Western Political Thought II
Final Exam Study Guide
How are moral right and wrong determined, according to Smith’s moral theory?
[Smith held] that people are born with a moral sense, just as they have inborn ideas of beauty or harmony. Our conscience tells us what is right and wrong: and that is something innate, not something given us by lawmakers or by rational analysis. And to bolster it we also have a natural fellow-feeling, which Smith calls “sympathy”. Between them, these natural senses of conscience and sympathy ensure that human beings can and do live together in orderly and beneficial social organizations. So our morality is the product of our nature, not our reason
Smith concludes that men are inherently capable of forming moral judgment, of categorizing between notions of right and wrong. It is the selfish pursuit of sympathy that drives men to act morally. We do not wish to inflict and wish to… agent…
What is the impartial spectator, and what role does it play in Smith’s moral theory? What role
do general rules play in the theory?
Smith sees the origin of conscience in the sympathetic and antipathetic feelings of spectators. As spectators of the actions of other people, we can imagine how we would feel in their situation. If we would share their motives, we approve of their action. If not, we disapprove. When we ourselves take an action, we know from experience what spectators would feel, approval or disapproval. That knowledge forms conscience, an imagined impartial spectator who tells us whether an action is right or wrong. (Plays a crucial role.)
According to Smith, the process of sympathetic interaction results in the development of the higher virtues, moral norms, and moral order. The general rules comprising such a system of morality are the result of an induction process that each person performs based on his experiences. General rules are based upon individuals’ attempts to sympathize with specific actions. It is found by...