Adam Smith: The moral sentiments

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, in 1723 (Source on Smith's life: E G West, Adam Smith ). He entered Glasgow University in 1737, aged 14. This university still followed some practices of the medieval universities, for example in admitting students at age 14. Its professors still took fees directly from students: that had been the original practice in medieval universities, but in more famous universities rich people had endowed colleges within the university, which paid lecturers' salaries. The Glasgow timetable was still medieval. The main lecture took place at 7.30 am in the cold and dark, at 11 the students were quizzed on the mornings lecture, at 12 there was a lecture on an optional topic. This was the typical student's day in the thirteenth century. But the curriculum was modern: besides philosophy (the main medieval subject) students took Greek and Mathematics. The philosophy was modern. At Glasgow Adam Smith studied under Francis Hutcheson (see extracts from his works in Raphael British Moralists vol.1, p.261ff.)). Hutcheson taught in English (not Latin) and was a vivid lecturer. Moral philosophy, or ethics, was a flourishing subject at the time. The main division was between two schools of 'intuitionists' (as they would now be called). To remind you: Ethics is concerned with what is good and bad, better and worse, in human conduct - in the ends we seek, in the actions in which we seek our ends. Intuitionism is the doctrine that in the last analysis we simply 'see' that some way of acting is good or right, or the opposite: that basic ethical assessments cannot be justified by argument, and do not need to be. 'See' of course is a metaphor. Many 18C moral philosophers held that it is reason that 'sees' what is good and right. Hutcheson said that it is a moral sense: not reason, and not the bodily senses of vision, hearing etc., but something more like a bodily sense than like reason. On Hutcheson's analysis, ethical judgement is a specific kind of emotional reaction to a contemplated act..
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