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Adam Smith and RousseauEthics, Politics, Economics$
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Maria Pia Paganelli, Dennis C. Rasmussen, and Craig Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474422857

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474422857.001.0001

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date: 08 April 2020

The Role of Interpersonal Comparisons in Moral Learning and the Sources of Recognition Respect: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s amour-propre and Adam Smith’s Sympathy

The Role of Interpersonal Comparisons in Moral Learning and the Sources of Recognition Respect: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s amour-propre and Adam Smith’s Sympathy

Chapter:
(p.55) 4 The Role of Interpersonal Comparisons in Moral Learning and the Sources of Recognition Respect: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s amour-propre and Adam Smith’s Sympathy
Source:
Adam Smith and Rousseau
Author(s):

Christel Fricke

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474422857.003.0004

I inquire into Rousseau’s and Smith’s views on moral psychology and on the role of interaction for people’s moral development. The question is whether Smith’s account of sympathy and the origin of people’s respect for others as their equals (recognition respect) was inspired by Rousseau’s pitié and amour-propre. I answer this question in the negative and argue that Smith proposed a more optimistic account of the possible effects of human interaction than Rousseau did. According to Rousseau, interpersonal comparisons feed our amour-propre, the wish to be admired by others; for our moral development, amour-propre has a destructive effect. And this effect is enforced in the framework of a society that imposes serious socio-economic differences on its members. While Smith was not blind to the moral challenges arising from socio-economic inequalities and the misery of the poor, he argued that sympathy-guided human interaction was crucial for a person’s moral development. Without entering into sympathetic processes with others, people cannot learn to judge moral matters from the point of view of impartial spectators.

Keywords:   Sympathy, amour-propre, impartial spectator, moral sentiments

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