Beyond sympathy: Smith’s rejection of Hume’s moral theory

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (4):681-705 (2017)
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Abstract

Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments has long been recognized as importantly influenced by, and in part responding to, David Hume’s earlier ethical theory. With regard to Smith’s account of the foundations of morals in particular, recent scholarly attention has focused on Smith’s differences with Hume over the question of sympathy. Whilst this is certainly important, disagreement over sympathy in fact represents only the starting point of Smith’s engagement with – and eventual attempted rejection of – Hume’s core moral theory. We can see this by recognizing the TMS’s account of moral foundations as predicated upon a rejection of Hume’s distinction between the natural and artificial virtues. Smith is in turn revealed as generating a major break with Hume – a break which, if based on a superior theory of moral foundations has important consequences for how we treat Smith and Hume in both the history of philosophy and contemporary moral theory.

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References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1969 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by Ernest Campbell Mossner.
The Theory of Moral Sentiments: The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith.Adam Smith - 1976 - Indianapolis: Oxford University Press UK. Edited by D. D. Raphael & A. L. Macfie.
Empathy, sympathy, care.Stephen Darwall - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 89 (2-3):261–282.
Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reason.Simon Blackburn - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (202):110-114.
Moral Sentimentalism.Michael Slote - 2004 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7 (1):3-14.

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