Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 2, Section 3, Chapter 1: The Cause of the Influence of an Action's Outcome of People's Feelings on Merit or Demerit

Chapter 1: The Cause of this influence of outcome

Introduction

1The morality of any action is due to:

  1. the heart's intention, or
  2. the resulting physical action caused by the intention or
  3. the consequences which actually result from the action
 

2 The action and its consequences obviously cannot be the foundation of any praise or blame.

 

3 The only consequences which deserve approbation or disapprobation are those which were intended.

 

4 When this maxim is proposed abstractly and generally, everyone agrees to it.

 

5 But the actual outcome of any action has a very great effect on our feelings on its merit or demerit, despite the truth of this abstract, equitable maxim.

 

6 Everyone feels this irregularity of feelings.


Chapter 1: The Causes of this Influence of chance

7 In all animals, the causes of pain and pleasure are the objects which immediately excite gratitude and resentment.

 

Inanimate objects as the origin of superstition

8 In the same way, we conceive a sort of gratitude for those inanimate objects which have given us pleasure.

  • The Greek Dryads and Roman Lares came from a sort of trees and houses
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    Animal Rights

    9 Before anything can be the proper object of gratitude or resentment, it must

    Animals, therefore, are more proper objects of gratitude and resentment than inanimate objects.

     

    10 Animals are the causes of pleasure and pain.

    Gratitude chiefly desires to:

    The concord between the benefactor's sentiments and our own charms us most of all to our benefactor.

  • But the greatest mind is interested in preserving and increasing his esteem.
  • This is the reason why our gratitude is always diminished no matter how great our benefactor's services are when:
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    11 On the contrary, the object which resentment aims for is not so much to make our enemy feel pain in his turn.

    Three requirements for anything to be our object of gratitude or resentment

    12  Therefore, before anything can be the proper object of gratitude or resentment, it must have three qualifications:

    1. It must be the cause of pleasure in the one case, and pain in the other
  • It must be capable of feeling those sensations
  • It must have produced those sensations from a design that is approved of the one case, and disapproved of in the other.
  • 13 What gives pleasure is the sole exciting cause of gratitude.

    On the contrary, if a person's intentions were not laudably benevolent, but his actions produce great good, some gratitude arises towards him.


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    Next: Chapter 2: Extent of the Influence of an Action's Outcome of People's Feelings on Merit or Demerit