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The Life of Adam Smith$
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Ian Simpson Ross

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198288213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198288212.001.0001

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Criticism of The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Criticism of The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Chapter:
(p.177) 12 Criticism of The Theory of Moral Sentiments
Source:
The Life of Adam Smith
Author(s):

Ian Simpson Ross

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198288212.003.0012

Here, we follow criticism of TMS by contemporaries, for example, Hume, who discerned that sympathy was the ‘Hinge’ of the book's system, but argued that Smith had not proved that all kinds of sympathies are necessarily agreeable, and that it was necessary to bring in a way of accounting for ‘disagreeable sympathy.’ This pushed Smith to make changes for the second edition of 1761, explaining more fully the moral psychology of sympathy and the role of imagination in the emplacement of the impartial spectator. A negative view of TMS came from the Common Sense philosopher, Thomas Reid, who argued that Smith's system did not offer a standard of virtue for measuring the emotions of the moral actor or the sympathy of the spectator, and that it was reason that informed our moral judgements. This criticism of Smith impressed the patrons of the Glasgow Chair of Moral Philosophy, including Kames, and Reid was chosen as Smith's successor, when he left Glasgow in 1764 to become a travelling tutor to the third Duke of Buccleuch.

Keywords:   common sense, imagination, psychology, Reid, virtue

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