Adam Smith: The sympathetic process and the origin and function of conscience

In Christopher J. Berry, Maria Pia Paganelli & Craig Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith. Oxford University Press. pp. 177 (2013)

Christel Johanna Fricke
University of Oslo
According to Adam Smith, the acquisition of moral conscience is an essential part of a person’s moral education. I argue that moral conscience as conceived by Smith enables a person to intentionally take the role of an impartial spectator. I trace the process of moral education from the child in its family, to interaction with peers to learning and then to a self-evaluation, learning to become one’s own spectator and judge. This is a move from uncritical trust to external guidance to acquiring the faculty of conscience. Smith recommends most people to rely on the ‘common rules of morality’ rather than on sympathetic processes alone. But such reliance represents merely a second best procedure for reaching a properly impartial moral judgment. While the ‘wise and virtuous’ may well improve on the impartiality of the ‘common rules of morality’, even their moral judgments will never be perfectly impartial or certain beyond doubt.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199605064.013.0010
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 43,049
External links

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.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life.James R. Otteson - 2002 - Cambridge University Press.
Adam Smith's Theory of Language.Marcelo Dascal - 2006 - In Knud Haakonssen (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith. Cambridge University Press.
Das Adam Smith Problem - A Critical Realist Perspective.David Wilson & William Dixon - 2006 - Journal of Critical Realism 5 (2):251-272.


Added to PP index

Total views
22 ( #387,161 of 2,260,641 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #318,112 of 2,260,641 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature