Superphysics Superphysics
Section 1

The Questions in a Theory of Moral Sentiments

by Adam Smith
1 minutes  • 199 words

1 Almost all of the remarkable theories on the nature of our moral feelings are partly correct and partly wrong due to their imperfect view of nature.

2 There are two questions regarding moral principles:

  1. What is their definition of virtue?
  2. 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 The first question leads to virtue-based moral systems.

  • Dr. Hutcheson’s system is based on benevolence
  • Dr. Clarke’s system is based on acting suitably to our situation
  • The system of others is based on the wise and prudent pursuit of our own real happiness

4 The second question leads to moral systems that derive virtue from=

  • self-love
    • This leads to moral systems based on private interest.
  • reason
    • This compares characters, similar to the comparison between truth and falsehood.
  • a moral sense, which is pleased by this virtuous character and displeased by the contrary one
  • some other principle in human nature, such as a modification of sympathy, or the like.

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