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

Chapter 1: Self-love


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


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.



 However, sympathy cannot be regarded as a selfish principle in any sense.
Words: 1,138
Next: Chapter 1: Self Live