The Theory of Moral Sentiments

posted 11 Jan 2011, 23:27 by Jess Maher

The Theory of Moral Sentiments was written by Adam Smith in 1759. It provided the ethical, philosophical, psychological, and methodologicalunderpinnings to Smith's later works, including The Wealth of Nations (1776), A Treatise on Public Opulence (1764) (first published in 1937),Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795), and Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and Arms (1763) (first published in 1896).

Smith divided moral systems into:

  • Categories of the nature of morality. These included Propriety, Prudence, and Benevolence.
  • Categories of the motive of morality. These included Self-love, Reason, and Sentiment.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments: The Fourth Edition

Consists of 6 parts:

  • Part I: Of the propriety of action
  • Part II: Of merit and demerit; or of the objects of reward and punishment
  • Part III: Of the foundations of our judgments concerning our own sentiments and conduct, and of the sense of duty.
  • Part IV: Of the effect of utility upon the sentiments of approbation.
  • Part V: Of the influence of custom and fashion upon the sentiments of moral approbation and disapprobation.
  • Part VI: Of systems of moral philosophy

[edit]Part I: Of the propriety of action

Part one of the Theory of Moral Sentiments consists of three sections:

  • Section 1: Of the sense of propriety
  • Section 2: Of the degrees of which different passions are consistent with propriety
  • Section 3: Of the effects of propriety and adversity upon the judgment of mankind with regard to the propriety of action; and why it is more easy to obtain their approbation in the one state than the other

[edit]Part I, Section I: Of the Sense of Propriety

Section 1 consists of 5 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Of sympathy
  • Chapter 2: Of the pleasure of mutual sympathy
  • Chapter 3: Of the manner in which we judge of the propriety or impropriety of the affections of other men by their concord or dissonance with our own
  • Chapter 4: The same subject continued
  • Chapter 5: Of the amiable and respectable virtues
[edit]Part I, Section I, Chapter I: Of Sympathy

According to Smith humans have a natural tendency to care about the well-being of others for no other reason than the pleasure one gets from seeing them happy. He calls this sympathy, defining it "our fellow-feeling with any passion whatsoever" (p. 5). He argues that this occurs under either of two conditions:

  • We see firsthand the fortune or misfortune of another person
  • The fortune or misfortune is vividly depicted to us

Although this is apparently true, he follows to argue that this tendency lies even in "the greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society" (p.2).

Smith also proposes several variables that can moderate the extent of sympathy, noting that the situation that is the cause of the passion is the large determinant of our response:

  • The vividness of the account of the condition of another person

An important point put forth by Smith is that the degree to which we sympathize, or "tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels", is proportional to the degree of vividness in our observation or the description of the event.

  • Knowledge of the causes of the emotions

When observing the anger of another person, for example, we are unlikely to sympathize with this person because we "are unacquainted with his provocation" and as a result cannot imagine what it is like to feel what he feels. Further, since we can see the "fear and resentment" of those who are the targets of the person's anger we are likely to sympathize and take side with them. Thus, sympathetic responses are often conditional on or their magnitude is determined by the causes of the emotion in the person being sympathized with.

  • Whether other people are involved in the emotion
Part I, Section I, Chapter II: Of Pleasure and mutual sympathy

Smith continues by arguing that people feel pleasure from the presence of others with the same emotions as one's self, and displeasure in the presence of those with "contrary" emotions. Smith argues that this pleasure is not the result of self-interest: that others are more likely to assist oneself if they are in a similar emotional state. Smith also makes the case that pleasure from mutual sympathy is not derived merely from a heightening of the original felt emotion amplified by the other person. Smith further notes that people get more pleasure from the mutual sympathy of negative emotions than positive emotions, but we feel "more anxious to communicate to our friends" (p. 13) our negative emotions.

Smith proposes that mutual sympathy heightens the original emotion and "disburdens" the person of sorrow. This is a 'relief' model of mutual sympathy, where mutual sympathy heightens the sorrow but also produces pleasure from relief "because the sweetness of his sympathy more than compensates the bitterness of that sorrow" (p. 14). In contrast, mocking or joking about their sorrow is the "cruelest insult" one can inflict on another person:

To seem to not be affected by the joy of our companions is but want of politeness; but to not wear a serious countentance when they tell us their afflictions, is real and gross inhumanity (p. 14).

He makes clear that mutual sympathy of negative emotions is a necessary condition for friendship, whereas mutual sympathy of positive emotions is desirable but not required. This is due to the "healing consolation of mutual sympathy" that a friend is 'required' to provide in response to "grief and resentment", as if not doing so would be akin to a failure to help the physically wounded.

Not only do we get pleasure from the sympathy of others, but we also obtain pleasure from being able to successfully sympathize with others, and discomfort from failing to do so. Sympathizing is pleasurable, failing to sympathize is aversive. Smith also makes the case that failing to sympathize with another person may not be aversive to ourselves but we may find the emotion of the other person unfounded and blame them, as when another person experiences great happiness or sadness in response to an event that we think should not warrant such a response.

[edit]Part I, Section I, Chapter III: Of the manner in which we judge of the propriety or impropriety of the affections of other men by their concord or dissonance with our own

Smith presents the argument that approval or disapproval of the feelings of others is completely determined by whether we sympathize or fail to sympathize with their emotions. Specifically, if we sympathize with the feelings of another we judge that their feelings are just, and if we do not sympathize we judge that their feelings are unjust.

This holds in matters of opinion also, as Smith flatly states that we judge the opinions of others as correct or incorrect merely by determining whether they agree with our own opinions. Smith also cites a few examples where our judgment is not in line with our emotions and sympathy, as when we judge the sorrow of a stranger who has lost her mother as being justified even though we know nothing about the stranger and do not sympathize ourselves. However, according to Smith these non-emotional judgments are not independent from sympathy in that although we do not feel sympathy we do recognize that sympathy would be appropriate and lead us to this judgment and thus deem the judgment as correct.

Next, Smith puts forth that not only are the consequences of one's actions judged and used to determine whether one is just or unjust in committing them, but also whether one's sentiments justified the action that brought about the consequences. Thus, sympathy plays a role in determining judgments of the actions of others in that if we sympathize with the affections that brought about the action we are more likely to judge the action as just, and vice versa:

If upon bringing the case home to our own breast we find that the sentiments which it gives occasion to, coincide and tally with our own, we necessarily approve of them as proportioned and suitable to their objects; if otherwise, we necessarily disapprove of them, as extravagant and out of proportion (p. 20).

[edit]Part I, Section I, Chapter IV: The same subject continued

Smith delineates two conditions under which we judge the "propriety or impropriety of the sentiments of another person":

  • 1 When the objects of the sentiments are considered alone
  • 2 When the objects of the sentiments are considered in relation to the person or other persons
Part I, Section I, Chapter V: Of the amiable and respectable virtues

Smith starts to use an important new distinction in this section and late in the previous section:

  • The "person principally concerned": The person who has had emotions aroused by an object
  • The spectator: The person observing and sympathizing with the emotionally aroused "person principally concerned"

These two people have two different sets of virtues. The person principally concerned, in "bring[ing] down emotions to what the spectator can go along with" (p. 30), demonstrates "self-denial" and "self-government" whereas the spectator displays "the candid condescension and indulgent humanity" of "enter[ing]into the sentiments of the person principally concerned."

Smith returns to anger and how we find "detestable...the insolence and brutality" of the person principally concerned but "admire...the indignation which they naturally call forth in that of the impartial spectator" (p. 32). Smith concludes that the "perfection" of human nature is this mutual sympathy, or "love our neighbor as we love ourself" by "feeling much for others and little for ourself" and to indulge in "benevolent affections" (p. 32). Smith makes clear that it is this ability to "self-command" our "ungovernable passions" through sympathizing with others that is virtuous.

Smith further distinguishes between virtue and propriety:

[edit]Part I, Section II: Of the degrees of which different passions are consistent with propriety

  • Chapter 1: Of the passions which take their origins from the body
  • Chapter 2: Of the passions which take their origins from a particular turn or habit of the imagination
  • Chapter 3: Of the unsocial passions
  • Chapter 4: Of the social passions
  • Chapter 5: Of the selfish passions

Smith starts off by noting that the spectator can sympathize only with passions of medium "pitch". However, this medium level at which the spectator can sympathize depends on what "passion" or emotion is being expressed; with some emotions even the most justified expression of cannot be tolerated at a high level of fervor, at others sympathy in the spectator is not bounded by magnitude of expression even though the emotion is not as well justified. Again, Smith emphasizes that specific passions will be considered appropriate or inappropriate to varying degrees depending on the degree to which the spectator is able to sympathize, and that it is the purpose of this section to specify which passions evoke sympathy and which do not and therefore which are deemed appropriate and not appropriate.

[edit]Part I, Section II, Chapter I: Of the passions which take their origins from the body

Since it is not possible to sympathize with bodily states or "appetites which take their origin in the body" it is improper to display them to others, according to Smith. One example is "eating voraciously" when hungry, as the impartial spectator can sympathize a little bit if there is a vivid description and good cause for this hunger, but not to a great extent as hunger itself cannot be induced from mere description. Smith also includes sex as a passion of the body that is considered indecent in the expression of others, although he does make note that to fail to treat a woman with more "gaiety, pleasantry, and attention" would also be improper of a man (p. 39). To express pain is also considered unbecoming.

http://frank.mtsu.edu/~dryfe/SyllabusMaterials/Classreadings/habermas.pdf



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Moral_Sentiments



The key rights and responsibilities of the memorial creator

The memorial creator has the right to privacy and to be allowed to grieve and remember without hindrance. Where not the same person, the site creator should however always consider and respect the feelings of the next of kin.

The key rights and responsibilities of the service provider

Memorial website providers should respect the privacy and personal details of the creator as well as their right to control the appearance and content of their website. This should include providing the means with which to enable privacy and control postings to their memorial.

Whilst not being personally responsible for content, the service provider must always take action where necessary to prevent inappropriate or malicious content being posted and/or circulated.

Appropriate and Acceptable Site Promotion

Memorial websites should not be created in-house on a systematic basis for the purposes of marketing and recently bereaved people should not be approached directly through unsolicited cold calling or mail.

No advertising or promotional links should be placed on memorial websites nor should they be profiled in any way without the specific prior approval of the site creator.

Providing Clear and Transparent Charging Information

All charges for creating or using the service, both initial and any recurring charges, should be clearly displayed along with full contact details for the service provider.

Free help support for site users should always be made easily available.

Any limits in terms of website storage space and/or hosting time periods should also be clearly explained.

The latest version of the memorial code of ethics was Approved in May 2010. The memorial code was established by the online memorial website charity MuchLoved in conjunction with other leading online tribute and memorial website providers.



Amendment 1 Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly

Amendment 2 Right to bear arms

Amendment 3 Quartering of soldiers

Amendment 4 Search and arrest

Amendment 5 Rights in criminal cases

Amendment 6 Right to a fair trial

Amendment 7 Rights in civil cases

Amendment 8 bail, fines, punishment

Amendment 9 Rights retained by the People

Amendment 10 States' rights

Comments