Adam Smith's Sentimentalist Conception of Self-Control

The Adam Smith Review 12:7-27 (2020)
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A recent wave of scholarship has challenged the traditional way of understanding of self-command in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments as ‘Stoic’ self-command. But the two most thorough alternative interpretations maintain a strong connection between self-command and rationalism, and thus apparently stand opposed to Smith’s overt allegiance to sentimentalism. In this paper I argue that we can and should interpret self-command in the context of Smith’s larger sentimentalist framework, and that when we do, we can see that self-command is ‘sentimentalized’. I offer an interpretation of Smithian self-command, arguing that self-command has its motivational basis in the natural desire for the pleasure of mutual sympathy; that self-command is guided by the sentimental standard of propriety; and that self-command works through the psychological mechanism of the ‘supposed’ impartial spectator. And I show that Smithian self-command is a home-grown, sentimentalist virtue and not an awkward rationalistic transplant.



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Lauren Kopajtic
Fordham University

Citations of this work

La peine et la perte chez Adam Smith.Claire Etchegaray - 2023 - Archives de Philosophie 86 (1):167-188.

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References found in this work

The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
Skepticism about practical reason.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (1):5-25.
A progress of sentiments: reflections on Hume's Treatise.Annette Baier - 1991 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Hume.Don Garrett - 2015 - New York: Routledge.
Hume's reason.David Owen - 1999 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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