Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 1, Section 3, Chapter 2: Origin of Ambition and Distinction of Ranks

Chapter 2: The Origin of Ambition and Distinction of Ranks

Our sympathy with the false idea of the happiness of the rich and the great is the basis of ambition

16We parade our riches and hide our poverty because people sympathize more with our joy than our sorrow.

We pursue riches and avoid poverty chiefly from this regard to mankind's sentiments.

  • For what is all the world's toil and bustle?
  • What is the end of:
    • avarice and ambition,
    • the pursuit of wealth, power, and preeminence?

    We are interested with the vanity, not the ease or pleasure.

    Poor people are occupied with humble cares and painful attentions.

    On the contrary, the man of rank and distinction is observed by all.


    17 The imagination colors the condition of the great in delusive colours.

    To disturb or end such perfect enjoyment seems to be the most atrocious of all injuries.

    A stranger to human nature would be apt to imagine that:


    18The distinction of ranks and the order of society is founded on mankind's disposition to go along with all the feelings of the rich and the powerful

    Kings are the people's servants, to be obeyed, resisted, deposed, or punished, as required by the public convenience.


    19 Are the great insensible of the easy price at which they acquire the public admiration?

      23 It appears very important to be in the view of general sympathy and attention.

    It is said that people of sense hate place.

    But no man despises rank, distinction preeminence unless:


    24 Prosperity has its dazzling splendour from it being the natural object of mankind's joyous congratulations and sympathetic attentions.


    25 A brave man:

    On the contrary, the man who dies with resolution is naturally regarded with esteem and approbation.

    Jean Francois Paul de Gondi, Cardinal de Retz

    26 The Cardinal de Retz says:


    27 Human virtue is superior to pain, poverty, danger, and death.

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    Next: Chapter 3: Corruption of Moral Sentiments