The Theory of Moral Sentiments

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

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The foundation for a general system of morals, this 1749 work is a landmark in the history of moral and political thought. Readers familiar with Adam Smith from The Wealth of Nations will find this earlier book a revelation. Although the author is often misrepresented as a calculating rationalist who advises the pursuit of self-interest in the marketplace, regardless of the human cost, he was also interested in the human capacity for benevolence -- as The Theory of Moral Sentiments amply demonstrates.
The greatest prudence, Smith suggests, may lie in following economic self-interest in order to secure the basic necessities. This is only the first step, however, toward the much higher goal of achieving a morally virtuous life. Smith elaborates upon a theory of the imagination inspired by the philosophy of David Hume. His reasoning takes Hume's logic a step further by proposing a more sophisticated notion of sympathy, leading to a series of highly original theories involving conscience, moral judgment, and virtue.
Smith's legacy consists of his reconstruction of the Enlightenment idea of a moral, or social, science that embraces both political economy and the theory of law and government. His articulate expression of his philosophy continues to inspire and challenge modern readers.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 162 x 210 x 19mm | 331g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0
  • 0486452913
  • 9780486452913
  • 70,115

Table of contents

PART I: of the propriety of action, consisting of three sections
SECTION I: Of the sense of propriety
SECTION II: Of the degrees of the different passions which are consistent with propriety
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
PART II: of merit and demerit; or, of the objects of reward and punishment; consisting of three sections
SECTION I: Of the sense of merit and demerit
SECTION II: Of justice and beneficence
SECTION III: Of the influence of fortune upon the sentiments of mankind, with regard to the merit or demerit of actions
PART III: of the foundation of our judgments concerning our own sentiments and conduct, and of the sense of duty
PART IV: of the effect of utility upon the sentiment of approbation consisting of one section
PART V: of the influence of custom and fashion upon the sentiments of moral approbation and disapprobation consisting of one section
PART VI: of the character of virtue consisting of three sections
SECTION I: Of the character of the individual, so far as it affects his own happiness; or of prudence
SECTION II: Of the character of the individual, so far as it can affect the happiness of other people
SECTION III: Of self-command
PART VII: of systems of moral philosophy: consisting of four sections
SECTION I: Of the questions which ought to be examined in a theory of moral sentiments
SECTION II: Of the different accounts which have been given of the nature of virtue
SECTION III: Of the different systems which have been formed concerning the principle of approbation
SECTION IV: Of the manner in which different authors have treated of the practical rules of morality
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3,865 ratings
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3 20% (772)
2 5% (185)
1 2% (62)
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