Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life by James R. Otteson

By James R. Otteson

Adam Smith wrote books, one approximately economics and the opposite approximately morality. How do those books move jointly? How do markets and morality combine? James Otteson offers a entire exam and interpretation of Smith's ethical thought and demonstrates how his notion of morality applies to his figuring out of markets, language and different social associations. contemplating Smith's notions of usual 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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For commentary, see Ardal (1966), Chapters 3 and 6; see also Haakonssen (1981), 45–49. 34 Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life of the mechanism of sympathy. The sympathy itself, however, would not be a passion, sentiment, or impression at all, but rather something like a mental operation. Several passages in Hume fit this interpretation. For example, Hume introduces his discussion of sympathy in theTreatise this way: “No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both in itself and in its consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or even contrary to our own” (T, 316).

We are able to overcome this gap as a matter of fact, so, for the most part, Smith is content to leave the matter at that. He does not inquire into the nature of phenomenological qualia, and he does not explain how two independent sets of private experience can generate a sympathy. In fact, Smith develops no significant theory of mind at all—a lack we shall have occasion to remark more than once. But Smith thus sees a close connection between feelings and actions: we judge what another’s sentiments are on the basis of his actions.

For example, Hume introduces his discussion of sympathy in theTreatise this way: “No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both in itself and in its consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or even contrary to our own” (T, 316). The notions of conversion and communication recur many times in Hume’s discussion. Here is one instance: ’Tis indeed evident, that when we sympathize with the passions and sentiments of others, these movements appear at first in our mind as mere ideas, and are conceiv’d to belong to another person, as we conceive any other matter of fact.

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