Relaxing a Tension in Adam Smith's Account of Sympathy

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 9 (2):189-204 (2011)
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This paper attempts to relax the tension between Adam Smith's claim that sympathy involves an evaluative act of imaginative projection and his claim that sympathy involves a non-evaluative act of imaginative identification. The first section locates the tension specifically in the two different ways Smith depicts the stance adopted by the sympathizer. The second section argues that we can relax this tension by finding an important role for a non-evaluative stance in Smith's normative account of moral evaluation. This solution protects the continuity in Smith's account of sympathy (cf. Griswold 1999: 99–103). Because of the particular way in which it renders intelligible the relationship between the evaluative and non-evaluative stances, this solution also emphasizes the importance that respect for the agent's conscience has in Smith's conception of an ideal moral judge (cf. Darwall 2004; 2006). The third section investigates a possible systematic basis for Smith's normative commitment to respectful moral judgment.



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John McHugh
Denison University

Citations of this work

Beyond sympathy: Smith’s rejection of Hume’s moral theory.Paul Sagar - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (4):681-705.
Ways of desiring mutual sympathy in Adam Smith's moral philosophy.John McHugh - 2016 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (4):614-634.
From Sympathy to Respect.Roberto Mordacci - 2023 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 40 (4):359-378.
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

The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals.David Hume & Tom L. Beauchamp - 1998 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 190 (2):230-231.
Empathy, sympathy, care.Stephen Darwall - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 89 (2-3):261–282.

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