Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) lays the foundation for a general system of morals, and is a text of central importance in the history of moral and political thought. By means of the idea of sympathy and the mental construct of an impartial spectator, Smith formulated highly original theories of conscience, moral judgment and the virtues. This volume offers a new edition of the text with helpful tes for the student reader, together with a substantial introduction that sets the work in its philosophical and historical context. -The Theory of Moral Sentiments- clearly demonstrates that besides mundane ecomic pursuits, Smith was just as interested, if t more so, in the capacity of people to bestow and to esteem benevolence, and to strive for virtue even while they are pursuing their own self-interest. The root of our motivation to act benevolently toward others, says Smith, is our natural propensity to sympathize with others. By the same token, our need to have others sympathize with us fuels our desire to be esteemed by others for our benevolence and generally virtuous character. Although -The Theory of Moral Sentiments- is t well kwn today, it was widely read and highly praised by the leading intellectuals of the day including David Hume and Edmund Burke. The book went through six different editions between 1759 and 1790 and was also translated into French by the widow of Condorcet. To gain a complete picture of Adam Smith and his ideas, every reader of -The Wealth of Nations- should also become familiar with his classic treatment of ethics.
Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The latter, usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. Adam Smith is widely cited as the father of modern economics. Smith studied moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow and Oxford University. After graduating he delivered a successful series of public lectures at Edinburgh, leading him to collaborate with David Hume during the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith obtained a professorship at Glasgow teaching moral philosophy, and during this time wrote and published The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In his later life he took a tutoring position which allowed him to travel throughout Europe where he met other intellectual leaders of his day. Smith returned home and spent the next ten years writing The Wealth of Nations (mainly from his lecture notes) which was published in 1776. He died in 1790.