Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 5, Chapter 1b: Custom and Fashion in the Arts

Chapter 1b: Custom and Fashion in the Arts

6 According to the ancient rhetoricians, a certain measure of verse was appropriated by nature to each species of writing.


7 On the contrary, the burlesque verse in French is pretty much the same with the heroic verse of ten syllables in English.


8 An eminent artist will:

The dress of a high ranking man recommends itself.

Within these 50 years, the Italians' taste in music and architecture has changed greatly.

How many great qualities must a writer have to render his own faults agreeable?


9 Custom and fashion also influence our judgments on the beauty of natural objects.

Father Buffier was a learned Jesuit.

How do different nations view human beauty?

  • In some nations, long ears that hang down on the shoulders are universally admired.
  • In China, a woman is regarded as an ugly monster if her foot is so large as to be fit to walk on.
  • Some of the savage North-American nations tie four boards around the heads of their children to squeeze them while their bones are tender to form a near-perfect square.

    10 According to this learned and ingenious Father, the whole charm of his system about the nature of beauty seems to arise from its falling in with the habits which custom had impressed on the imagination.

    Custom is not the sole principle of beauty.

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    Next: Chapter 2: Influence of Custom on Morals