Sympathy and Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 21 (1):53-74 (2023)
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Abstract

For the first time, in Hume and Smith, ‘sympathy’ occupies a central position as the principle of moral judgment. The key to solving the relationship between sympathy and economic thought lies in the theory of justice. Hume and Smith inherited Hutcheson’s criticism of the Hobbesian selfish system and considered humans selfish and social. For both, the relationship between selfishness and sympathy is neither a contradiction nor a subordinate structure in which selfishness ultimately dominates sympathy. In this joint project, Hume’s institutional utilitarianism could justify Smith’s economic theories and provide Smith’s theory of government with a proper philosophical foundation. I argue that this is particularly significant because Smith himself failed to provide the foundation in areas where the idea of public utility plays a vital role, such as in the critical case of national defence and the decline of martial spirit.

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