Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 7, Section 1: Questions in Moral systems
Section 1: The Questions Which Should Be Examined in a Theory of Moral Sentiments
1Almost all of the remarkable theories on the nature of our moral feelings coincide partly with my theory.
- I have explained the view of nature which led each author to form his particular system.
- Every reputable system of morality is ultimately derived from some of those principles I have mentioned.
- In this respect, all of them are founded on natural principles.
- They are all in some measure in the right.
- But many of them are derived from an imperfect view of nature.
- So many of them are also in the wrong.
2 There are two questions in treating of moral principles:
- What is their definition of virtue?
- What is the conduct that makes up the praise-worthy character?
- This character is the natural object of esteem, honour, and approbation.
- By what faculty in the mind recommends this character to us?
- How does the mind:
- prefer one conduct to another?
- denominates the one right and the other wrong?
3 We examine the first question when we consider whether virtue consists in:
- benevolence, as Dr. Hutcheson imagines, or
- acting suitably to our different situations, as Dr. Clarke supposes, or
- the wise and prudent pursuit of our own real happiness, as has been the opinion of others.
4 We examine the second question, when we consider, whether the virtuous character is recommended to us by:
- This makes us perceive that this character promotes our own private interest.
- This shows the difference between one character and another, in the same way that it shows the difference between truth and falsehood.
- a peculiar power of perception, called a moral sense, which is:
- pleased by this virtuous character
- displeased by the contrary character
- some other principle in human nature, such as a modification of sympathy, or the like.
5 I shall begin with the systems based on their definition of virtue, then proceed to those systems which define the origin of our approbation for the virtuous character.
Next: Chapter 2b: Virtue as Propriety