Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 3: How we judge the feelings of others
Chapter 3: How we judge the feelings of others
We judge the propriety of the feelings of others by our sympathy or lack of sympathy with them
20 When the feelings of the observee perfectly concords with the observer's sympathies, they appear suitable to the observer.
- On the contrary, when the observer brings the case home to himself and finds that the observee's feelings do not match his, they appear unjust and improper to him.
- Therefore, approving another's feelings is the same thing as entirely sympathizing with them.
- Not approving of those feelings is the same thing as not entirely sympathizing with them.
- The man who resents the injuries done to me observes that I resent those injuries precisely as he does.
- He necessarily approves of my resentment.
- The man who sympathizes with my grief, admits the reasonableness of my sorrow.
- He who admires the same poem or picture as much as I do, allows the justness of my admiration.
- He who laughs at the same joke with with me, cannot deny the propriety of my laughter.
- On the contrary, the man has different feelings from mine, disapproves my feelings because of their dissonance with his own.
- I must incur his disapprobation if:
- my animosity goes beyond the indignation allowed by my friend,
- my grief exceeds what his most tender compassion can go along with,
- my admiration is too high or too low to tally with his own,
- I laugh loudly and heartily when he only smiles, and
- I only smile when he laughs loudly and heartily.
- On all occasions, his own feelings are the standards and measures by which he judges of mine.
To approve of another man's opinions is to adopt those opinions.
- To adopt them is to approve of them.
- If the same arguments which convince you also convince me, I necessarily approve of your conviction.
- If they do not, I necessarily disapprove of it.
- I cannot do the one without the other.
- Therefore, to approve or disapprove of the opinions of others means to agree or disagree with our own.
- This is the same with our approval or disapproval of the feelings of others.
There are some cases in which we approve without any correspondence of feelings.
- In such cases, the feeling of approval is different from the perception of this coincidence.
- However, a little attention will convince us that even in these cases, our approval is ultimately founded on this kind of correspondence.
- I shall give a very simple example.
We may often approve of a joke.
- Simple examples can be less perverted by man's judgments from wrong systems.
- We think that the group's laughter is quite just and proper, though we ourselves do not laugh.
- Because perhaps our attention is engaged with other objects.
- However, we have learned from experience, what kind of pleasantry can best make us laugh.
- We observe that this is one of that kind.
- We therefore approve of the group's laughter.
- We feel that it is natural and suitable to its object.
- Even if we we cannot easily enter into it, we feel that we can heartily join in it.
The same thing often happens with all the other passions.
- A very sad stranger passes us by on the street.
- We are told that he has just received the news of his father's death.
- It is impossible that we should not approve of his grief.
- Yet we might often be unable to completely sympathize with him.
- Both he and his father can be entirely unknown to us.
- We might be too busy with other things.
- We do not take time to visualize his distress in our imagination.
- However, we have learned from experience, that such a misfortune naturally excites sorrow.
- We know that if we took time to consider his situation fully, we should sincerely sympathize with him.
- Our approval of his sorrow is founded on the consciousness of this conditional sympathy, even in cases where that sympathy does not actually take place.
- The general rules derived from our previous experiences of what our sentiments commonly correspond with, correct the impropriety of our present emotions.
The morality of an action depends on that action's cause (proper/improper) and effect (merit/demerit)
24 The goodness or badness of a feeling that creates any action may be considered under two aspects:
- In relation to its cause or motive that creates the feeling
- In relation to its end or effect which the feeling tends to produce
25 An action's propriety or impropriety depends on the suitableness or unsuitableness of the feeling that caused it.
26 An action's merit or demerit depends on the feeling's beneficial or harmful aims.
- A beneficial aim deserves reward
- A harmful aim deserves punishment
27 Philosophers have recently chiefly considered the tendency of affections.
- They have given little attention to the relation of their cause.
- In common life, however, we constantly judge any person's conduct and motives under both cause and effect.
- When we blame another man's excess of love, grief, or resentment, we consider:
- its ruinous effects and
- the little reason for it.
- We say that:
- his misfortune is not so dreadful nor his provocation so extraordinary to justify such a violent passion, and
- we should have perhaps approved of his violent emotion, had the cause been proportional to it.
28 When we judge of any affection as proportional or disproportional to its cause, we use our own affections as the rule.
- If we bring the case home to our own breast and we find that the sentiments which it creates coincide with our own, we approve of them as suitable to their objects.
- If otherwise, we disapprove of them.
29 Each man measures the faculty of others according to his own faculty.
- I judge of:
- your sight by my sight,
- your ear by my ear,
- your reason by my reason,
- your resentment by my resentment, and
- your love by my love.
- I have no other way of judging your faculties.
Next: Chapter 4: Continuation