David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Forum for Social Economics 39 (1):53-60 (2010)
In this essay, I explore the parallels between the two perspectives Smith takes in The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and two types of duties described in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Many people who familiar with Kantian ethics know chiefly of the perfect duties which rule out immoral behavior absolutely, and draw the conclusion that his is a formal, demanding, and cold ethical system. The same things have been said about Smith's description of the operation of the market economy and the invisible hand in The Wealth of Nations. While Smith did say that the market economy could operate if all agents were motivated by pure self-interest, that would only be a minimally satisfactory social order, just as if all people followed only Kant's perfect duties. Society would function, to be sure, but no one want to be a part of it. But Kant's imperfect duties mandate that persons adopt certain attitudes toward others-such as helping others when we can-and act in accordance with those attitudes whenever possible. A person who follows Kant's perfect and imperfect duties is therefore not simply abstaining from harming others, but rather he is actively helping them, and thereby contributing to a truly harmonious society in a positive way. I see this as a direct parallel to Smith's discussion of benevolence in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which is also neglected by those with think of Smith only as the father of economics and a proponent of laissez-faire principles. While Smith held that the economy can function based on self-interest alone, he felt that sympathy for one's fellow human beings, and the benevolent feelings generated thereby, are necessary for society in the broader sense to prosper-in much the same way as Kant's imperfect duties.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
H. M. Malm (1989). Commodification or Compensation: A Reply to Ketchum. Hypatia 4 (3):128 - 135.
Peter J. Taylor (1994). Shifting Frames: From Divided to Distributed Psychologies of Scientific Agents. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:304 - 310.
J. L. Schellenberg (2005). The Hiddenness Argument Revisited (II). Religious Studies 41 (3):287 - 303.
Fonna Forman‐Barzilai (2000). Adam Smith as Globalization Theorist. Critical Review 14 (4):391-419.
Tang Yijie & Yan Xin (2008). The Contemporary Significance of Confucianism. Frontiers of Philosophy in China 3 (4):477 - 501.
P. X. Monaghan (2010). A Novel Interpretation of Plato's Theory of Forms. Metaphysica 11 (1):63-78.
H. E. Baber (1987). How Bad Is Rape? Hypatia 2 (2):125 - 138.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads36 ( #89,801 of 1,724,937 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #349,164 of 1,724,937 )
How can I increase my downloads?