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The Theory of Moral Sentiments Paperback – October 1, 2013
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"One of the truly outstanding books in the intellectual history of the world...A global manifesto of profound significance to the interdependent world in which we live. It is indeed a book of amazing reach and contemporary relevance."
-Amartya Sen, from the Introduction --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.
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. By means of the idea of sympathy and the mental construct of an impartial spectator, Smith formulated highly original theories of conscience, moral judgment and the virtues. This volume offers a new edition of the text with helpful notes for the student reader, together with a substantial introduction that sets the work in its philosophical and historical context. --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Smith's first section deals with the "Propriety of Action". The very first chapter of the book is entitled "Of Sympathy". This is very telling of Smith's view of life, and his approach to how men should conduct their lives. "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." (p 1:1). Later Smith asserts that this "sympathy, however, cannot, in any sense, be regarded as a selfish principle." (p 2:178)
This propriety of conduct undergirds all social, political and economic activities, private and public. When Smith observes that "hatred and anger are the greatest poisons to the happiness of a good mind" (p 1:44) he is speaking not only of interpersonal relationships but of its moral extensions in the community and world.Read more ›
Smith takes our moral nature as a given. Humans are born with an innate capacity for sympathy. We identify others as like ourselves and unless otherwise provoked, do not want to hurt others. We also have an innate desire for esteem. We learn early that treating others kindly gains us admiration in the same way that we naturally admire kind people. This is the core of Smiths thesis and from here he puts examines these principles across an array of human behaviors. Why do we tell truths when we could tell undetected lies? Why would we do kindly to others even if esteem of peers is not gauranteed? Why would some die for their family members or their country?
Probably the trait Smith admires most is prudence; the art of knowing what is and is not appropriate action both in our subjective judgement and that of an imagined 'impartial spectator.' The prudent person is able and willing to put herself in the context of other people. 'Although an action seems justified to me, would others see it that way?' 'Would satisfying small desire X of mine be an obstacle to other's fulfillment of larger desires?'
It goes on from there. Smith puts these ideas well to the test going through scenario after scenario. Because of this, I would say this book should be shelved in psychology, not philosophy as it simply tries to give an account of the way we think. Thus the philosopher looking for a forcefully stated, internally consistent and completely reasoned 'moral system' will not find it in these pages.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This publication is misleading: not what it is advertised to be...this is only a small part of the entire text by Adam Smith, in fact, just the first section in a nice binding. Read morePublished 21 days ago by C. Adams
This is a review of the paperback Penguin Classics 250th anniversary edition of this work (with introduction by Amartya Sen)
This particular edition of Smith’s “Theory... Read more
There are two aspects in this review. One is about the book and the other about Amazon's contribution to the Revolution in Reading.
First of all the book. Read more
The content is timeless, but the language (circa1759) takes some effort.Published 4 months ago by Sheila
I expected the book to be the same dimensions as (The Wealth of Nations), not larger in length and width.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is not the whole text of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. I'm disappointed because this seemed like a good deal. This is just the first third of what I need. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Joe