Adam Smith: moral judgment versus moral theory

Smith, C. (2015) Adam Smith: moral judgment versus moral theory. In: Sison, A. J. G. (ed.) Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. Springer, pp. 1-8. ISBN 9789400767294 (doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-6729-4_63-1)

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The moral theory that Adam Smith provides us with in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a masterpiece of analysis. But it is a book with a very specific intention in mind. The Theory of Moral Sentiments is not primarily about what we ought to do or how we ought to live. Smith’s philosophical project is not intended to provide us with arguments in support of particular principles. It is not a guide to judgment; rather it is a profound analysis of the nature of moral judgment. This approach sets Smith’s philosophy in stark contrast to many of the other works of moral philosophy produced by the Enlightenment. Smith, unlike his Enlightenment peers Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant, does not identify a single principle that will allow us to resolve moral questions. Instead he points to how the various aspects of moral experience, including utility and rule-following, come together in our moral experience. This clears the way for Smith’s interest in the potentially more flexible virtue ethics approach as demonstrated by his addition of a new Part VI on the character of virtue to the final edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor Craig
Authors: Smith, C.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences

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