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The Theory of Moral Sentiments or An Essay Towards an Analysis of the Principles by Which Men Naturally Judge Concerning the Conduct and Character, First of Their Neighbours, 2 Vols in 1
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The Theory of Moral Sentiments or An Essay Towards an Analysis of the Principles by Which Men Naturally Judge Concerning the Conduct and Character, First of Their Neighbours, 2 Vols in 1

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  2,526 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
"HOW selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to ...more
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published August 1st 1999 by Gateway Editions (first published 1759)
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Introduction & Notes
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text

--The Theory of Moral Sentiments

--Considerations concerning the first formation of languages

Biographical Notes
Textual Notes
Aug 27, 2009 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not easy to read. At times the book is tedious and somewhat difficult to understand. It is long and it sometimes seems wordy. That said, it contains some of the best prose in philosophy, and the numerous insights are incredible.

Most people have heard the common defense of capitalism in the Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations:
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

They assume Smith
Jul 16, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Adam Smith, like Hume or Gibbon, takes you into a century where the prose styles were more classical than today. I was fortunate to study Latin in high school, but Smith had Greek and Latin studies from an early age. His references to Aristotle, Plato, the Stoics and Cicero are central to his work. But his immediate predecessor was Francis Hutcheson of the University of Glasgow, who divided moral philosophy into four parts: Ethics and Virtue; Private rights and Natural liberty; Familial ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Zahwil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a difficult book to read, but I was inspired by a series of podcasts that Russell Roberts and Dan Klein (George Mason U) did in the summer of 2009. An idea in the book that I liked is that, counterintuivity, an "impartial spectator" is better company when you're downtrodden than a friend or relative. What you need is not necessarily sympathy but the ability to look at your situation as an impartial spectator would. In the company of strangers, our natural tendency is to bring our emotions down t ...more
Brett Ellingson
Jun 30, 2012 Brett Ellingson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Probably the most mind-blowing book I read when I was an undergrad and one of the few that I find myself going back to again and again. Smith does for morality what Darwin did to biodiversity - took a phenomenon widely assumed to have been bluntly imposed from above and showed it to be rather something that naturally emerges from the interaction of individuals endowed with certain properties (in this case, instincts both for self-preservation and empathy/sympathy). I finished with an exciting wa ...more
David Gross
Jul 15, 2011 David Gross rated it liked it
Shelves: ethics, non-fiction
If you’ve heard of Adam Smith, it’s probably because of his book The Wealth of Nations, which launched the study of economics, or his concept of “the invisible hand” by which individuals, each looking out only for their own personal gain, end up unwittingly contributing to the prosperity of society as a whole.

I have not read The Wealth of Nations, but I’m currently reading Smith’s earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

When people argue about the application of moral values, usually implic
Apr 12, 2008 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Along with On The Wealth of Nations, I re-read this every couple of years. It is Smith's predecessor and guide book to the ideas in On The Wealth of Nations. It is the moral underpinning that needs to be present for a capitalist nation not to become a nation of exploitative, money hungry, soulless power mongers using people as economic ends to gain superiority by an over-valuing of wealth. Alas, we did not take heed.
Bob Nichols
Mar 30, 2014 Bob Nichols rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The "Theory of Moral Sentiments" is based on Smith's assertion that we are both social ("mutally sympathetic") and self-interested beings, and that social order must be based on these two fundamental classes of moral sentiments.

On this foundation, Smith derives three virtues that promote social order. The first is propriety, which is self-command over the passions. This virtue is based on Smith's observation that, as individuals seek their own freedom, the freedom of one is not more important th
Sep 14, 2008 Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adam Smith is a curious figure in the history of thought; economists don't read him because they view him as a philosopher, but philosophers don't read him because they view him as an economist. This curious dichotomy is represented in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith's work on moral virtue. In many ways, Smith's work is a return to the "virtue theory" school of moral philosophy best represented in the ancient tradition by Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

Theory of Moral Sentiments is very r
Trey Malone
Nov 15, 2016 Trey Malone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It really is a shame this book wasn't the cornerstone of economics instead of its more famous counterpart. While I truly appreciate the insights delivered in "Wealth of Nations" and have read sections of it countless times during my PhD studies, I find this book to be more informative of the type of economics I want to study. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in how individuals make decisions, as many of the insights "discovered" in behavioral economics actually came fr ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: empire
Machiavelli for the people of 'commercial societies' (without the irony), or a sentimental education for empire builders

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work con
Dec 15, 2016 Ξιτσυκα rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
It is very difficult, if not impossible, consistently with the brevity of our design, to give the reader a proper idea of this excellent work. A dry abstract of the system would convey no juster idea of it, than the skeleton of a departed beauty would of her form when she was alive; at the same time the work is so well methodified, the parts grow so naturally and gracefully out of reach other that it would be doing it equal injustice to shew it by broken and detached pieces.

There will, in a work
Aug 01, 2015 CadBot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I have ever read. A TA in college recommended this book to me, because I told him I liked Wealth of Nations, so I gave it a read a couple years later. I have read this book two times in a row back to back. I keep going back to to this book as a reference for a lot of aspects of my life. I am an engineer, but the info in this book was more helpful to me then most people. I say that because a lot my skills required a lot of anti-social practice.

I am not a big reader and my v
May 31, 2013 Noviny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Theory of Moral Sentiments is one of two major works that Adam Smith wrote, and to try and understand the man who wrote down and formalised many of the key concepts of a capitalist society, and anyone wanting to understand his more famous book, The Wealth of Nations, should really delve in to this book.

For those more interested in a different take on moral philosophy, this book is one of the best books you can read for defining, outlining and arguing for ethics as our sympathy for other peop
Nov 24, 2012 Alessandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: em-português, papel
Must read book to anyone interested in Economics or Sociology. Smith's observations on human relations and sentiments seem to me very precise. It was written in 1749, but it explains contemporary society so well it could have been written yesterday.
Why are we moral? sympathy, envy, virtue, friendship. Why are some people admired? Our undeniable need of acceptance by society. " Is there bigger happinness than to be loved and to know that we deserve this love? is there bigger disgrace than to be
Apr 14, 2011 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us."
Jul 14, 2010 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I found this book repetative and not clearly structured. The ideas were interesting, but it contained little that Hume or Locke hadn't said better already.
** I wouldn't recommend a friend read this book.
Glenn Murphy
This book isn't terribly informative as a work on philosophy and psychology in general, but it is a somewhat fascinating look into the mind of Adam Smith himself.
Zachary Slayback
André Heijstek
Jan 12, 2014 André Heijstek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filosofie, economie
Part 1 - On the propriety of action

Section 1 - On the sense of propriety

Chapter 1 - Of sympathy

Smith’s begrip van sympathy past beter bij mijn/ons begrip van empathy - het kunnen meevoelen met de blijdschap en het leed van anderen.

Chapter 2 - Of the pleasure of mutual sympathy

Als anderen op eenzelfde manier meeleven als wijzelf geeft dat een intens gevoel van verbondenheid.
Dat anderen meeleven met onze boosheid is belangrijker voor ons dan dat ze meeleven met onze vreugde.

Chapter 3 - Of the mann
Mar 19, 2007 Arjun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
Probably what the economists should have read before reading the "Wealth of Nations."
Eric Chevlen
There was nothing in "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" with which I would disagree, but very little in the book which taught me something important which I had not previously known. Smith's sentences are long, languorous, and lovely. But, perhaps consequently, his paragraphs and chapters are droning and enervating.

The ebook edition I read—available free via—also contained a shorter book by Smith which I found fascinating. That is "Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Lan
Jan 05, 2017 HaameD rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This work reminded me of Hume and was a fairly enjoyable read but not the most fluent of all works that I've read because I had to read it online. Smith tries to apply the experimental method of Hume (his empiricism) in order to offer a more pluralistic inquiry for morality, one that is based on different psychological motives and the forces that are more probably going to to corrupt our sense of right and wrong. While this work desn't have the outright optimism of his time he does seem to be pr ...more
Marina Schulz
The writing style is very compelling, but - as groung brekaing as this may or may not have beeen at the time - I just didn't feel like learnt anything too new for a contemporary reader.
Jan 30, 2016 Franz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Smith is well known as a the father of economics from his book The Wealth of Nations. But as professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow this book is more fundamental to his thinking. The benefit of this particular edition is that the helpful introduction by Amarty Sen, a Nobel laureate in economics, shows how Smith's two major books are connected. In fact, contrary to the views of many economists, The Wealth of Nations depends on the views of morality and human nature presented b ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Wealhtheow marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Someday I hope I'll be ambitious enough to read this in its entirety, because the excerpts I've come across have been incredible. Latest example, found in The Better Angels of Our Nature:
It is not the soft power of humanity, it is not that feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has lighted up in the human heart, that it is thus capable of counteracting the strongest impulses of self-love. It is a stronger power, a more forcible motive, which exerts itself upon such occasions. It is reason, pr
Karen Chung
May 07, 2016 Karen Chung rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was published in 1759 by a prolific author best known as the father of modern economics, the iconic Adam Smith. It is impressive in the scope and depth with which it plumbs the human spirit. Smith put down on paper many of the things we learn simply through living, experiencing the world, and having interactions with all kinds of people, but he carefully carded and teased the fibers with a fine-tooth comb first, and often comes up with things we may not have explicitly considered ourse ...more
Nov 08, 2012 Alf rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
Enjoyable to some extent. It keeps its pace all throughout the book so what you get at the begging is of the same quality as what you get towards the end. But that's just it, you get the same thing. Its not a book meant to escalate into deeper parts of the mind with every chapter, its a case by case study of the different "sentiments" we as humans share. Useful? Yes, I would say so. Interesting? Yes, that too. Light reading? No, not quite.

One of the many things I did like however was how many ey
Sep 25, 2013 Lance rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, rhetoric
Adam Smith's treatise on morality and ethics was far more interesting than I first anticipated. Much of the book struck me more as a work of rhetorical theory than one of philosophy or ethics. One might describe Smith's approach to morality as phenomenological; he is observing how morality comes to be or is made to appear to us. In the process, he often takes a contextual approach that shows how visions of morality come to be different in various times and places. This interesting approach is co ...more
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General Discussion 1 6 Nov 14, 2013 09:34PM  
Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments 3 19 Nov 14, 2013 09:30PM  
  • The Constitution of Liberty
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Essays on political economy
  • The Principles of Morals and Legislation
  • On the Aesthetic Education of Man
  • Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy
  • Essays: Moral, Political and Literary
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • A Letter Concerning Toleration: Humbly Submitted
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Right
  • Principia Ethica (Philosophical Classics)
  • Principles of Political Economy: And Chapters on Socialism
  • Theological-Political Treatise
  • Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life
  • Political Writings (Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • The Methods of Ethics
Although the exact date of Smith's birth is unknown, his baptism was recorded on 16 June 1723 at Kirkcaldy.

A Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The latter, usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nat
More about Adam Smith...

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“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.” 275 likes
“Never complain of that of which it is at all times in your power to rid yourself.” 85 likes
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