Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 7, Section 3, Chapter 1: Self-Love

Chapter 1: Self-love

Introduction

1After the inquiry on the nature of virtue, the next important question in Moral Philosophy is about the principle of approbation.

2 Three accounts have been given of this principle of approbation.

  1. According to some, we approve and disapprove of actions of ourselves and of others, from self-love only.
    • It is from some view of the tendency of self-love to our own happiness or disadvantage.
  2. According to others, reason enables us to distinguish between what is fit and unfit in actions and affections.
    • Reason is the faculty by which we distinguish between truth and falsehood.
  3. According to others, this distinction is the effect of immediate sentiment and feeling.
    • It arises from our satisfaction or disgust from the view of certain actions or affections.

Therefore, the three sources for the principle of approbation are:

  1. Self-love
  2. Reason
  3. Sentiment
 

3

The determination of approbation is most important in speculation, but is not important in practice.

Systems which Deduce the Principle of Approbation from Self-love

4 Those who account for the principle of approbation from self-love, do not all account for it in the same way.

 

5 When we consider it philosophically:

Virtue necessarily pleases.

Vice is necessarily as offensive

The origin of morality with regard to society's order comes from the principle which gives beauty to utility, which I explained in Part 4.

 

6 Those authors deduced that self-love is the cause for:

But they do not mean, that when we presently applaud Cato's virtue and detest Catiline's villainy, our sentiments are influenced by:

According to those philosophers, we esteemed Cato and blamed Catiline not because our present happiness or misery was influenced by the prosperity or subversion of those ancient and distant societies.

 

7

 However, sympathy cannot be regarded as a selfish principle in any sense.
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Next: Chapter 1: Self Live