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The Theory of Moral Sentiments (First Edition)

The Theory of Moral Sentiments (First Edition) by Adam Smith
By: (1723-1790)

In "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," Adam Smith explores the complexity of human emotions and the role they play in shaping moral behavior. Through a series of philosophical reflections, Smith argues that our sense of right and wrong is not solely based on reason, but also on a natural sense of sympathy and compassion towards others.

Smith's writing is both insightful and thought-provoking, as he delves into the intricacies of human nature and the ways in which our moral judgments are influenced by our social interactions. He presents a compelling argument for the importance of empathy and understanding in moral decision-making, highlighting the interconnectedness of individuals within society.

While the language and style of the text may be challenging for some readers, the ideas presented in "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" are undeniably profound and relevant to contemporary discussions on ethics and morality. Overall, Smith's work is a valuable contribution to the field of moral philosophy, offering a fresh perspective on the complexities of human nature and the foundations of ethical behavior.

Book Description:

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.” (from The Theory of Moral Sentiments)

Adam Smith considered his first major book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, his most important work. Indeed, the tome was a wild success upon its publication, selling out immediately. It has not lost popularity since. In this legendary work, Smith discusses the nature of morality, and the motives behind and origins of these “sentiments.” Originally published in 1759, this work provides the philosophical underpinnings for his later works, as well as elucidating the psychological and moral foundations of the workings of a complex society. Smith parses many important concepts in this book, with the central questions perhaps being: Where do our moral principles come from? Are they divine and inborn, reflection of man-made laws, or rational, based on their usefulness to society? Smith’s answers to these questions and more, and his explanation of how such sentiments, however derived, influence society’s self-coordination, have interested lay and scholar alike for hundreds of years.

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