time, however, in a longer or shorter period, never fails to compose the weakest woman to the same degree of tranbuillity as the strongest man. In all the irreparable calamities which affect himself immediately and directly, a wise man endeavours, from the beginning, to anticipate and to enjoy beforehand, that tranquillity which he foresees the course of a few months or a few years will certainly restore to him in the end.
Chap IV Of the Nature of Self-deceit, and of the Origin and Use of General Rules 108
109 This self-deceit, this fatal weakness of mankind, is the source of half the disorders of human life. If we saw ourselves in the light in which others see us, or in which they would see us if they knew all, a reformation would generally be unavoidable. We could not otherwise endure the sight.
110 It is thus that the general rules of morality are formed. They are ultimately founded upon experience of what, in particular instances, our moral faculties, our natural sense of merit and propriety, approve or disapprove of. We do not originally approve or condemn particular actions, because, upon examination, they appear to be agreeable or inconsistent with a certain general rule. The general rule, on the contrary, is formed by finding from experience that all actions of a certain kind, or circumstanced in a certain manner, are approved or disapproved of. … The general rule, on the contrary, which he might afterwards form, would be founded upon the detestation which he felt necessarily arise in his own breast, at the thought of this and every other particular action of the same kind. [utilitarianism]
CHAPTER V.: Of the Influence and Authority of the general Rules of Morality, and that they are justly regarded as the Laws of the Deity.112
112 [acting dutifully] Though his heart, therefore, is not warmed with any grateful affection, he will strive to act as if it was, and will endeavour to pay all those regards and attentions to his patron which the liveliest gratitude could suggest. … The motive of his actions may be no other than a reverence for the established rule of duty, a serious and earnest desire of acting, in every respect, according to the law of gratitude. A wife, in the same manner, may sometimes not feel that tender regard for her husband which is suitable to the relation that subsists between them. If she has been virtuously educated, however, she will endeavour to act as if she felt it, to be careful, officious, faithful, and sincere, and to be deficient in none of those attentions which the sentiment of conjugal affection could have prompted her to perform. … None but those of the happiest mould are capable of suiting, with exact justness, their sentiments and behaviour to the smallest difference of situation, and of acting upon all occasions with the most delicate and accurate propriety. The coarse clay of which the bulk of mankind are formed, cannot be wrought up to such perfection. There is scarce any man, however, who by discipline, education, and example, may not be so impressed with a regard to general rules, as to act upon almost every occasion with tolerable decency, and through the whole of his life to avoid any considerable degree of blame.
113-114 [how personal morality develops—what mankind in general thinks, categorical imperative] This reverence is still further enhanced by an opinion which is first impressed by nature, and afterwards confirmed by reasoning and philosophy, that those important rules of morality are the commands and laws of the Deity, who will finally reward the obedient, and punish the transgressors of their duty.
115 [happiness of mankind] The happiness of mankind, as well as of all other rational creatures, seems to have been the original purpose intended by the Author of Nature when he brought them into existence.
118 [belief in God motivates, religious more trusted] When the general rules which determine the merit and demerit of actions come thus to be regarded as the laws of an all-powerful being, who watches over our conduct, and who, in a life to come, will reward the observance and punish the breach of them—they necessarily acquire a new sacredness from this consideration. That our regard to the will of the Deity ought to be the supreme rule of our conduct, can be doubted of by nobody who believes his existence. … It is in this manner that religion enforces the natural sense of duty: and hence it is that mankind are generally disposed to place great confidence in the probity of those who seem deeply impressed with religious sentiments. Such persons, they imagine, act under an additional tie, besides those which regulate the conduct of other men.
Chap VI In what cases the Sense of Duty ought to be the sole Principle of our Conduct; and in what cases it ought to concur with other Motives. 119
119 [love or duty] The sole principle and motive of our conduct in the performance of all those different duties, ought to be a sense that God has commanded us to perform them.” I shall not at present take time to examine this opinion particularly; I shall only observe, that we should not have expected to have found it entertained by any sect, who professed themselves of a religion in which, as it is the first precept to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, so it is the second to love our neighbour as we love ourselves; and we love ourselves surely for our own sakes, and not merely because we are commanded to do so. That the sense of duty should be the sole principle of our conduct, is nowhere the precept of Christianity; but that it should be the ruling and the governing one, as philosophy, and as, indeed, common sense, directs. It may be a question, however, in what cases our actions ought to arise chiefly or entirely from a sense of duty, or from a regard to general rules; and in what cases some other sentiment or affection ought to concur, and have a principal influence.
CHAPTER I.: Of the Beauty which the Appearance of Utility bestows upon all the Productions of Art, and of the extensive Influence of this Species of Beauty. 125
125 [beauty] That utility is one of the principal sources of beauty, has been observed by every body who has considered with any attention what constitutes the nature of beauty. The conveniency of a house gives pleasure to the spectator as well as its regularity; and he is as much hurt when he observes the contrary defect, as when he sees the correspondent windows of different forms, or the door not placed exactly in the middle of the building. That the fitness of any system or machine to produce the end for which it was intended, bestows a certain propriety and beauty upon the whole, and renders the very thought and contemplation of it agreeable, is so very obvious, that nobody has overlooked it.
The cause, too, why utility pleases, has of late been assigned by an ingenious and agreeable philosopher, who joins the greatest depth of thought to the greatest elegance of expression, and possesses the singular and happy talent of treating the abstrusest subjects not only with the most perfect perspicuity but with the most lively eloquence. The utility of any object, according to him, pleases the master by perpetually suggesting to him the pleasure or conveniency which it is fitted to promote. Every time he looks at it, he is put in mind of this pleasure; and the object in this manner becomes a source of perpetual satisfaction and enjoyment.
129 [invisible hand—only reference] They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants; and thus, without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.
CHAPTER II.: Of the Beauty which the appearance of Utility bestows upon the Characters and Actions of Men; and how far the Perception of this Beauty may be regarded as one of the original Principles of approbation. 131
132 [prudence] The qualities most useful to ourselves are, first of all, superior reason and understanding, by which we are capable of discerning the remote consequences of all our actions, and of foreseeing the advantage or detriment which is likely to result from them; and, secondly, self-command, by which we are enabled to abstain from present pleasure or to endure present pain, in order to obtain a greater pleasure or to avoid a greater pain in some future time. In the union of those two qualities consists the virtue of prudence, of all the virtues that which is most useful to the individual.
139 [culture and beauty] A fair complexion is a shocking deformity upon the coast of Guinea. Thick lips and a flat nose are a beauty. In some nations long ears that hang down upon the shoulders are the objects of universal admiration. In China, if a lady’s foot is so large as to be fit to walk upon, she is regarded as a monster of ugliness. Some of the savage nations in North America tie four boards round the heads of their children, and thus squeeze them, while the bones are tender and gristly, into a form that is almost perfectly square. Europeans are astonished at the absurd barbarity of this practice, to which some missionaries have imputed the singular stupidity of those nations among whom it prevails. But when they condemn those savages, they do not reflect that the ladies in Europe had, till within these very few years, been endeavouring for near a century past to squeeze the beautiful roundness of their natural shape into a square form of the same kind.
CHAPTER I.: Of the Influence of Custom and Fashion upon our notions of Beauty and Deformity. 136
CHAPTER II.: Of the Influence of Custom and Fashion upon Moral Sentiments. 140
140 [education versus inherent, nurture versus nature] The principles of the imagination, upon which our sense of beauty depends, are of a very nice and delicate nature, and may easily be altered by habit and education; but the sentiments of moral approbation and disapprobation are founded on the strongest and most vigorous passions of human nature; and though they may be somewhat warpt, cannot be entirely perverted.
150 [prudent man might withhold info] The prudent man is always sincere, and feels horror at the very thought of exposing himself to the disgrace which attends upon the detection of falsehood. But though always sincere, he is not always frank and open; and though he never tells any thing but the truth, he does not always think himself bound, when not properly called upon, to tell the whole truth. As he is cautious in his actions, so he is reserved in his speech, and never rashly or unnecessarily obtrudes his opinion concerning either things or persons.
CHAPTER I.: Of the Order in which Individuals are recommended by Nature to our care and attention. 154
156 [respect for parents, public schools] Do you wish to educate your children to be dutiful to their parents, to be kind and affectionate to their brothers and sisters? put them under the necessity of being dutiful children, of being kind affectionate brothers and sisters: educate them in your own house. From their parents’ house they may, with propriety and advantage, go out every day to attend public schools; but let their dwelling be always at home. Respect for you must always impose a very useful restraint upon their conduct; and respect for them may frequently impose no useless restraint upon your own. Surely no acquirement which can possibly be derived from what is called a public education can make any sort of compensation for what is almost certainly and necessarily lost by it. Domestic education is the institution of nature—public education the contrivance of man. It is surely unnecessary to say which is likely to be the wisest.
157 [John Hamblen, family stays together or doesn’t] In pastoral countries, and in all countries where the authority of law is not alone sufficient to give perfect security to every member of the state, all the different branches of the same family commonly choose to live in the neighbourhood of one another. Their association is frequently necessary for their common defence… In commercial countries, where the authority of law is always perfectly sufficient to protect the meanest man in the state, the descendants of the same family, having no such motive for keeping together, naturally separate and disperse, as interest or inclination may direct. They soon cease to be of importance to one another; and, in a few generations, not only lose all care about one another, but all remembrance of their common origin, and of the connection which took place among their ancestors…
158-9 [Howells, friendship] But of all attachments to an individual, that which is founded altogether upon esteem and approbation of his good conduct and behaviour, confirmed by much experience and long acquaintance, is by far the most respectable. Such friendships, arising not from a constrained sympathy, not from a sympathy which has been assumed and rendered habitual for the sake of convenience and accommodation, but from a natural sympathy, from an involuntary feeling that the persons to whom we attach ourselves are the natural and proper objects of esteem and approbation, can exist only among men of virtue. Men of virtue only can feel that entire confidence in the conduct and behaviour of one another, which can at all times assure them that they can never either offend or be offended by one another. Vice is always capricious—virtue only is regular and orderly. The attachment which is founded upon the love of virtue, as it is certainly of all attachments the most virtuous, so it is likewise the happiest, as well as the most permanent and secure. Such friendships need not be confined to a single person, but may safely embrace all the wise and virtuous with whom we have been long and intimately acquainted, and upon whose wisdom and virtue we can upon that account entirely depend. They who would confine friendship to two persons, seem to confound the wise security of friendship with the jealousy and folly of love. The hasty, fond, and foolish intimacies of young people, founded commonly upon some slight similarity of character altogether unconnected with good conduct, upon a taste, perhaps, for the same studies, the same amusements, the same diversions, or upon their agreement in some singular principle or opinion not commonly adopted; those intimacies which a freak begins, and which a freak puts an end to, how agreeable soever they may appear while they last, can by no means deserve the sacred and venerable name of friendship.
CHAPTER II.: Of the order in which Societies are by nature recommended to our Beneficence. 161
165 [chess game of life] …he does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.
CHAPTER III.: Of universal Benevolence. 166
167 [responsibility for happiness] The administration of the great system of the universe, however, the care of the universal happiness of all rational and sensible beings, is the business of God, and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler department, but one much more suitable to the weakness of his powers, and to the narrowness of his comprehension—the care of his own happiness, of that of his family, his friends, his country: that he is occupied in contemplating the more sublime, can never be an excuse for his neglecting the more humble department; and he must not expose himself to the charge which Avidius Cassius is said to have brought, perhaps unjustly, against Marcus Antoninus, that while he employed himself in philosophical speculations, and contemplated the prosperity of the universe, he neglected that of the Roman empire. The most sublime speculation of the contemplative philosopher can scarce compensate the neglect of the smallest active duty.
169 [death] Death, as we say, is the king of terrors; and the man who has conquered the fear of death is not likely to lose his presence of mind at the approach of any other natural evil. In war, men become familiar with death, and are thereby necessarily cured of that superstitious horror with which it is viewed by the weak and unexperienced. They consider it merely as the loss of life, and as no further the object of aversion than as life may happen to be that of desire: they learn from experience, too, that many seemingly great dangers are not so great as they appear; and that with courage, activity, and presence of mind, there is often a good probability of extricating themselves, with honour, from situations where at first they could see no hope.
172 [self-respect, want of indignation] The want of proper indignation is a most essential defect in the manly character, and, upon many occasions, renders a man incapable of protecting either himself or his friends from insult and injustice. … The man, however, who, in matters of consequence, tamely suffers other people, who are entitled to no such superiority, to rise above him or get before him, is justly condemned as mean-spirited.
174 [youth] A young man who has no relish for the diversions and amusements that are natural and suitable to his age, who talks of nothing but his book or his business, is disliked as formal and pedantic; and we give him no credit for his abstinence even from improper indulgences, to which he seems to have so little inclination.
175-6 [two standards] But he imitates the work of a divine artist, which can never be equalled. He feels the imperfect success of all his best endeavours, and sees, with grief and affliction, in how many different features the mortal copy falls short of the immortal original: he remembers, with concern and humiliation, how often, from want of attention, from want of judgment, from want of temper, he has, both in words and actions, both in conduct and conversation, violated the exact rules of perfect propriety, and has so far departed from that model, according to which he wished to fashion his own character and conduct. When he directs his attention towards the second standard, indeed, that degree of excellence which his friends and acquaintances have commonly arrived at, he may be sensible of his own superiority; but as his principal attention is always directed towards the first standard, he is necessarily much more humbled by the one comparison than he ever can be elevated by the other.
182-3 [virtues of pride] The proud man, on the contrary, never flatters, and is frequently scarce civil to any body. … Where there is this real superiority, pride is frequently attended with many respectable virtues—with truth, with integrity, with a high sense of honour, with cordial and steady friendship, with the most inflexible firmness and resolution; vanity with many amiable ones—with humanity, with politeness, with a desire to oblige in all little matters, and sometimes with a real generosity in great ones… The proud man is commonly too well contented with himself to think that his character requires any amendment. The man who feels himself all-perfect naturally enough despises all further improvement. His self-sufficiency and absurd conceit of his own superiority commonly attend him from his youth to his most advanced age; and he dies, as Hamlet says, with all his sins upon his head, unanointed, unanealed.
183 [education] The great secret of education is to direct vanity to proper objects. Never suffer him to value himself upon trivial accomplishments; but do not always discourage his pretensions to those that are of real importance.
CHAPTER I.: Of those Systems which make Virtue consist in Propriety. 190
196 [stoicism] “…The directors of my conduct never command me to be miserable, to be anxious, desponding, or afraid. Whether we are to be drowned, or to come to a harbour, is the business of Jupiter, not mine. I leave it entirely to his determination, nor ever break my rest with considering which way he is likely to decide it, but receive whatever comes with equal indifference and security.” 205 …but as they did not depend upon him, he trusted to a superior wisdom, and was perfectly satisfied that the event which happened, whatever it might be, was the very event which he himself, had he known all the connections and dependencies of things, would most earnestly and devoutly have wished for.
199 [supper] But if you have a mind not to be troubled with his long stories, do not accept of his supper.
CHAPTER II.: Of those Systems which make Virtue consist in Prudence. 208
CHAPTER III.: Of those Systems which make Virtue consist in Benevolence. 212
212 [summaries] By running up all the different virtues, too, to this one species of propriety, Epicurus indulged a propensity, which is natural to all men, but which philosophers in particular are apt to cultivate with a peculiar fondness, as the great means of displaying their ingenuity,—the propensity to account for all appearances from as few principles as possible.
213 [benevolence] As benevolence bestows upon those actions which proceed from it a beauty superior to all others, so the want of it, and much more the contrary inclination, communicates a peculiar deformity to whatever evidences such a disposition.
216 [virtue’s provenance] Benevolence may, perhaps, be the sole principle of action in the Deity, and there are several not improbable arguments which tend to persuade us that it is so. … Those three systems, that which places virtue in propriety, that which places it in prudence, and that which makes it consist in benevolence, are the principal accounts which have been given of the nature of virtue. To one or other of them, all the other descriptions of virtue, how different soever they may appear, are easily reducible. … If the first answer be the proper one, virtue consists in prudence, or in the proper pursuit of our own final interest and happiness; since it is upon this account that we are obliged to obey the will of the Deity. If the second answer be the proper one, virtue must consist in propriety, since the ground of our obligation to obedience is the suitableness or congruity of the sentiments of humility and submission to the superiority of the object which excites them.
CHAPTER IV.: Of Licentious Systems. 217
CHAPTER I.: Of those Systems which deduce the Principle of Approbation from Self-Love. 223
CHAPTER II.: Of those Systems which make Reason the Principle of Approbation. 225
226-8 [absolute standard] The general maxims of morality are formed, like all other general maxims, from experience and induction. We observe, in a great variety of particular cases, what pleases or displeases our moral faculties, what these approve or disapprove of; and by induction from this experience we establish those general rules. … These first perceptions, as well as all other experiments upon which any general rules are founded, cannot be the object of reason, but of immediate sense and feeling. … But nothing can be agreeable or disagreeable for its own sake, which is not rendered such by immediate sense and feeling.
CHAPTER III.: Of those Systems which make Sentiment the Principle of Approbation. 227
231 [conscience] The word approbation has but within these few years been appropriated to denote peculiarly any thing of this kind. In propriety of language we approve of whatever is entirely to our satisfaction, of the form of a building, of the contrivance of a machine, of the flavour of a dish of meat. The word conscience does not immediately denote any moral faculty by which we approve or disapprove. Conscience supposes, indeed, the existence of some such faculty, and properly signifies our consciousness of having acted agreeably or contrary to its directions.
239 [desire to be believed] The natural disposition is always to believe. It is acquired wisdom and experience only that teach incredulity, and they very seldom teach it enough. … The man whom we believe is necessarily, in the things concerning which we believe him, our leader and director, and we look up to him with a certain degree of esteem and respect. But as from admiring other people we come to wish to be admired ourselves, so, from being led and directed by other people, we learn to wish to become ourselves leaders and directors. And as we cannot always be satisfied merely with being admired, unless we can, at the same time, persuade ourselves that we are in some degree really worthy of admiration… The desire of being believed, the desire of persuading, of leading, and directing other people, seems to be one of the strongest of all our natural desires.
240 [openness] Frankness and openness conciliate confidence.

Whit 87-8 poetry, 130 motivation, 16, 24
Ethan 107
Jim Cave 113, 154, 185
L 99 supper
  keithhamblen | Jul 14, 2023 |
This is a fitting volume to stand beside Smith's more famous Wealth of Nations. His disquisition on the nature of moral sentiments and their importance is one of the greatest contributions to the Enlightenment. ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 23, 2023 |
Ik geef toe als econoom nog nooit De welvaart van landen (The wealth of nations) van de Schot Adam Smith gelezen te hebben. Dat ga ik 27 jaar na mijn afstuderen binnenkort inhalen. Want met het lezen van het daaraan voorafgaande werk, De theorie over morele gevoelens, heb ik de smaak te pakken gekregen. Dit moraalfilosofische theorie verscheen voor het eerst in 1759, maar Smith bleef er tot zijn overlijden in 1790 aan werken.

Makkelijk samen te vatten is zijn verhandeling niet, wel trof me regelmatig de treffende observaties van gevoelens, het onderscheid tussen mannen en vrouwen en het doorhebben van verschillen in culturen. De theorie over morele gevoelens geeft een boeiend inzicht hoe de beste man, als diepgelovige, raad wist met de klassieke filosofen, tijdgenoten en tegelijk de vertaling kon maken naar de praktijk van alledag. Wat citaten: "Ontberingen, gevaren, kwetsuren, onrecht en tegenspoed zijn de enige leermeesters die ons de uitoefening van deze deugd (zelfbeheersing) kunnen onderwijzen. Ze zijn echter stuk voor stuk leermeesters bij wie niemand graag in de leer gaat." (p.248).

"Als we alleen zijn, hebben we de neiging om alles wat onszelf raakt te sterk te ervaren; we zijn dan geneigd de goede diensten te overschatten die we anderen hebben verleend, en de krenkingen te overdrijven die ons zijn aangedaan; we zijn geneigd te opgetogen te zijn over het goede dat ons toevalt en al te bedroefd vanwege ons ongeluk." (p.250).

De roemruchte 'onzichtbare hand' uit De welvaart van landen gebruikt hij eenmaal in dit boek om uit te leggen hoe bijvoorbeeld een landheren met zijn horigen en voedselproducten uiteindelijk tot eenzelfde verdeling van eerste levensbehoeften over de bevolking komt als "de aarde in gelijke delen onder al haar bewoners verdeeld was; en aldus, zonder dit oogmerk te hebben, zelfs zonder het te weten, dienen ze het belang van de samenleving en verschaffen ze middelen voor de vermenigvuldiging van de soort." (p.299)

"Wil je je kinderen zo opvoeden dat ze zich van hun plichten jegens hun ouders bewust zijn, dat ze aardig en liefdevol jegens hun broers en zusters zijn? Breng hen dan in een positie waarin ze genoodzaakt zijn hun plichtsbesef te tonen, om vriendelijke, warme en hartelijke broers en zusters te zijn, en voed hen thuis op." (p.360).

Adam Smith worstelt zich door de morele systemen van zijn eveneens gelovige voorgangers uit de scholen van Platonisten, Stoïcijnen en Casuïsten heen, legt hun zwakheden bloot en tracht met een doordachte kijk op moraliteit, goed en fout, goed- en afkeuring, deugden en ondeugden te komen. En ja, native Americans, Afrikanen en Aziaten zijn nog 'wilden', slavernij geen discussiepunt en West-Europa (nog) heel duidelijk het centrum van de wereld. Off topic, maar evengoed interessant voor de klassiek opgeleiden onder ons en studenten taalwetenschappen, zijn zijn overwegingen over het ontstaan van talen in een appendix.

Complimenten voor vertaler Willem Visser die de honderden pagina's Engels uit de Penguin editie van 2009 omzette naar een soepel lopende, prettig leesbare Nederlandse tekst. Volgens de uitgever Boom pas ik de juiste volgorde toe: voorafgaand aan Wealth of Nations eerst The Theory of Moral Sentiments lezen om de ideeën van Adam Smith beter te begrijpen. ( )
  hjvanderklis | Oct 18, 2020 |
The mind, therefore, is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquility and sedateness. The breast is, in some measure, calmed and composed the moment we come into his presence. We are immediately put in mind of the light in which he will view our situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in the same light; for the effect of sympathy is instantaneous.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments is not what Smith is known for, but it should be. In it, he argues comprehensively that to the extent that we sympathize with the passions of another person, we find their passions proper. Specifically, we "approve of another man's judgment, not as something useful, but as right, as accurate, as agreeable to truth and reality: and it is evident we attribute those qualities to it for no other reason but because we find that it agrees with our own."

I especially appreciate Smith's observation that our desire for praise is largely derived from our desire for praiseworthiness, not the other way around. When we impartially imagine our own conduct or character as praiseworthy, and it is subsequently praised by others, we feel confirmed and reassured; however, we feel our blameworthy actions no more praiseworthy simply because they were improperly praised by others.

As other reviewers have noted, the prose is certainly 18th century, but articulate and clear nonetheless. Smith covers sympathy's role in determining propriety, merit, duty, justice, and utility. He is commonly understood as utilitarian of sorts, but this is not truly accurate. His version of moral sentimentalism is something more akin to a hybrid of virtue ethics and utilitarianism—almost a precursor to modern day social intuitionism.

I definitely recommend TMS for anyone who is interested in less rigid moral systems that reflect the indeterminate and vague nature of human morality. ( )
  drbrand | Jun 8, 2020 |
The Theory of Moral Sentiments (de theorie van ethische gevoelens) is een filosofisch boek van Adam Smith, dat in 1759 werd gepubliceerd. Het werk verschafte de ethische, filosofische, psychologische, en methodologische onderbouwing van Smiths latere werken, met inbegrip van de The Wealth of Nations (1776), A Treatise on Public Opulence (1764) (voor het eerst gepubliceerd in 1937), Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795) en Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and Arms (1763) (voor het eerst gepubliceerd in 1896).

Inhoud [verbergen]
1 Achtergrond
2 The Theory of Moral Sentiments: de vierde editie
3 Referenties
4 Externe links


Adam Smith was een kenmerkend vertegenwoordiger van de Schotse verlichting. The Theory of Moral Sentiments was bedoeld als eerste deel van een drieluik. Dit eerste deel handelde over morality (ethiek), waar het tweede deel (The Wealth of Nations) (1776) en het derde deel respectievelijk over prudence (wijsheid of bedachtzaamheid) en justice (rechtvaardigheid) zouden gaan. Het derde deel is echter nooit verschenen. Smith had de voorbereidende aantekeningen naar verluidt wel min of meer klaar liggen, maar hij kreeg geen tijd meer deze in boekvorm uit te werken. Kort voor zijn dood liet hij ze verbranden.

In de Theory of the Moral Sentiments probeert Smith te verkennen aan welke emoties een mens onderhevig is, hoe deze emoties zich tot elkaar verhouden en hoe men deze emoties kan categoriseren. De redenen dat hij dit doet is dat hij wil onderzoeken hoe deze emoties een rol spelen in het tot stand komen van onze morele oordelen.

Het boek is nooit in het Nederlands vertaald, vandaar dat men in het Nederlands taalgebied ook nu nog naar de originale Engelse titel verwijst. Dit in tegenstelling tot de meeste ons omringende landen, waar dit werk wel in de eigen taal is verschenen.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments: de vierde editie[bewerken]

Bestaat uit 6 delen:
Deel I: Over de correctheid van ons handelen
Deel II: Over verdiensten en tekortkomingen; of over de objecten van beloning en straf
Deel III: Over de grondslagen van onze oordelen over onze eigen gevoelens en gedrag en over het plichtsbesef.
Deel IV: Over het effect van nut op gevoelens van goedkeuring.
Deel V: Over de invloed van gebruiken en mode op de gevoelens van morele goed- en afkeuring.
Deel VI: Over systemen in de moraalfilosofie
  aitastaes | May 19, 2017 |
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Since the first publication of the Theory of Moral Sentiments, which was so long ago as the beginning of the year 1759, several corrections, and a good many illustrations of the doctrines it contained in it, have occurred to me.
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Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) lays the foundation for a general system of morals, and is a text of central importance in the history of moral and political thought. It presents a theory of the imagination which Smith derived from David Hume but which encompasses an idea of sympathy that in some ways is more sophisticated than anything in Hume's philosophy. By means of sympathy and the mental construct of an impartial spectator, Smith formulated highly original theories of conscience, moral judgment and the virtues. The enduring legacy of his work is its reconstruction of the Enlightenment idea of a moral, or social, science encompassing both political economy and the theory of law and government. This 2002 volume offers a new edition of the text with clear and helpful notes for the student reader, together with a substantial introduction that sets the work in its philosophical and historical context.

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