Ways of desiring mutual sympathy in Adam Smith's moral philosophy


ABSTRACTIn this paper, I address the question of what we are really after when we seek Smithian mutual sympathy; I also show how the answer I propose can be used to illuminate a crucial feature of Smith's moral philosophy. The first section develops a Smithian response to egoistic interpretations of the desire for mutual sympathy. The second section identifies a number of different self- and other-relevant ways in which one could desire mutual sympathy. Some of these different ways of desiring mutual sympathy comprise a spectrum of degrees of self-centredness; others comprise a spectrum of degrees of other-centredness. The third section shows that the spectra of ways of desiring mutual sympathy can be used to explain the kind of sincere, motivating attachment to morality characteristic of fully developed Smithian moral agents.

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John McHugh
Denison University

Citations of this work

Smithian Sympathy and the Emergence of Norms.Keith Hankins & John Thrasher - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

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