Nonhuman Animals in Adam Smith's Moral Theory

Between the Species 13 (9) (2009)
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Abstract

By giving sympathy a central role, Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) can be regarded as one of the ‘enlightened’ moral theories of the Enlightenment, insofar as it widened the scope of moral consideration beyond the traditionally restricted boundary of human beings. This, although the author himself does not seem to have been aware of this fact. In this paper, I want to focus on two aspects which I think lead to this conclusion. First, by making sentience the requisite to be taken into moral consideration, nonhuman animals in Smith’s moral theory can count as moral patients towards whom we should exercise the virtue of beneficence (if not justice). Secondly, Smith’s idea of morality as working in concentric circles –generating more stringent duties towards those closer to us– could explain and perhaps also justify our caring for some nonhuman animals, especially pets.

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Author's Profile

Alejandra Mancilla
University of Oslo

Citations of this work

Liberty and Valuing Sentient Life.John Hadley - 2013 - Ethics and the Environment 18 (1):87-103.
The Limits of Sympathetic Concern and Moral Consideration in Adam Smith.Ryan Pollock - 2019 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 36 (3):257-277.

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1982 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free will. New York: Oxford University Press.

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