Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 3, Chapter 1: The Principle of Self-approbation

Chapter 1: The Principle of Self-approbation


1 In Parts 1 and 2, I explained the origin and foundation of our judgments on the sentiments and conduct of others.


2 The principle which we use to approve or disapprove of our own conduct is the same with the principle which we use to to judge the conduct of others.

Our judgment always bears some secret reference to what we imagine would be the judgment of others.


While Public Morals are based on our sympathy with others, Private Morals are based on the sympathy of the Deity on us, through a natural construct called the conscience or an artificial construct called the impartial spectator which is our projection of our ideal self

3 A human who grew up in some solitary place, without any communication with other humans, could not think of:

All these are objects he cannot easily see.

Bring him into society, and all his own passions will immediately become the causes of new passions.


4 Our first ideas of personal beauty are drawn from the appearance of others, not from our own.

A handsome man will allow you to laugh at any little irregularity in him.

The Moral Mirror and the Two I's

5 In the same way, our first moral criticisms are exercised on the characters and conduct of others.

This is the only mirror we can use to scrutinize the propriety of our own conduct from the eyes of other people.


6 I divide myself into two persons when I:

I as the examiner and judge, is a different character from the I whose conduct is examined and judged.


7 The great characters of virtue are:

The great characters of vice are to be odious and punishable.

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Next: Chapter 2: The Love of Praise and the Dread of Blame