Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 7, Section 4b: Breaches of Moral Rules

Chapter 4b: Breaches of Moral Rules

19Therefore, there were three kinds of breaches of moral duty which:

  1. 20Breaches of the rules of justice
    • These rules are all express and positive.
    • Their violation is naturally attended with:
      • the consciousness of deserving punishment and
      • the dread of suffering punishment from God and man.
  2. 21Breaches of the rules of chastity
    • In all grosser instances, these are real breaches of the rules of justice.
      • No person can be guilty of them without doing the most unpardonable injury to another.
    • In smaller instances, they cannot be considered as violations of the rules of justice.
      • In such instances, they amount only to a violation of exact decorums between man and woman.
      • However, they are generally violations of a pretty plain rule.
      • They bring ignominy on the guilty person.
      • They are attended with some shame and contrition in the scrupulous.
  3. 22Breaches of the rules of veracity
    • The violation of truth is not always a breach of justice, even if it is often so.
      • Consequently, it cannot always bring external punishment.
    • Common lying is a most miserable meanness.
      • It may frequently hurt no one.
      • In this case, no claim of vengeance or satisfaction can be due to the persons lied to or to others.
    • But the violation of truth is always a breach of a very plain rule.
      • It naturally covers the guilty person with shame.  

23In young children, there seems to be an instinctive disposition to believe whatever they are told.


24 The man whom we believe is necessarily our leader and director, in the things on which we believe him.


25  One of the strongest of all our natural desires seems to be the desire of:

Perhaps, it is the instinct on which the faculty of speech is founded.


26 It is always mortifying not to be believed.

27 We are mortified when unintentionally:

Frequently this involuntary falsehood is not from any lack of:

It is always a mark of some:

It always reduces our authority to persuade.

28 Frankness and openness gain confidence.

29 The man of reserve and concealment is seldom a very amiable character.

30 It is not always so with the man who has involuntarily deceived from:

For example, he is ashamed of his own carelessness if he tells false news, even if it is a matter of little consequence.

31 But the man who most frequently consulted them was the man of equivocation and mental reservation.

32 Therefore, the chief subjects of the casuists's works were:

33 The casuists uselessly attempted to direct, by precise rules, what can only be judged by feeling and sentiment.

34Therefore, the two useful parts of moral philosophy are Ethics and Jurisprudence.

35 Something like the doctrine of the casuists was attempted by several philosophers.

36 Every system of positive law may be regarded as an imperfect attempt towards a system of natural jurisprudence or towards an enumeration of the particular rules of justice.


A Standard Global Legal System

37 It might have been expected that the reasonings of lawyers on the imperfections of the laws of different countries, should have:

In another discourse, I shall try to give an account of:

Therefore, I shall not presently enter into any further detail about the history of jurisprudence.

Notes for this chapter

  1. Plato, Republic, Part 4
  2. Aristotle's distributive justice is somewhat different. It consists in the proper distribution of rewards from the public stock of a community. See Aristotle Ethic. Nic. l.5.c.2.
  3. See Artistotle Ethic. Nic. l.2.c.5. et seq. et l.3.c.3 et seq.
  4. See Aristotle Ethic. Nic. lib. ii. ch 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  5. See Aristotle Mag. Mor. lib. i. ch. 1.
  6. See Cicero de finibus. lib. iii.; also Dogenes Laertius in Zenone, lib. vii. segment 84
  7. Arrian. lib. ii.c.5.
  8. See Cicero de finibus, lib. 3. c.28. Olivet's edition.
  9. See Cicero de finibus. lib. i. Diogenes Laert. l, x.
  10. Prima naturae.
  11. See Inquiry concerning Virtue, sect. 1 and 2.
  12. Inquiry concerning virtue, sect. 2. art. 4. also Illustrations on the moral sense, sect. 5. last paragraph.
  13. Luxury and lust.
  14. Fable of the Bees.
  15. Puffendorff, Mandeville.
  16. Immutable Morality, l. 1.
  17. Inquiry concerning Virtue.
  18. Treatise of the Passions.
  19. Illustrations upon the Moral Sense, sect. 1, p. 237, et seq.; third edition.
  20. St. Augustine, La Placette.

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