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The Theory of Moral Sentiments

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,063 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
The foundation for a general system of morals, this 1749 work is a landmark in the history of moral and political thought. Readers familiar with Adam Smith from The Wealth of Nations will find this earlier book a revelation. Although the author is often misrepresented as a calculating rationalist who advises the pursuit of self-interest in the marketplace, regardless of th ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Dover Publications (first published 1759)
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Brett Ellingson
Jun 30, 2012 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
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Trey Malone
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2009 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
Apr 12, 2008 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.
David Gross
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
Nov 15, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Bob Nichols
May 09, 2013 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
Jeffrey Romine
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, philosophy
I'm glad to be finished! Yeah! The reason, however, I must confess, is that I didn't find Smith's work all that engaging. He discusses virtues in the greater context of social order, nobly promoting self-command, admiring the Stoics, and prudence. I liked a few things very much, for example, when he speaks of the Stoic's outlook on danger (pg 329). I also liked what he said (pg 209) when thinking of Hume, "an ingenious and agreeable philosopher, who joins the greater depth of thought to the grea ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Если кому-то стоит напомнить, что "человек может существовать только в обществе", пусть это сделает Адам Смит, которого, кажется, меньше всего подозревают в этом мнении. Между тем, слова в кавычках -- это точная цитата, продолжающаяся сообщением, что природа предназначила человека к такому положению и одарила всем необходимым для этого.

Хотя общество может существовать и "среди купцов, сознающих пользу его и без взаимной любви", природа дала большее: "нравственное чувство", в чем-то подобное обыч
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading The Wealth of Nations (1776), I decided to read Smith's work on ethics - The Theory of Moral Sentiments. I read that this book has to be read in order to fully understand the moral implications The Wealth of Nations.

But after making it halfway through The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), I couldn't bear it any longer. What a terrible book this is! It is written in prose, which is supposedly appreciated by many readers commenting on Goodreads, but in my opinion this whole book is
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Adam Smith's magnum opus and perhaps the first work of modern economics is The Wealth of Nations. For those who know of Smith it is The Wealth of Nations and not his earlier The Theory of Moral Sentiments that receives all of the attention and commentary. After having read both books I think this is a mistake. The Theory of Moral Sentiments is an incredible work of observation and commentary which I believe will more directly impact my thinking than Smith's more well known work.

What I found so i
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Before diving into Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations I decided to take a detour through Smith's other great work The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

A book on ethics, it explores Smith's theory of sympathy. Sympathy, or co-feeling, is the basis of all authors's further considerations.

Sympathy is the sharing of feelings, and Smith argues, is built into human beings: we imagine the pain and suffering of someone who's injured, we feel happiness for our friends, we are glad when someone likes the book
Victoria Hawco
Say approbation one more time... also that last chapter wasn't even relevant.
Jan 16, 2015 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
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The mind, therefore, is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquility and sedateness. The breast is, in some measure, calmed and composed the moment we come into his presence. We are immediately put in mind of the light in which he will view our situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in the same light; for the effect of sympathy is instantaneous.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments is not what Smith is known for, but it should be. In it, he a
Dec 15, 2016 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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Edgar Trevizo
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No había tenido el gusto de leer a Smith de primera mano. Y debo decir que resultó ser todo un placer. El librito es muy bello, simple y elegante, finamente razonado y rebosante de humildad intelectual. Quizás la riqueza de las naciones resulte ser un poco más áspera por el tema, pero después de leer éste, ya me dieron ganas de leerlo también.
Mar 24, 2010 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."
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
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
André Heijstek
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economie, filosofie
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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
Probably what the economists should have read before reading the "Wealth of Nations."
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I had seen this book referenced many times in other books, and since I had read "The Wealth of Nations" I was curious about what Adam Smith had to say about morals and ethics. It may have been a premature endeavor on my part because my main focus in reading and my main interest lies not in this field of study. Or rather, something does but something do not, so was it with this book - something was very interesting but other things were quite boring and I found my mind traveling other places whil ...more
Michael G
Listened through Librevox. Not a great collection of recordings, only one or two unlistenable, but few stand out tracks. Audio quality pretty poor throughout, unfortunately there isn't anywhere else to find audio of this lesser known work.

Adam Smith's other masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments is equal parts descriptive psychology and an innovative approach to how the individuals relationship with others shapes morality. The work begins with an in depth description of the faculty of symp
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General Discussion 1 7 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
  • 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
“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.” 318 likes
“Never complain of that of which it is at all times in your power to rid yourself.” 104 likes
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