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Adam Smith (1723-1790)


Adam Smith (1723-1790) Adam Smith The European Enlightenment Smith an important part of the Scottish enlightenment. European enlightenment philosophical and ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam Smith

The European Enlightenment
  • Smith an important part of the Scottish

Edinburgh Castle
Old Town, Edinburgh
European enlightenment
  • philosophical and intellectual movement of 17th
    and 18th centuries, circa 1688-1789.
    Characterized by promotion of rationality, and
    rejection of old political, economic, and social
    order. Not revolutionary, however, but reformist.

Scottish Enlightenment (1740-90)
  • 3 main features
  • anti-clericist and anti-feudalist.
    Anti-clericist, not atheism, but rejection of
    authority of church and embracing of new
  • 2) notion of progress, advancement, dynamic view
    of history, moving forward
  • 3) individual self-definition, self-realization.
  • Also in Scotland, Enlightenment tied to reform of
    universities and education.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)
  • University of Glasgow, Oxford, back to Glasgow.
  • 1752 Professor of Moral Philosophy (natural
    theology, ethics, jurisprudence, and expediency
    political economy)
  • 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • 1764 tutor to Duke of Buccleauch. Travel to
    France, meeting Encyclopedists and Physiocrats,
    including Quesnay.
  • 1766 returns to London, working on new book on
    political economy.
  • 1776 Wealth of Nations published.

History of Astronomy
  • wonder comes from what is new, extraordinary
  • surprise comes from the unexpected
  • admiration from beautiful, great
  • Anxiety comes from the unexpected
  • security/contentment comes from familiarity (EAS,
    p. 22-3)

History of Astronomy
  • When an object of any kind (EAS, p 22)
  • But when not only a passion (p. 23)
  • p. 24 surprise of grief not more dangerous than
    surprise of joy
  • p. 24, Of Wonder, - tendency toward
    classification, categorization
  • p. 25 But when something quite new

History of Astronomy
  • -purpose of philosophizing, theorizing p. 31
  • the invisible chains which bind together all
    these disjointed objects
  • endeavours to introduce order into this chaos
  • to allay this tumult of the imagination

Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
  • Smith considered TMS as important as WN.
  • Continued to revise throughout his life (last
    sixth edition, 1790)
  • TMS
  • How may a society freed from the fetters and
    controls of feudalism and the church achieve
    moral order?

Adam Smith - TMS
  • How selfish soever man may be supposed, there
    are evidently some principles in his nature,
    which interest him in the fortune of others, and
    render their happiness necessary to him, though
    he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of
    seeing it. (IIII Part I, Section I, Chapter
    I, paragraph I)

Imagination and Fellow-Feeling
  • As we have no immediate experience of what other
    men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in
    which they are affected, but by conceiving what
    we ourselves should feel in the like situation.
    Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as
    we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will
    never inform us of what he suffers. They never
    did, and never can, carry us beyond our own
    person, and it is by the imagination only that we
    can form any conception of what are his
    sensations. (p. 65)

A. Smith - TMS
  • Pity and compassion are words appropriated to
    signify our fellow-feeling with the sorrow of
    others. Sympathy, though its meaning was,
    perhaps, originally the same, may now, however,
    without much impropriety, be made use of to
    denote our fellow-feeling with any passion
    whatever. (III5)

Sympathy Principle
  • Modern term empathy
  • Not just pity, but fellow-feeing of all kinds
  • role of imagination,
  • putting ones self in anothers shoes
  • But not enough to see another in joy or sorrow,
    also must know what caused it (what excites it)

Smith - TMS
  • There are some passions of which the expressions
    excite no sort of sympathy, but before we are
    acquainted with what gave occasion to them, serve
    rather to disgust and provoke us against them.
    (p. 67)
  • The furor of the angry man does not excite
    sympathy until we know the reason for the anger.
    Is this response appropriate?

  • Sympathy, therefore, does not arise so much from
    the view of the passion, as from that of the
    situation which excites it. (p. 67)
  • This leads to Smiths theory of how we come to
    approve or disapprove of other peoples behavior,
    what he calls approbation/disapprobation (p. 69)

Two aspects of approbation
  • Is the behavior appropriate to the situation?
    What is the context or motive?
  • 2. What effect does the behavior have? (the
    end it produces). (p. 71)

  • This all concerns judgments about others, what
    about our own conduct?
  • Self-approbation and Self-disapprobation

Impartial spectator
  • as nature teaches the spectators to assume the
    circumstances of the person principally
    concerned, so she teaches this last in some
    measure to assume those of the spectators. As
    they are continually placing themselves in his
    situation, and thence conceiving emotions similar
    to what he feels so he is as constantly placing
    himself in theirs...As they are constantly
    considering what they themselves would feel, if
    they actually were the sufferers, so he is as
    constantly led to imagine in what manner he would
    be affected if he was only one of the spectators
    of his own situation. As their sympathy makes
    them look at it, in some measure, with his eyes,
    so his sympathy makes him look at it, in some
    measure, with theirs. (p. 75 also pp. 100-101)

Impartial spectator
  • We imagine looking at ourselves through anothers
    eyes, and then likewise judging based on
  • So judgment of what is appropriate requires more
    than emotion- requires the ?reason of the
    ?impartial spectator

sympathetic reason or rational sympathy
  • Sympathy is an original passion. When combined
    with the reason of the impartial spectator,
    becomes sympathetic reason
  • Without reason,
  • sympathy may be emotionalism.
  • Without sympathy,
  • reason alone may be cold, inhuman.

self-deceit the excesses of self-regard
  • Problem of sticking to the determination of the
    impartial spectator. Self-love or self-regard
    has excesses. Self-deceit
  • ...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. (p. 109)

How to ensure it doesnt get out of hand?
  • Nature, however, has not left this weakness,
    which is of so much importance, altogether
    without a remedy nor has she abandoned us
    entirely to the delusions of self-love. Our
    continual observations upon the conduct of
    others, insensibly lead us to form to ourselves
    certain general rules concerning what is fit and
    proper either to be done or to be avoided. (p.

Social rules and codes of behavior
  • 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.
    (p. 109-110)

  • The man who acts according to the rules of
    perfect prudence, of strict justice, and of
    proper benevolence, may be said to be perfectly
    virtuous. But the most perfect knowledge of those
    rules will not alone enable him to act in this
    manner his own passions are very apt to mislead
    him sometimes to drive him and sometimes to
    seduce him to violate all the rules which he
    himself, in all his sober and cool hours,
    approves of. The most perfect knowledge, if it is
    not supported by the most perfect self-command,
    will not always enable him to do his duty. (p.

and a sense of duty
  • The regard to those general rules of conduct, is
    what is properly called a sense of duty, a
    principle of the greatest consequence in human
    life, and the only principle by which the bulk of
    mankind are capable of directing their actions.
    (p. 110)

Conscience (p. 105)
  • Earthquake in China and your little finger (p.

tendency to admire the rich
  • Not only self-deceit but a tendency to admire and
    worship the rich corrupts the moral sentiments
  • This disposition to admire, and almost to
    worship, the rich and the powerful, and to
    despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor
    and mean condition, though necessary both to
    establish and to maintain the distinction of
    ranks and the order of society, is, at the same
    time, the great and most universal cause of the
    corruption of our moral sentiments. (p. 86)

maintenance of order and rank
  • It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize
    more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow,
    that we make parade of our riches, and conceal
    our poverty. (p. 78)
  • tendency to sympathize more with those higher in
    the social hierarchy. (pp. 86-87)
  • this tendency is related to the acquisitive drive

bettering our condition (p. 79)
  • 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. The rich man
    glories in his riches, because he feels that they
    naturally draw upon him the attention of the
    world, and that mankind are disposed to go along
    with him in all those agreeable emotions with
    which the advantages of his situation so readily
    inspire him. At the thought of this, his heart
    seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and
    he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account,
    than for all the other advantages it procures
    him. The poor man, on the contrary, is ashamed of
    his poverty. He feels that it either places him
    out of the sight of mankind, or, that if they
    take any notice of him, they have, however,
    scarce any fellow-feeling with the misery and
    distress which he suffers.

poor mans son (pp. 119ff.)
  • Deception
  • Drive for wealth and power may not benefit the
    individual, but may still be good for
    society---invisible hand!
  • (pp. 119-123)
  • Invisible hand appears more times in TMS than WN!

Invisible hand
  • The produce of the soil maintains at all times
    nearly that number of inhabitants which it is
    capable of maintaining. The rich only select from
    the heap what is most precious and agreeable.
    They consume little more than the poor, and in
    spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity,
    though they mean only their own conveniency,
    though the sole end which they propose from the
    labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be
    the gratification of their own vain and
    insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the
    produce of all their improvements. 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. (pp. 122-123)

Higher and lower levels of prudence
  • Even if it does pay off for the individual, they
    are industrious and achieve some level of
    affluence, it is only deserving of cold esteem
    (p. 135)
  • Prudence, in short, when directed merely to the
    care of the health, of the fortune, and of the
    rank and reputation of the individual, though it
    is regarded as a most respectable and even, in
    some degree, as an amiable and agreeable quality,
    yet it never is considered as one, either of the
    most endearing, or of the most ennobling of the
    virtues. It commands a certain cold esteem, but
    seems not entitled to any very ardent love or
    admiration. (p. 135)

Highest level of prudence
  • Wise and judicious conduct, when directed to
    greater and nobler purposes than the care of the
    health, the fortune, the rank and reputation of
    the individual, is frequently and very properly
    called prudence. We talk of the prudence of the
    great general, of the great statesman, of the
    great legislator. Prudence is, in all these
    cases, combined with many greater and more
    splendid virtues, with valour, with extensive and
    strong benevolence, with a sacred regard to the
    rules of justice, and all these supported by a
    proper degree of self-command. This superior
    prudence, when carried to the highest degree of
    perfection, necessarily supposes the art, the
    talent, and the habit or disposition of acting
    with the most perfect propriety in every possible
    circumstance and situation. It necessarily
    supposes the utmost perfection of all the
    intellectual and of all the moral virtues. It is
    the best head joined to the best heart. It is the
    most perfect wisdom combined with the most
    perfect virtue. (p. 135)

greed is good?
  • So proper self-regardself-interested behavior
    moderated by self-command and a sense of duty, as
    well as the socially responsible adherence to
    social rules and obligationscan be socially
    beneficial under certain conditions. It is not
    the higher level of prudence, but it is a kind of

Self-interest or sympathy?
  • That whole account of human nature, however,
    which deduces all sentiments and affections from
    self-love, which has made so much noise in the
    world, but which, so far as I know, has never yet
    been fully and distinctly explained, seems to me
    to have arisen from some confused misapprehension
    of the system of sympathy. (TMS, Part 7, Section
    3, Paragraph 7)