The Impartial Spectator: Adam Smiths Moral Philosophy

Paperback | June 15, 2009

byD. D. Raphael

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D. D. Raphael provides a critical account of the moral philosophy of Adam Smith, presented in his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Whilst it does not have the same prominence in its field as his work on economics, iThe Wealth of Nations/i, Smith's writing on ethics is of continuingimportance and interest today, especially for its theory of conscience. Smith sees the origin of conscience in the sympathetic and antipathetic feelings of spectators. As spectators of the actions of other people, we can imagine how we would feel in their situation. If we would share their motives,we approve of their action. If not, we disapprove. When we ourselves take an action, we know from experience what spectators would feel, approval or disapproval. That knowledge forms conscience, an imagined impartial spectator who tells us whether an action is right or wrong. In describing thecontent of moral judgement, Smith is much influenced by Stoic ethics, with an emphasis on self-command, but he voices criticism as well as praise. His own position is a combination of Stoic and Christian values. There is a substantial difference between the first five editions of the Moral Sentiments and the sixth. Failure to take account of this has led some commentators to mistaken views about the supposed youthful idealism of the Moral Sentiments as contrasted with the mature realism of The Wealth ofNations. A further source of error has been the supposition that Smith treats sympathy as the motive of moral action, as contrasted with the supposedly universal motive of self-interest in The Wealth of Nations.

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D. D. Raphael provides a critical account of the moral philosophy of Adam Smith, presented in his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Whilst it does not have the same prominence in its field as his work on economics, iThe Wealth of Nations/i, Smith's writing on ethics is of continuingimportance and interest today, especially fo...

D. D. Raphael is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Imperial College at the University of London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:152 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.07 inPublished:June 15, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019956826X

ISBN - 13:9780199568260

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Table of Contents

1. Two Versions2. Sympathy and Imagination3. Motive and Consequence4. Spectator Theory5. The Impartial Spectator6. Comparisons and Comment7. Moral Rules8. Virtue9. The Cardinal Virtues10. Virtue and Beauty11. Ethics and Theology12. Jurisprudence13. Ethics and Economics14. Smith's Enduring Contribution

Editorial Reviews

"I...engaging...a gift to anyone interested in Adam Smith and the history of British moral philosophy." --Sylvana Tomaselli, British Journal for the History of Philosophy