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

By James R. Otteson

Adam Smith wrote books, one approximately economics and the opposite approximately morality. How do those books pass jointly? How do markets and morality combine? James Otteson presents a complete exam and interpretation of Smith's ethical concept and demonstrates how his notion of morality applies to his figuring out of markets, language and different social associations. contemplating Smith's notions of average sympathy, the neutral spectator, human nature and human moral sense, the writer addresses no matter if Smith thinks that ethical judgments take pleasure in a transcendent sanction.

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Extra resources for Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life

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The first question which we ask is, What has befallen you? Till this be answered, though we are uneasy both from the vague idea of his misfortune, and still more from torturing ourselves with conjectures about what it may be, yet our fellow-feeling is not very considerable. (TMS, 11–12) 9 TMS, 135–36. Moral Theory: Sympathy and Impartial Spectator 23 The fact that our sympathy is often withheld until we know the cause of our fellow’s passion leads Smith to conclude that sympathy arises more from the knowledge of the situation that excites our fellow’s passion than from the sight of the behavior the passion caused—a conclusion that supports Smith’s contention that the natural fellowfeeling we have for others comes about only through consideration of the imaginative changing of place.

Or vice-versa: if the resentment of the recipient is closer to the resentment we would have felt than is the anger of the actor, we will tend to think that the actor is unjustified in what he does. Because in cases such as these our sympathies are divided, they are among the hardest cases to judge and, depending on the degree to which they engage our sentiments, the hardest or most unpleasant to watch. It is very difficult, for example, to take sides when our mother and father are engaged in a bitter fight.

He describes it in this way: By the imagination we place ourselves in his [the agent’s] situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter, as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and thence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something which, though weaker in degree, is not altogether unlike them. (TMS, 9) We must separate the elements of this passage. When we see the suffering of another (the example Smith uses here is seeing our brother on the rack), we imagine—contrary to what one might have thought—not what our brother feels, but rather what we would feel in his situation; 20 Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life we then assume our brother is feeling what we would feel.

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