Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments

(799 words)
  • David Williams (University of Sheffield)

While the moral and philosophical position adopted by Smith in the Theory seems on the surface to differ radically from the position adopted in the Wealth of Nations, the Theory actually contains the seeds of his later thinking on questions relating to political economy. The central conceptual feature of the Theory relates to the doctrine of sympathy, by which Smith meant each individual's natural ability to identify with the situation of another individual, and to align his feelings with those of the other: “However selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him” (Part I, c…

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Williams, David. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 November 2002
[, accessed 05 July 2015.]