Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 3, Chapter 2a: The Love of Praise and Dread of Blame

Chapter 2a: The Love of Praise and Dread of Blame

Praise is different from Praisworthiness, Blame is different from blameworthiness

8 Man naturally desires to be loved.

9 The love of praise-worthiness is not all derived from the love of praise.

10 We have a natural love for people with the character that we approve of.


Emulation is the anxious desire that we ourselves should excel.

We are happy if our character appears as what we would wish them to appear.


11 The most sincere praise gives little pleasure if it cannot be considered as proof of praiseworthiness.

We would think that a woman who wears makeup derives little vanity from the compliments paid to her complexion.


12 Groundless praise can give no solid joy.

Men have voluntarily thrown away life to acquire a renown which they could no longer enjoy after death.


The love of Praise and Praisworthiness, and Dread of Blame and blameworthiness come from Nature

13 When Nature formed man for society, she endowed him with:

She taught him to feel:

She rendered:


14 But this desire of approbation and aversion to disapprobation could not alone have rendered him fit for society.


15 To desire, or even to accept of praise, where no praise is due, can be the effect only of the most contemptible vanity.


16 Our natural love for some characters dispose us to wish to be loved ourselves.

These natural pangs of an fearful conscience:

The most detestable men have taken their measures so coolly as to avoid the suspicion of guilt in executing the most dreadful crimes.


17 In such cases, the horror of blame-worthiness completely conquers the dread of blame, even in persons who have no extraordinary sensibility of character.


18 Only the most frivolous and superficial people can be much delighted with unmerited praise.

But an innocent man is often shocked by the false imputation of a crime, especially when that imputation is supported by some circumstances.

On the contrary, the innocent man is tormented by the injustice done to him, over and above his uneasiness from this fear of death.

We hope that such fatal accidents happen very rarely in any country, for mankind's tranquility.


19 To persons in such unfortunate circumstances, that humble philosophy which confines its views to this life, perhaps can afford little consolation.

20 In smaller offences and greater crimes, a person of sensibility is frequently much more hurt by the unjust imputation, than the real criminal is by the actual guilt.

21 Why does unmerited reproach can severely mortify men of the best judgement?

22 In almost all cases, pain is a more pungent sensation than pleasure.

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Next: Chapter 2b: Public Opinion