The Adam Smith Review 11:53-66 (2019)

Byron Davies
Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero
In this paper, I investigate under-explored moments in Rousseau’s and Adam Smith’s writings in which each presents speech, and particularly testimony, as a manifestation of the desire for others’ recognition. I begin by considering some features of Rousseau’s understanding of amour-propre (or the desire for recognition from others) as well as that desire’s relevance for the conception of vocal speech (as in its nature passional) at the center of Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages. Since a feeling of insult is the characteristic response to the thwarting of amour-propre, this connection between amour-propre and vocal speech might help to illuminate the distinctive insult (remarked upon by several philosophers) in having one’s speech act rejected. But there is also something incomplete in this thought insofar as it cannot yet distinguish the rejection involved in, say, not being believed from just any thwarting of amour-propre (or any instance of taking oneself to be demoted in another’s opinion). I then consider the possibility that this latter sort of observation might lie behind not only Adam Smith’s interest in what he calls our “mortification” in not being believed, but also his interest in a distinctive kind of response that we typically think of ourselves as owed, especially in the context of our addressing another person, but whose satisfactoriness consists in its being unforced. I end the paper by considering how Rousseau’s egalitarian political prescriptions (which contrast with the individual psychological maneuvers that Smith offers to those who go unbelieved) can be understood, in part, as aiming to limit the social significance of our dependence on another’s capricious judgment about our trustworthiness.
Keywords Jean-Jacques Rouseau, Adam Smith, speech, testimony
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