. 5
( 13)


of a formidable enemy. To punish in this manner the author of bad
tidings, seems barbarous and inhuman: yet, to reward the messenger of
good news, is not disagreeable to us; we think it suitable to the bounty
of kings. But why do we make this difference, since, if there is no fault
in the one, neither is there any merit in the other? It is because any sort
of reason seems suf¬cient to authorize the exertion of the social and
benevolent affections; but it requires the most solid and substantial to
make us enter into that of the unsocial and malevolent.µ

· But though in general we are averse to enter into the unsocial and
malevolent affections, though we lay it down for a rule that we ought
never to approve of their grati¬cation, unless so far as the malicious
and unjust intention of the person, against whom they are directed,
renders him their proper object; yet, upon some occasions, we relax
of this severity. When the negligence of one man has occasioned some
unintended damage to another, we generally enter so far into the
resentment of the sufferer, as to approve of his in¬‚icting a punishment
upon the offender much beyond what the offence would have appeared
to deserve, had no such unlucky consequence followed from it.

 There is a degree of negligence, which would appear to deserve some
chastisement though it should occasion no damage to any body. Thus,
if a person should throw a large stone over a wall into a public street
without giving warning to those who might be passing by, and without
regarding where it was likely to fall, he would undoubtedly deserve
some chastisement. A very accurate police would punish so absurd an
action, even though it had done no mischief. The person who has been
guilty of it, shows an insolent contempt of the happiness and safety of

 Tigranes, King of Armenia from c.  BC and ally of Mithridates (see note  above). The enemy
was Lucullus. Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Lucullus, µ.
µ Cf. I.ii.“.

Of merit and demerit; reward and punishment

others. There is real injustice in his conduct. He wantonly exposes his
neighbour to what no man in his senses would chuse to expose himself,
and evidently wants that sense of what is due to his fellow-creatures
which is the basis of justice and of society. Gross negligence therefore
is, in the law, said to be almost equal to malicious design.b When
any unlucky consequences happen from such carelessness, the person
who has been guilty of it is often punished as if he had really intended
those consequences; and his conduct, which was only thoughtless
and insolent, and what deserved some chastisement, is considered
as atrocious, and as liable to the severest punishment. Thus if, by
the imprudent action above-mentioned, he should accidentally kill
a man, he is, by the laws of many countries, particularly by the old
law of Scotland, liable to the last punishment.· And though this
is no doubt excessively severe, it is not altogether inconsistent with
our natural sentiments. Our just indignation against the folly and
inhumanity of his conduct is exasperated by our sympathy with the
unfortunate sufferer. Nothing, however, would appear more shocking
to our natural sense of equity, than to bring a man to the scaffold
merely for having thrown a stone carelessly into the street without
hurting any body. The folly and inhumanity of his conduct, however,
would in this case be the same; but still our sentiments would be very
different. The consideration of this difference may satisfy us how
much the indignation, even of the spectator, is apt to be animated by
the actual consequences of the action. In cases of this kind there will,
if I am not mistaken, be found a great degree of severity in the laws
of almost all nations; as I have already observed that in those of an
opposite kind there was a very general relaxation of discipline.

 There is another degree of negligence which does not involve in it any
sort of injustice. The person who is guilty of it treats his neighbours
as he treats himself, means no harm to any body, and is far from
b Lata culpa prope dolum est.
 Smith is quoting Ulpian from the Digest, XVII.±. pr. While the emperor Justinian™s sixth-century
codi¬cation of Roman law used degrees of negligence, the neat division into three degrees which
Smith introduces in the following (culpa lata, culpa levis, culpa levissima) was only ¬rmed up
by the medieval commentators on the civil law but it was common-place in early modern legal
thought and was being used in natural law. Cf. LJ (A) ii.· and “; Thomas Reid, Practical Ethics
(Princeton, NJ, ±°) pp. ±·, µ“° and the sources quoted there.
· Cf. LJ (A) ii.±±, (B) ±·.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

entertaining any insolent contempt for the safety and happiness of
others. He is not, however, so careful and circumspect in his conduct
as he ought to be, and deserves upon this account some degree of
blame and censure, but no sort of punishment. Yet if by a negligencec
of this kind he should occasion some damage to another person, he
is by the laws of, I believe, all countries, obliged to compensate it.
And though this is no doubt a real punishment, and what no mortal
would have thought of in¬‚icting upon him, had it not been for the
unlucky accident which his conduct gave occasion to; yet this decision
of the law is approved of by the natural sentiments of all mankind.
Nothing, we think, can be more just than that one man should not
suffer by the carelessness of another; and that the damage occasioned
by blamable negligence, should be made up by the person who was
guilty of it.

±° There is another species of negligence,d which consists merely in a
want of the most anxious timidity and circumspection, with regard to
all the possible consequences of our actions. The want of this painful
attention, when no bad consequences follow from it, is so far from
being regarded as blamable, that the contrary quality is rather con-
sidered as such. That timid circumspection which is afraid of every
thing, is never regarded as a virtue, but as a quality which more than
any other incapacitates for action and business. Yet when, from a want
of this excessive care, a person happens to occasion some damage to
another, he is often by the law obliged to compensate it. Thus, by the
Aquilian law, the man, who not being able to manage a horse that had
accidentally taken fright, should happen to ride down his neighbour™s
slave, is obliged to compensate the damage. When an accident of this
kind happens, we are apt to think that he ought not to have rode such
a horse, and to regard his attempting it as an unpardonable levity;
though without this accident we should not only have made no such
re¬‚ection, but should have regarded his refusing it as the effect of timid
weakness, and of an anxiety about merely possible events, which it is
to no purpose to be aware of. The person himself, who by an accident
even of this kind has involuntarily hurt another, seems to have some

c d Cf. Justinian, Institutes, IV.iii..
Culpa levis. Culpa levissima.

Of merit and demerit; reward and punishment

sense of his own ill desert, with regard to him. He naturally runs up
to the sufferer to express his concern for what has happened, and to
make every acknowledgment in his power. If he has any sensibility, he
necessarily desires to compensate the damage, and to do every thing
he can to appease that animal resentment, which he is sensible will be
apt to arise in the breast of the sufferer. To make no apology, to offer
no atonement, is regarded as the highest brutality. Yet why should he
make an apology more than any other person? Why should he, since
he was equally innocent with any other bystander, be thus singled out
from among all mankind, to make up for the bad fortune of another?
This task would surely never be imposed upon him, did not even the
impartial spectator feel some indulgence for what may be regarded as
the unjust resentment of that other.

Chapter III Of the ¬nal cause of this irregularity of sentiments
± Such is the effect of the good or bad consequences of actions upon the
sentiments both of the person who performs them, and of others; and
thus, Fortune, which governs the world, has some in¬‚uence where we
should be least willing to allow her any, and directs in some measure
the sentiments of mankind, with regard to the character and conduct
both of themselves and others. That the world judges by the event, and
not by the design, has been in all ages the complaint, and is the great
discouragement of virtue. Every body agrees to the general maxim,
that as the event does not depend on the agent, it ought to have no
in¬‚uence upon our sentiments, with regard to the merit or propriety
of his conduct. But when we come to particulars, we ¬nd that our
sentiments are scarce in any one instance exactly conformable to what
this equitable maxim would direct. The happy or unprosperous event
of any action, is not only apt to give us a good or bad opinion of the
prudence with which it was conducted, but almost always too animates
our gratitude or resentment, our sense of the merit or demerit of the

 Nature, however, when she implanted the seeds of this irregularity
in the human breast, seems, as upon all other occasions, to have in-
tended the happiness and perfection of the species. If the hurtfulness
of the design, if the malevolence of the affection, were alone the causes

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

which excited our resentment, we should feel all the furies of that pas-
sion against any person in whose breast we suspected or believed such
designs or affections were harboured, though they had never broke
out into any action. Sentiments, thoughts, intentions, would become
the objects of punishment; and if the indignation of mankind run as
high against them as against actions; if the baseness of the thought
which had given birth to no action, seemed in the eyes of the world as
much to call aloud for vengeance as the baseness of the action, every
court of judicature would become a real inquisition. There would be no
safety for the most innocent and circumspect conduct. Bad wishes, bad
views, bad designs, might still be suspected; and while these excited
the same indignation with bad conduct, while bad intentions were as
much resented as bad actions, they would equally expose the person
to punishment and resentment. Actions, therefore, which either pro-
duce actual evil, or attempt to produce it, and thereby put us in the
immediate fear of it, are by the Author of nature rendered the only
proper and approved objects of human punishment and resentment.
Sentiments, designs, affections, though it is from these that according
to cool reason human actions derive their whole merit or demerit, are
placed by the great Judge of hearts beyond the limits of every human
jurisdiction, and are reserved for the cognizance of his own unerring
tribunal. That necessary rule of justice, therefore, that men in this life
are liable to punishment for their actions only, not for their designs
and intentions, is founded upon this salutary and useful irregularity
in human sentiments concerning merit or demerit, which at ¬rst sight
appears so absurd and unaccountable. But every part of nature, when
attentively surveyed, equally demonstrates the providential care of its
Author, and we may admire the wisdom and goodness of God even in
the weakness and folly of man.

 Nor is that irregularity of sentiments altogether without its utility, by
which the merit of an unsuccessful attempt to serve, and much more
that of mere good inclinations and kind wishes, appears to be imperfect.
Man was made for action, and to promote by the exertion of his faculties
such changes in the external circumstances both of himself and others,
as may seem most favourable to the happiness of all. He must not be

 Cf. VI.iii.°.

Of merit and demerit; reward and punishment

satis¬ed with indolent benevolence, nor fancy himself the friend of
mankind, because in his heart he wishes well to the prosperity of the
world. That he may call forth the whole vigour of his soul, and strain
every nerve, in order to produce those ends which it is the purpose of
his being to advance, Nature has taught him, that neither himself nor
mankind can be fully satis¬ed with his conduct, nor bestow upon it
the full measure of applause, unless he has actually produced them. He
is made to know, that the praise of good intentions, without the merit
of good of¬ces, will be but of little avail to excite either the loudest
acclamations of the world, or even the highest degree of self-applause.
The man who has performed no single action of importance, but whose
whole conversation and deportment express the justest, the noblest,
and most generous sentiments, can be entitled to demand no very high
reward, even though his inutility should be owing to nothing but the
want of an opportunity to serve. We can still refuse it him without blame.
We can still ask him, What have you done? What actual service can you
produce, to entitle you to so great a recompense? We esteem you, and
love you; but we owe you nothing. To reward indeed that latent virtue
which has been useless only for want of an opportunity to serve, to
bestow upon it those honours and preferments, which, though in some
measure it may be said to deserve them, it could not with propriety
have insisted upon, is the effect of the most divine benevolence. To
punish, on the contrary, for the affections of the heart only, where no
crime has been committed, is the most insolent and barbarous tyranny.
The benevolent affections seem to deserve most praise, when they do
not wait till it becomes almost a crime for them not to exert themselves.
The malevolent, on the contrary, can scarce be too tardy, too slow, or

 It is even of considerable importance, that the evil which is done with-
out design should be regarded as a misfortune to the doer as well as to
the sufferer. Man is thereby taught to reverence the happiness of his
brethren, to tremble lest he should, even unknowingly, do any thing that
can hurt them, and to dread that animal resentment which, he feels,
is ready to burst out against him, if he should, without design, be the
unhappy instrument of their calamity. As, in the ancient heathen reli-
gion, that holy ground which had been consecrated to some god, was
not to be trod upon but upon solemn and necessary occasions, and the

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

man who had even ignorantly violated it, became piacular from that
moment, and, until proper atonement should be made, incurred the
vengeance of that powerful and invisible being to whom it had been set
apart;° so, by the wisdom of Nature, the happiness of every innocent
man is, in the same manner, rendered holy, consecrated, and hedged
round against the approach of every other man; not to be wantonly trod
upon, not even to be, in any respect, ignorantly and involuntarily vio-
lated, without requiring some expiation, some atonement in proportion
to the greatness of such undesigned violation. A man of humanity, who
accidentally, and without the smallest degree of blamable negligence,
has been the cause of the death of another man, feels himself piacular,
though not guilty. During his whole life he considers this accident as
one of the greatest misfortunes that could have befallen him. If the
family of the slain is poor, and he himself in tolerable circumstances, he
immediately takes them under his protection, and, without any other
merit, thinks them entitled to every degree of favour and kindness. If
they are in better circumstances, he endeavours by every submission,
by every expression of sorrow, by rendering them every good of¬ce
which he can devise or they accept of, to atone for what has happened,
and to propitiate, as much as possible, their, perhaps natural, though
no doubt most unjust resentment, for the great, though involuntary,
offence which he has given them.

µ The distress which an innocent person feels, who, by some accident,
has been led to do something which, if it had been done with knowledge
and design, would have justly exposed him to the deepest reproach, has
given occasion to some of the ¬nest and most interesting scenes both of
the ancient and of the modern drama. It is this fallacious sense of guilt,
if I may call it so, which constitutes the whole distress of Oedipus and
Jocasta upon the Greek, of Monimia and Isabella upon the English,
theatre.± They are all of them in the highest degree piacular, though
not one of them is in the smallest degree guilty.
° Piaculum in Latin is a means of atoning for an offence against a deity, i.e. a sacri¬ce, and, transferred,
it is also the offensive act for which atonement is required and the agent is thus ˜piacular™. The
term was readily adopted by Christianity.
± In Sophocles™ Oedipus Rex Oedipus married his mother Jocasta ignorant of their relationship. In
Otway™s The Orphan (cf. I.ii.. above) Monimia slept with her brother-in-law, believing he was
her husband. In Thomas Southerne™s The Fatal Marriage, or The Innocent Adultery (±) Isabelle
re-married in the belief that her husband was dead.

Of merit and demerit; reward and punishment

 Notwithstanding, however, all these seeming irregularities of senti-
ment, if man should unfortunately either give occasion to those evils
which he did not intend, or fail in producing that good which he in-
tended, Nature has not left his innocence altogether without conso-
lation, nor his virtue altogether without reward. He then calls to his
assistance that just and equitable maxim, That those events which did
not depend upon our conduct, ought not to diminish the esteem that
is due to us. He summons up his whole magnanimity and ¬rmness of
soul, and strives to regard himself, not in the light in which he at present
appears, but in that in which he ought to appear, in which he would
have appeared had his generous designs been crowned with success,
and in which he would still appear, notwithstanding their miscarriage,
if the sentiments of mankind were either altogether candid and equi-
table, or even perfectly consistent with themselves. The more candid
and humane part of mankind entirely go along with the effort which
he thus makes to support himself in his own opinion. They exert their
whole generosity and greatness of mind, to correct in themselves this
irregularity of human nature, and endeavour to regard his unfortu-
nate magnanimity in the same light in which, had it been successful,
they would, without any such generous exertion, have naturally been
disposed to consider it.

Part III
Of the foundation of our judgments concerning
our own sentiments and conduct,
and of the sense of duty
Chapter I Of the principle of self-approbation and of self-disapprobation
± In the two foregoing parts of this discourse, I have chie¬‚y considered
the origin and foundation of our judgments concerning the sentiments
and conduct of others. I come now to consider more particularly the
origin of those concerning our own.

 The principle by which we naturally either approve or disapprove of
our own conduct, seems to be altogether the same with that by which we
exercise the like judgments concerning the conduct of other people. We
either approve or disapprove of the conduct of another man according
as we feel that, when we bring his case home to ourselves, we either can
or cannot entirely sympathize with the sentiments and motives which
directed it. And, in the same manner, we either approve or disapprove
of our own conduct, according as we feel that, when we place ourselves
in the situation of another man, and view it, as it were, with his eyes
and from his station, we either can or cannot entirely enter into and
sympathize with the sentiments and motives which in¬‚uenced it. We
can never survey our own sentiments and motives, we can never form
any judgment concerning them; unless we remove ourselves, as it were,
from our own natural station, and endeavour to view them as at a
certain distance from us. But we can do this in no other way than
by endeavouring to view them with the eyes of other people, or as
other people are likely to view them. Whatever judgment we can form
concerning them, accordingly, must always bear some secret reference,
either to what are, or to what, upon a certain condition, would be, or to

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

what, we imagine, ought to be the judgment of others. We endeavour
to examine our own conduct as we imagine any other fair and impartial
spectator would examine it. If, upon placing ourselves in his situation,
we thoroughly enter into all the passions and motives which in¬‚uenced
it, we approve of it, by sympathy with the approbation of this supposed
equitable judge. If otherwise, we enter into his disapprobation, and
condemn it.

 Were it possible that a human creature could grow up to manhood in
some solitary place, without any communication with his own species,
he could no more think of his own character, of the propriety or demerit
of his own sentiments and conduct, of the beauty or deformity of his
own mind, than of the beauty or deformity of his own face. All these
are objects which he cannot easily see, which naturally he does not look
at, and with regard to which he is provided with no mirror which can
present them to his view. Bring him into society, and he is immediately
provided with the mirror which he wanted before.± It is placed in the
countenance and behaviour of those he lives with, which always mark
when they enter into, and when they disapprove of his sentiments; and
it is here that he ¬rst views the propriety and impropriety of his own
passions, the beauty and deformity of his own mind. To a man who
from his birth was a stranger to society, the objects of his passions,
the external bodies which either pleased or hurt him, would occupy
his whole attention. The passions themselves, the desires or aversions,
the joys or sorrows, which those objects excited, though of all things
the most immediately present to him, could scarce ever be the objects
of his thoughts. The idea of them could never interest him so much
as to call upon his attentive consideration. The consideration of his
joy could in him excite no new joy, nor that of his sorrow any new
sorrow, though the consideration of the causes of those passions might
often excite both. Bring him into society, and all his own passions will
immediately become the causes of new passions. He will observe that
mankind approve of some of them, and are disgusted by others. He will
be elevated in the one case, and cast down in the other; his desires and
aversions, his joys and sorrows, will now often become the causes of new
desires and new aversions, new joys and new sorrows: they will now,
± Cf. Hume, Treatise, II.ii.µ: ˜the minds of men are mirrors to one another™.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

therefore, interest him deeply, and often call upon his most attentive

 Our ¬rst ideas of personal beauty and deformity, are drawn from the
shape and appearance of others, not from our own. We soon become
sensible, however, that others exercise the same criticism upon us. We
are pleased when they approve of our ¬gure, and are disobliged when
they seem to be disgusted. We become anxious to know how far our
appearance deserves either their blame or approbation. We examine
our persons limb by limb, and by placing ourselves before a looking-
glass, or by some such expedient, endeavour, as much as possible, to
view ourselves at the distance and with the eyes of other people. If,
after this examination, we are satis¬ed with our own appearance, we
can more easily support the most disadvantageous judgments of others.
If, on the contrary, we are sensible that we are the natural objects of
distaste, every appearance of their disapprobation morti¬es us beyond
all measure. A man who is tolerably handsome, will allow you to laugh
at any little irregularity in his person; but all such jokes are commonly
unsupportable to one who is really deformed. It is evident, however,
that we are anxious about our own beauty and deformity, only upon
account of its effect upon others. If we had no connexion with society,
we should be altogether indifferent about either.

µ In the same manner our ¬rst moral criticisms are exercised upon the
characters and conduct of other people; and we are all very forward
to observe how each of these affects us. But we soon learn, that other
people are equally frank with regard to our own. We become anxious to
know how far we deserve their censure or applause, and whether to them
 In the ¬rst edition there followed three paragraphs which in subsequent editions were distributed
elsewhere in the chapter except that one of these paragraphs was omitted entirely in the sixth
edition. It read as follows in the original version:
A moral being is an accountable being. An accountable being, as the word expresses,
is a being that must give an account of its actions to some other, and that consequently
must regulate them according to the good-liking of this other. Man is accountable
to God and his fellow creatures. But tho™ he is, no doubt, principally accountable to
God, in the order of time, he must necessarily conceive himself as accountable to his
fellow creatures, before he can form any idea of the Deity, or of the rules by which that
Divine Being will judge of his conduct. A child surely conceives itself as accountable
to its parents, and is elevated or cast down by the thought of their merited approbation
or disapprobation, long before it forms any idea of its accountableness to the Deity,
or of the rules by which that Divine Being will judge of its conduct.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

we must necessarily appear those agreeable or disagreeable creatures
which they represent us. We begin, upon this account, to examine our
own passions and conduct, and to consider how these must appear to
them, by considering how they would appear to us if in their situation.
We suppose ourselves the spectators of our own behaviour, and endeav-
our to imagine what effect it would, in this light, produce upon us. This
is the only looking-glass by which we can, in some measure, with the
eyes of other people, scrutinize the propriety of our own conduct. If in
this view it pleases us, we are tolerably satis¬ed. We can be more indif-
ferent about the applause, and, in some measure, despise the censure
of the world; secure that, however misunderstood or misrepresented,
we are the natural and proper objects of approbation. On the contrary,
if we are doubtful about it, we are often, upon that very account, more
anxious to gain their approbation, and, provided we have not already, as
they say, shaken hands with infamy, we are altogether distracted at the
thoughts of their censure, which then strikes us with double severity.

 When I endeavour to examine my own conduct, when I endeavour to
pass sentence upon it, and either to approve or condemn it, it is evi-
dent that, in all such cases, I divide myself, as it were, into two persons;
and that I, the examiner and judge, represent a different character from
that other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged
of. The ¬rst is the spectator, whose sentiments with regard to my own
conduct I endeavour to enter into, by placing myself in his situation,
and by considering how it would appear to me, when seen from that
particular point of view. The second is the agent, the person whom I
properly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a
spectator, I was endeavouring to form some opinion. The ¬rst is the
judge; the second the person judged of. But that the judge should,
in every respect, be the same with the person judged of, is as im-
possible, as that the cause should, in every respect, be the same with
the effect.
 Edition ± adds a further paragraph:
Unfortunately this moral looking-glass is not always a very good one. Common
looking-glasses, it is said, are extremely deceitful, and by the glare which they throw
over the face, conceal from the partial eyes of the person many deformities which
are obvious to every body besides. But there is not in the world such a smoother
of wrinkles as is every man™s imagination, with regard to the blemishes of his
own character.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

· To be amiable and to be meritorious; that is, to deserve love and to
deserve reward, are the great characters of virtue; and to be odious
and punishable, of vice. But all these characters have an immediate
reference to the sentiments of others. Virtue is not said to be amiable,
or to be meritorious, because it is the object of its own love, or of its
own gratitude; but because it excites those sentiments in other men.
The consciousness that it is the object of such favourable regards, is
the source of that inward tranquillity and self-satisfaction with which
it is naturally attended, as the suspicion of the contrary gives occasion
to the torments of vice. What so great happiness as to be beloved, and
to know that we deserve to be beloved? What so great misery as to be
hated, and to know that we deserve to be hated?

Chapter II Of the love of praise, and of that of praise-worthiness;
and of the dread of blame, and of that of blame-worthiness
± Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be
that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally
dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which
is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires, not only praise,
but praise-worthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be
praised by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of praise.
He dreads, not only blame, but blame-worthiness; or to be that thing
which, though it should be blamed by nobody, is, however, the natural
and proper object of blame.

 The love of praise-worthiness is by no means derived altogether from
the love of praise. Those two principles, though they resemble one an-
other, though they are connected, and often blended with one another,
are yet, in many respects, distinct and independent of one another.

 The love and admiration which we naturally conceive for those whose
character and conduct we approve of, necessarily dispose us to desire
to become ourselves the objects of the like agreeable sentiments, and to
be as amiable and as admirable as those whom we love and admire the
most. Emulation, the anxious desire that we ourselves should excel,

 This and the following two paragraphs were added in edition .

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

is originally founded in our admiration of the excellence of others.
Neither can we be satis¬ed with being merely admired for what other
people are admired. We must at least believe ourselves to be admirable
for what they are admirable. But, in order to attain this satisfaction,
we must become the impartial spectators of our own character and
conduct. We must endeavour to view them with the eyes of other peo-
ple, or as other people are likely to view them. When seen in this light,
if they appear to us as we wish, we are happy and contented. But it
greatly con¬rms this happiness and contentment when we ¬nd that
other people, viewing them with those very eyes with which we, in
imagination only, were endeavouring to view them, see them precisely
in the same light in which we ourselves had seen them. Their appro-
bation necessarily con¬rms our own self-approbation. Their praise
necessarily strengthens our own sense of our own praise-worthiness.
In this case, so far is the love of praise-worthiness from being derived
altogether from that of praise; that the love of praise seems, at least in
a great measure, to be derived from that of praise-worthiness.

 The most sincere praise can give little pleasure when it cannot be
considered as some sort of proof of praise-worthiness. It is by no means
suf¬cient that, from ignorance or mistake, esteem and admiration
should, in some way or other, be bestowed upon us. If we are conscious
that we do not deserve to be so favourably thought of, and that if
the truth were known, we should be regarded with very different
sentiments, our satisfaction is far from being complete. The man who
applauds us either for actions which we did not perform, or for motives
which had no sort of in¬‚uence upon our conduct, applauds not us, but
another person. We can derive no sort of satisfaction from his praises.
To us they should be more mortifying than any censure, and should
perpetually call to our minds, the most humbling of all re¬‚ections,
the re¬‚ection of what we ought to be, but what we are not. A woman
who paints, could derive, one should imagine, but little vanity from
the compliments that are paid to her complexion.These, we should
expect, ought rather to put her in mind of the sentiments which her real
complexion would excite, and mortify her the more by the contrast.
To be pleased with such groundless applause is a proof of the most
super¬cial levity and weakness. It is what is properly called vanity,
and is the foundation of the most ridiculous and contemptible vices,

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

the vices of affectation and common lying; follies which, if experience
did not teach us how common they are, one should imagine the least
spark of common sense would save us from. The foolish liar, who
endeavours to excite the admiration of the company by the relation
of adventures which never had any existence; the important coxcomb,
who gives himself airs of rank and distinction which he well knows
he has no just pretensions to; are both of them, no doubt, pleased
with the applause which they fancy they meet with. But their vanity
arises from so gross an illusion of the imagination, that it is dif¬cult
to conceive how any rational creature should be imposed upon by
it. When they place themselves in the situation of those whom they
fancy they have deceived, they are struck with the highest admiration
for their own persons. They look upon themselves, not in that light
in which, they know, they ought to appear to their companions, but
in that in which they believe their companions actually look upon
them. Their super¬cial weakness and trivial folly hinder them from
ever turning their eyes inwards, or from seeing themselves in that
despicable point of view in which their own consciences must tell
them that they would appear to every body, if the real truth should
ever come to be known.

µ As ignorant and groundless praise can give no solid joy, no satisfac-
tion that will bear any serious examination, so, on the contrary, it often
gives real comfort to re¬‚ect, that though no praise should actually be
bestowed upon us, our conduct, however, has been such as to deserve
it, and has been in every respect suitable to those measures and rules by
which praise and approbation are naturally and commonly bestowed.
We are pleased, not only with praise, but with having done what is
praise-worthy. We are pleased to think that we have rendered ourselves
the natural objects of approbation, though no approbation should ever
actually be bestowed upon us: and we are morti¬ed to re¬‚ect that we
have justly merited the blame of those we live with, though that sen-
timent should never actually be exerted against us. The man who is
conscious to himself that he has exactly observed those measures of
conduct which experience informs him are generally agreeable, re-
¬‚ects with satisfaction on the propriety of his own behaviour. When
he views it in the light in which the impartial spectator would view it,

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

he thoroughly enters into all the motives which in¬‚uenced it. He looks
back upon every part of it with pleasure and approbation, and though
mankind should never be acquainted with what he has done, he re-
gards himself, not so much according to the light in which they actually
regard him, as according to that in which they would regard him if
they were better informed. He anticipates the applause and admiration
which in this case would be bestowed upon him, and he applauds and
admires himself by sympathy with sentiments, which do not indeed
actually take place, but which the ignorance of the public alone hin-
ders from taking place, which he knows are the natural and ordinary
effects of such conduct, which his imagination strongly connects with
it, and which he has acquired a habit of conceiving as something that
naturally and in propriety ought to follow from it. Men have voluntar-
ily thrown away life to acquire after death a renown which they could
no longer enjoy. Their imagination, in the mean time, anticipated that
fame which was in future times to be bestowed upon them. Those ap-
plauses which they were never to hear rung in their ears; the thoughts
of that admiration, whose effects they were never to feel, played about
their hearts, banished from their breasts the strongest of all natural
fears, and transported them to perform actions which seem almost
beyond the reach of human nature. But in point of reality there is
surely no great difference between that approbation which is not to be
bestowed till we can no longer enjoy it, and that which, indeed, is never
to be bestowed, but which would be bestowed, if the world was ever
made to understand properly the real circumstances of our behaviour.
If the one often produces such violent effects, we cannot wonder that
the other should always be highly regarded.

 Nature, when she formed man for society, endowed him with an orig-
inal desire to please, and an original aversion to offend his brethren.
She taught him to feel pleasure in their favourable, and pain in their
unfavourable regard. She rendered their approbation most ¬‚attering
and most agreeable to him for its own sake; and their disapprobation
most mortifying and most offensive.µ

µ This and the following two paragraphs plus the ¬rst three sentences of paragraph  were added in
edition .

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

· But this desire of the approbation, and this aversion to the disappro-
bation of his brethren, would not alone have rendered him ¬t for that
society for which he was made. Nature, accordingly, has endowed him,
not only with a desire of being approved of, but with a desire of being
what ought to be approved of; or of being what he himself approves of
in other men. The ¬rst desire could only have made him wish to ap-
pear to be ¬t for society. The second was necessary in order to render
him anxious to be really ¬t. The ¬rst could only have prompted him
to the affectation of virtue, and to the concealment of vice. The sec-
ond was necessary in order to inspire him with the real love of virtue,
and with the real abhorrence of vice. In every well-formed mind this
second desire seems to be the strongest of the two. It is only the weak-
est and most super¬cial of mankind who can be much delighted with
that praise which they themselves know to be altogether unmerited.
A weak man may sometimes be pleased with it, but a wise man rejects
it upon all occasions. But, though a wise man feels little pleasure from
praise where he knows there is no praise-worthiness, he often feels the
highest in doing what he knows to be praise-worthy, though he knows
equally well that no praise is ever to be bestowed upon it. To obtain the
approbation of mankind, where no approbation is due, can never be
an object of any importance to him. To obtain that approbation where
it is really due, may sometimes be an object of no great importance to
him. But to be that thing which deserves approbation, must always be
an object of the highest.

 To desire, or even to accept of praise, where no praise is due, can be
the effect only of the most contemptible vanity. To desire it where
it is really due, is to desire no more than that a most essential act
of justice should be done to us. The love of just fame, of true glory,
even for its own sake, and independent of any advantage which he can
derive from it, is not unworthy even of a wise man. He sometimes,
however, neglects, and even despises it; and he is never more apt to
do so than when he has the most perfect assurance of the perfect
propriety of every part of his own conduct. His self-approbation, in
this case, stands in need of no con¬rmation from the approbation of
other men. It is alone suf¬cient, and he is contented with it. This
self-approbation, if not the only, is at least the principal object, about
which he can or ought to be anxious. The love of it, is the love of virtue.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

 As the love and admiration which we naturally conceive for some
characters, dispose us to wish to become ourselves the proper objects
of such agreeable sentiments; so the hatred and contempt which we as
naturally conceive for others, dispose us, perhaps still more strongly,
to dread the very thought of resembling them in any respect. Neither
is it, in this case, too, so much the thought of being hated and de-
spised that we are afraid of, as that of being hateful and despicable. We
dread the thought of doing any thing which can render us the just and
proper objects of the hatred and contempt of our fellow-creatures;
even though we had the most perfect security that those sentiments
were never actually to be exerted against us. The man who has broke
through all those measures of conduct, which can alone render him
agreeable to mankind, though he should have the most perfect assur-
ance that what he had done was for ever to be concealed from every
human eye, it is all to no purpose. When he looks back upon it, and
views it in the light in which the impartial spectator would view it, he
¬nds that he can enter into none of the motives which in¬‚uenced it.
He is abashed and confounded at the thoughts of it, and necessarily
feels a very high degree of that shame which he would be exposed
to, if his actions should ever come to be generally known. His imag-
ination, in this case too, anticipates the contempt and derision from
which nothing saves him but the ignorance of those he lives with. He
still feels that he is the natural object of these sentiments, and still
trembles at the thought of what he would suffer, if they were ever
actually exerted against him. But if what he had been guilty of was
not merely one of those improprieties which are the objects of simple
disapprobation, but one of those enormous crimes which excite detes-
tation and resentment, he could never think of it, as long as he had any
sensibility left, without feeling all the agony of horror and remorse;
and though he could be assured that no man was ever to know it, and
could even bring himself to believe that there was no God to revenge
it, he would still feel enough of both these sentiments to embitter the
whole of his life: he would still regard himself as the natural object of
the hatred and indignation of all his fellow-creatures; and, if his heart
was not grown callous by the habit of crimes, he could not think with-
out terror and astonishment even of the manner in which mankind
would look upon him, of what would be the expression of their coun-
tenance and of their eyes, if the dreadful truth should ever come to be

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

known. These natural pangs of an affrighted conscience are the d¦-
mons, the avenging furies, which, in this life, haunt the guilty, which
allow them neither quiet nor repose, which often drive them to despair
and distraction, from which no assurance of secrecy can protect them,
from which no principles of irreligion can entirely deliver them, and
from which nothing can free them but the vilest and most abject of
all states, a complete insensibility to honour and infamy, to vice and
virtue. Men of the most detestable characters, who, in the execution
of the most dreadful crimes, had taken their measures so coolly as to
avoid even the suspicion of guilt, have sometimes been driven, by the
horror of their situation, to discover, of their own accord, what no
human sagacity could ever have investigated. By acknowledging their
guilt, by submitting themselves to the resentment of their offended
fellow-citizens, and, by thus satiating that vengeance of which they
were sensible that they had become the proper objects, they hoped, by
their death to reconcile themselves, at least in their own imagination,
to the natural sentiments of mankind; to be able to consider themselves
as less worthy of hatred and resentment; to atone, in some measure,
for their crimes, and, by thus becoming the objects, rather of compas-
sion than of horror, if possible to die in peace and with the forgiveness
of all their fellow-creatures. Compared to what they felt before the
discovery, even the thought of this, it seems, was happiness.

±° In such cases, the horror of blame-worthiness seems, even in persons
who cannot be suspected of any extraordinary delicacy or sensibility
of character, completely to conquer the dread of blame. In order to
allay that horror, in order to pacify, in some degree, the remorse of
their own consciences, they voluntarily submitted themselves both
to the reproach and to the punishment which they knew were due
to their crimes, but which, at the same time, they might easily have

±± They are the most frivolous and super¬cial of mankind only who can
be much delighted with that praise which they themselves know to
be altogether unmerited. Unmerited reproach, however, is frequently

 The rest of this chapter was added in edition  although elements of it are already in earlier editions;
see notes to paragraphs ±“ below.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

capable of mortifying very severely even men of more than ordinary
constancy. Men of the most ordinary constancy, indeed, easily learn to
despise those foolish tales which are so frequently circulated in society,
and which, from their own absurdity and falsehood, never fail to die
away in the course of a few weeks, or of a few days. But an innocent man,
though of more than ordinary constancy, is often, not only shocked,
but most severely morti¬ed by the serious, though false, imputation
of a crime; especially when that imputation happens unfortunately to
be supported by some circumstances which give it an air of probabil-
ity. He is humbled to ¬nd that any body should think so meanly of
his character as to suppose him capable of being guilty of it. Though
perfectly conscious of his own innocence, the very imputation seems
often, even in his own imagination, to throw a shadow of disgrace
and dishonour upon his character. His just indignation, too, at so very
gross an injury, which, however, it may frequently be improper, and
sometimes even impossible to revenge, is itself a very painful sensa-
tion. There is no greater tormentor of the human breast than violent
resentment which cannot be grati¬ed. An innocent man, brought to
the scaffold by the false imputation of an infamous or odious crime,
suffers the most cruel misfortune which it is possible for innocence to
suffer. The agony of his mind may, in this case, frequently be greater
than that of those who suffer for the like crimes, of which they have
been actually guilty. Pro¬‚igate criminals, such as common thieves and
highwaymen, have frequently little sense of the baseness of their own
conduct, and consequently no remorse. Without troubling themselves
about the justice or injustice of the punishment, they have always been
accustomed to look upon the gibbet as a lot very likely to fall to them.
When it does fall to them, therefore, they consider themselves only
as not quite so lucky as some of their companions, and submit to
their fortune, without any other uneasiness than what may arise from
the fear of death; a fear which, even by such worthless wretches, we
frequently see, can be so easily, and so very completely conquered.
The innocent man, on the contrary, over and above the uneasiness
which this fear may occasion, is tormented by his own indignation at
the injustice which has been done to him. He is struck with horror
at the thoughts of the infamy which the punishment may shed upon
his memory, and foresees, with the most exquisite anguish, that he is
hereafter to be remembered by his dearest friends and relations, not

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

with regret and affection, but with shame, and even with horror for his
supposed disgraceful conduct: and the shades of death appear to close
round him with a darker and more melancholy gloom than naturally
belongs to them. Such fatal accidents, for the tranquillity of mankind,
it is to be hoped, happen very rarely in any country; but they happen
sometimes in all countries, even in those where justice is in general
very well administered. The unfortunate Calas, a man of much more
than ordinary constancy (broke upon the wheel and burnt at Tholouse
for the supposed murder of his own son, of which he was perfectly
innocent), seemed, with his last breath, to deprecate, not so much the
cruelty of the punishment, as the disgrace which the imputation might
bring upon his memory. After he had been broke, and was just going
to be thrown into the ¬re, the monk, who attended the execution, ex-
horted him to confess the crime for which he had been condemned. My
Father, said Calas, can you yourself bring yourself to believe that I am

± To persons in such unfortunate circumstances, that humble philos-
ophy which con¬nes its views to this life, can afford, perhaps, but
little consolation. Every thing that could render either life or death
respectable is taken from them. They are condemned to death and to
everlasting infamy. Religion can alone afford them any effectual com-
fort. She alone can tell them, that it is of little importance what man
may think of their conduct, while the all-seeing Judge of the world ap-
proves of it. She alone can present to them the view of another world; a
world of more candour, humanity, and justice, than the present; where
their innocence is in due time to be declared, and their virtue to be
¬nally rewarded: and the same great principle which can alone strike
terror into triumphant vice, affords the only effectual consolation to
disgraced and insulted innocence.
· Jean Calas (±“±·) was a merchant in Toulouse. As a Calvinist he was suspected of murdering
his son in order to prevent the latter™s conversion to Catholicism; he was broken on the wheel in
order to make him confess and burned to death on ±° March ±·. The son had hung himself
and the family tried to conceal the cause of death in order to avoid the social stigma and legal
repercussions of suicide. The verdict was annulled and Calas™s name cleared in ±·µ after the case
had become a scandal across Europe thanks to Voltaire who took it up as part of his campaign
against the church and for religious toleration (cf. his Trait´ sur la tolerance, ±·). At the core
of Voltaire™s argument was that lack of public access made the court, like any other institution,
unaccountable, a spectator-argument that is sure to have interested Smith who knew Voltaire “ and
who lived in Toulouse in ±·“µ.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

± In smaller offences, as well as in greater crimes, it frequently happens
that a person of sensibility is much more hurt by the unjust imputa-
tion, than the real criminal is by the actual guilt. A woman of gallantry
laughs even at the well-founded surmises which are circulated con-
cerning her conduct. The worst founded surmise of the same kind is
a mortal stab to an innocent virgin. The person who is deliberately
guilty of a disgraceful action, we may lay it down, I believe, as a general
rule, can seldom have much sense of the disgrace; and the person who
is habitually guilty of it, can scarce ever have any.

± When every man, even of middling understanding, so readily despises
unmerited applause, how it comes to pass that unmerited reproach
should often be capable of mortifying so severely men of the soundest
and best judgment, may, perhaps, deserve some consideration.

±µ Pain, I have already had occasion to observe, is, in almost all cases,
a more pungent sensation than the opposite and correspondent plea-
sure. The one, almost always, depresses us much more below the
ordinary, or what may be called the natural state of our happiness,
than the other ever raises us above it. A man of sensibility is apt to
be more humiliated by just censure than he is ever elevated by just
applause. Unmerited applause a wise man rejects with contempt upon
all occasions; but he often feels very severely the injustice of unmer-
ited censure. By suffering himself to be applauded for what he has not
performed, by assuming a merit which does not belong to him, he feels
that he is guilty of a mean falsehood, and deserves, not the admiration,
but the contempt of those very persons who, by mistake, had been led
to admire him. It may, perhaps, give him some well-founded pleasure
to ¬nd that he has been, by many people, thought capable of perform-
ing what he did not perform. But, though he may be obliged to his
friends for their good opinion, he would think himself guilty of the
greatest baseness if he did not immediately undeceive them. It gives
him little pleasure to look upon himself in the light in which other
people actually look upon him, when he is conscious that, if they knew
the truth, they would look upon him in a very different light. A weak
man, however, is often much delighted with viewing himself in this

 I.iii.±..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

false and delusive light. He assumes the merit of every laudable action
that is ascribed to him, and pretends to that of many which nobody
ever thought of ascribing to him. He pretends to have done what he
never did, to have written what another wrote, to have invented what
another discovered; and is led into all the miserable vices of plagia-
rism and common lying. But though no man of middling good sense
can derive much pleasure from the imputation of a laudable action
which he never performed, yet a wise man may suffer great pain from
the serious imputation of a crime which he never committed. Nature,
in this case, has rendered the pain, not only more pungent than the
opposite and correspondent pleasure, but she has rendered it so in a
much greater than the ordinary degree. A denial rids a man at once
of the foolish and ridiculous pleasure; but it will not always rid him
of the pain. When he refuses the merit which is ascribed to him, no-
body doubts his veracity. It may be doubted when he denies the crime
which he is accused of. He is at once enraged at the falsehood of the
imputation, and morti¬ed to ¬nd that any credit should be given to
it. He feels that his character is not suf¬cient to protect him. He feels
that his brethren, far from looking upon him in that light in which he
anxiously desires to be viewed by them, think him capable of being
guilty of what he is accused of. He knows perfectly that he has not been
guilty. He knows perfectly what he has done; but, perhaps, scarce any
man can know perfectly what he himself is capable of doing. What the
peculiar constitution of his own mind may or may not admit of, is, per-
haps, more or less a matter of doubt to every man. The trust and good
opinion of his friends and neighbours, tends more than any thing to
relieve him from this most disagreeable doubt; their distrust and un-
favourable opinion to increase it. He may think himself very con¬dent
that their unfavourable judgment is wrong: but this con¬dence can
seldom be so great as to hinder that judgment from making some im-
pression upon him; and the greater his sensibility, the greater his del-
icacy, the greater his worth in short, this impression is likely to be the

± The agreement or disagreement both of the sentiments and judgments
of other people with our own, is, in all cases, it must be observed, of
more or less importance to us, exactly in proportion as we ourselves

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

are more or less uncertain about the propriety of our own sentiments,
about the accuracy of our own judgments.

±· A man of sensibility may sometimes feel great uneasiness lest he should
have yielded too much even to what may be called an honourable pas-
sion; to his just indignation, perhaps, at the injury which may have
been done either to himself or to his friend. He is anxiously afraid lest,
meaning only to act with spirit, and to do justice, he may, from the too
great vehemence of his emotion, have done a real injury to some other
person; who, though not innocent, may not have been altogether so
guilty as he at ¬rst apprehended. The opinion of other people becomes,
in this case, of the utmost importance to him. Their approbation is
the most healing balsam; their disapprobation, the bitterest and most
tormenting poison that can be poured into his uneasy mind. When he
is perfectly satis¬ed with every part of his own conduct, the judgment
of other people is often of less importance to him.

± There are some very noble and beautiful arts, in which the degree
of excellence can be determined only by a certain nicety of taste, of
which the decisions, however, appear always, in some measure, un-
certain. There are others, in which the success admits, either of clear
demonstration, or very satisfactory proof. Among the candidates for
excellence in those different arts, the anxiety about the public opinion
is always much greater in the former than in the latter.

± The beauty of poetry is a matter of such nicety, that a young beginner
can scarce ever be certain that he has attained it. Nothing delights him
so much, therefore, as the favourable judgments of his friends and of
the public; and nothing morti¬es him so severely as the contrary. The
one establishes, the other shakes, the good opinion which he is anx-
ious to entertain concerning his own performances. Experience and
success may in time give him a little more con¬dence in his own judg-
ment. He is at all times, however, liable to be most severely morti¬ed
by the unfavourable judgments of the public. Racine was so disgusted
by the indifferent success of his Ph¦dra, the ¬nest tragedy, perhaps,
that is extant in any language, that, though in the vigour of his life, and
at the height of his abilities, he resolved to write no more for the stage.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

That great poet used frequently to tell his son, that the most paltry
and impertinent criticism had always given him more pain, than the
highest and justest eulogy had ever given him pleasure. The extreme
sensibility of Voltaire to the slightest censure of the same kind is well
known to every body.±° The Dunciad of Mr Pope is an everlasting
monument of how much the most correct, as well as the most elegant
and harmonious of all the English poets, had been hurt by the criti-
cisms of the lowest and most contemptible authors.±± Gray (who joins
to the sublimity of Milton the elegance and harmony of Pope, and to
whom nothing is wanting to render him, perhaps, the ¬rst poet in the
English language, but to have written a little more) is said to have been
so much hurt, by a foolish and impertinent parody of two of his ¬nest
odes, that he never afterwards attempted any considerable work.±
Those men of letters who value themselves upon what is called ¬ne
writing in prose, approach somewhat to the sensibility of poets.

° Mathematicians, on the contrary, who may have the most perfect as-
surance, both of the truth and of the importance of their discoveries,
are frequently very indifferent about the reception which they may
meet with from the public. The two greatest mathematicians that I

 The son, Louis Racine (±“±·), a poet in his own right, wrote about this in his M´moires
sur la vie de Jean Racine (±·). The great tragic playwright (±“) had his Ph`dre produced
on ± January ±·· but it was rivalled a few days later by Ph`dre et Hippolyte by Nicolas Pradon
(±“) whose circle was critical of Racine™s admiration for the ancients. In ±·· Racine was
made an historiographer royal and became an in¬‚uential courtier; this may be the main reason for
his giving up the theatre, though he returned to it later. Cf. I.ii.. above.
±° There were a great many examples of this but Smith is likely to have been thinking in particular
of an episode within his own Scottish circle. In The Elements of Criticism (±·), chapters ± and
, Lord Kames, Smith™s one-time patron, had criticized Voltaire™s Henriade (±·). Voltaire took
such umbrage that he wrote a destructive review (in the Gazette literaire) “ which Hume tried
to get suppressed (Hume, Letters, I, p. ) “ and subsequently lost no opportunity of savaging
Kames, who made a somewhat ironic ˜apology™ in the ¬fth edition of Elements.
±± In the ¬rst volume of his poem, The Dunciad (±·), Alexander Pope (±“±·) satirized several
of his critics, making the Shakespeare scholar Lewis Theobald (±“±·) the hero because he
had corrected Pope™s many errors in his edition of Shakespeare (±·µ). Cf. Smith™s discussions of
Pope in ˜Of the Imitative Arts™, II.“·, and ˜Of the Af¬nity Between Certain English and Italian
Verses™ (both in EPS).
± Thomas Gray (±·±“·±) published ˜The Progress of Poesy™ and ˜The Bard™ in ±·µ· and George
Colman the elder (±·“) parodied them in an ode ˜To Obscurity™ in ±·°. For Smith™s regard
for and use of Gray, cf. Rhetoric ii., ˜Of the Af¬nity Between Certain English and Italian Verses™
±, and remarks reported in a memorial letter to the editor of The Bee, iii (±± May ±·±), reprinted
in Appendix ± to Rhetoric.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

ever have had the honour to be known to, and, I believe, the two great-
est that have lived in my time, Dr Robert Simpson of Glasgow, and
Dr Matthew Stewart of Edinburgh,± never seemed to feel even the
slightest uneasiness from the neglect with which the ignorance of the
public received some of their most valuable works. The great work of
Sir Isaac Newton, his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,
I have been told, was for several years neglected by the public.± The
tranquillity of that great man, it is probable, never suffered, upon
that account, the interruption of a single quarter of an hour. Nat-
ural philosophers, in their independency upon the public opinion,
approach nearly to mathematicians, and, in their judgments concern-
ing the merit of their own discoveries and observations, enjoy some
degree of the same security and tranquillity.

± The morals of those different classes of men of letters are, perhaps,
sometimes somewhat affected by this very great difference in their
situation with regard to the public.

 Mathematicians and natural philosophers, from their independency
upon the public opinion, have little temptation to form themselves into
factions and cabals, either for the support of their own reputation, or
for the depression of that of their rivals. They are almost always men
of the most amiable simplicity of manners, who live in good harmony
with one another, are the friends of one another™s reputation, enter
into no intrigue in order to secure the public applause, but are pleased
when their works are approved of, without being either much vexed
or very angry when they are neglected.

 It is not always the same case with poets, or with those who value
themselves upon what is called ¬ne writing. They are very apt to di-
vide themselves into a sort of literary factions; each cabal being often
avowedly, and almost always secretly, the mortal enemy of the repu-
tation of every other, and employing all the mean arts of intrigue and
solicitation to preoccupy the public opinion in favour of the works
± Robert Simson (±·“±·), Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow, ±·±±“±.
Matthew Stewart (±·±·“µ), Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, ±··“·µ.
Stewart and Smith were probably fellow students in Simson™s class. Ross, Life of Smith, µ.
± Sir Isaac Newton (±“±··) published Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica in ±·.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

of its own members, and against those of its enemies and rivals. In
France, Despreaux and Racine did not think it below them to set
themselves at the head of a literary cabal, in order to depress the rep-
utation, ¬rst of Quinault and Perreault, and afterwards of Fontenelle
and La Motte, and even to treat the good La Fontaine with a species of
most disrespectful kindness.±µ In England, the amiable Mr Addison
did not think it unworthy of his gentle and modest character to set
himself at the head of a little cabal of the same kind, in order to keep
down the rising reputation of Mr Pope.± Mr Fontenelle, in writing
the lives and characters of the members of the academy of sciences,
a society of mathematicians and natural philosophers, has frequent
opportunities of celebrating the amiable simplicity of their manners;
a quality which, he observes, was so universal among them as to be
characteristical, rather of that whole class of men of letters, than of any
individual.±· Mr D™Alembert, in writing the lives and characters of
the members of the French academy, a society of poets and ¬ne writ-
ers, or of those who are supposed to be such, seems not to have had
such frequent opportunities of making any remark of this kind, and
nowhere pretends to represent this amiable quality as characteristical
of that class of men of letters whom he celebrates.±
±µ Smith is referring to the main protagonists in the so-called ˜quarrel of ancients and moderns™, i.e.
the protracted discussion in France in the latter half of the seventeenth and the early eighteenth
centuries of the relative merits of ancient and modern art and literature. The main defender of
the ancients was Nicolas Boileau-Despr´ aux (±“±·±±) supported by, among others, Racine
and Jean de La Fontaine (±±“µ), while the moderns included Philippe Quinault (±µ“),
Charles Perrault (±“±·°), whose Le si`cle de Louis le Grand (±·) provoked a high point in
the dispute, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (±µ·“±·µ·) and Francois de La Mothe le Vayer
(±µ“±·). Their cultural battles were extended to public ridicule, obstruction of careers and
the like. As for La Fontaine, Smith is likely to draw on an anecdote related in Louis Racine™s life
of his father (see note  above).
± In a well-known altercation which rattled through the century, Joseph Addison™s literary circle,
which met at Button™s Coffee House in Covent Garden and was known as the little senate,
undermined Pope™s translation of the ¬rst book of the Iliad in order to promote the rival effort of
one of the Buttonians, Thomas Tickell (±µ“±·°). Both works appeared in ±·±µ and Tickell™s
was long attributed in part or in whole to Addison himself; see e.g. Joseph Warton, Essay on the
Genius and Writings of Pope, ±·, vol. , p. . Concerning Addison™s ˜double dealing™ in the
matter, see Maynard Mack, Alexander Pope. A Life (New York, London, ±µ), pp. ·“.
±· As Secretary of the Acad´ mie des Sciences from ± to ±·° Fontenelle wrote  Eloges des
acad´miciens (±·°, ±·“ ). The particular reference is at the end of the eulogy for the chemist
Nicolas Lemery (±µ“±·±µ).
± As Secr´ taire perp´ tuelle of the Acad´ mie francaise from ±·· Jean le Rond d™Alembert (±·±·“)
e e e ¸
promoted the society by, among other things, writing an Histoire des membres de l™Acad´mie Fran¸aise
e c
(±·µ“·) which contains eloges of academicians who had died between ±·°° and ±··.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

 Our uncertainty concerning our own merit, and our anxiety to think
favourably of it, should together naturally enough make us desirous
to know the opinion of other people concerning it; to be more than
ordinarily elevated when that opinion is favourable, and to be more
than ordinarily morti¬ed when it is otherwise: but they should not
make us desirous either of obtaining the favourable, or of avoiding the
unfavourable opinion, by intrigue and cabal. When a man has bribed
all the judges, the most unanimous decision of the court, though it
may gain him his law-suit, cannot give him any assurance that he was
in the right: and had he carried on his law-suit merely to satisfy him-
self that he was in the right, he never would have bribed the judges.
But though he wished to ¬nd himself in the right, he wished likewise
to gain his law-suit; and therefore he bribed the judges. If praise were
of no consequence to us, but as a proof of our own praise-worthiness,
we never should endeavour to obtain it by unfair means. But, though
to wise men it is, at least in doubtful cases, of principal consequence
upon this account; it is likewise of some consequence upon its own
account: and therefore (we cannot, indeed, upon such occasions, call
them wise men, but) men very much above the common level have
sometimes attempted both to obtain praise, and to avoid blame, by
very unfair means.

µ Praise and blame express what actually are; praise-worthiness and
blame-worthiness, what naturally ought to be the sentiments of other
people with regard to our character and conduct. The love of praise
is the desire of obtaining the favourable sentiments of our brethren.
The love of praise-worthiness is the desire of rendering ourselves the
proper objects of those sentiments. So far those two principles resem-
ble and are akin to one another. The like af¬nity and resemblance take
place between the dread of blame and that of blame-worthiness.

 The man who desires to do, or who actually does, a praise-worthy ac-
tion, may likewise desire the praise which is due to it, and sometimes,
perhaps, more than is due to it. The two principles are in this case
blended together. How far his conduct may have been in¬‚uenced by the
one, and how far by the other, may frequently be unknown even to him-
self. It must almost always be so to other people. They who are disposed
to lessen the merit of his conduct, impute it chie¬‚y or altogether to the

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

mere love of praise, or to what they call mere vanity. They who are dis-
posed to think more favourably of it, impute it chie¬‚y or altogether to
the love of praise-worthiness; to the love of what is really honourable
and noble in human conduct; to the desire, not merely of obtaining,
but of deserving the approbation and applause of his brethren. The
imagination of the spectator throws upon it either the one colour or the
other, according either to his habits of thinking, or to the favour or dis-
like which he may bear to the person whose conduct he is considering.

· Some splenetic philosophers, in judging of human nature, have done
as peevish individuals are apt to do in judging of the conduct of one an-
other, and have imputed to the love of praise, or to what they call vanity,
every action which ought to be ascribed to that of praise-worthiness.
I shall hereafter have occasion to give an account of some of their
systems, and shall not at present stop to examine them.±

 Very few men can be satis¬ed with their own private consciousness
that they have attained those qualities, or performed those actions,
which they admire and think praise-worthy in other people; unless
it is, at the same time, generally acknowledged that they possess the
one, or have performed the other; or, in other words, unless they have
actually obtained that praise which they think due both to the one
and to the other. In this respect, however, men differ considerably
from one another. Some seem indifferent about the praise, when, in
their own minds, they are perfectly satis¬ed that they have attained
the praise-worthiness. Others appear much less anxious about the
praise-worthiness than about the praise.

 No man can be completely, or even tolerably satis¬ed, with having
avoided every thing blame-worthy in his conduct; unless he has like-
wise avoided the blame or the reproach. A wise man may frequently
neglect praise, even when he has best deserved it; but, in all matters of
serious consequence, he will most carefully endeavour so to regulate
his conduct as to avoid, not only blame-worthiness, but, as much as
possible, every probable imputation of blame. He will never, indeed,
avoid blame by doing any thing which he judges blame-worthy; by

± See Smith™s discussion of Mandeville below, VII.ii..

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

omitting any part of his duty, or by neglecting any opportunity of do-
ing any thing which he judges to be really and greatly praise-worthy.
But, with these modi¬cations, he will most anxiously and carefully
avoid it. To show much anxiety about praise, even for praise-worthy
actions, is seldom a mark of great wisdom, but generally of some
degree of weakness. But, in being anxious to avoid the shadow of
blame or reproach, there may be no weakness, but frequently the most
praise-worthy prudence.

° ˜Many people,™ says Cicero, ˜despise glory, who are yet most severely
morti¬ed by unjust reproach; and that most inconsistently.™° This in-
consistency, however, seems to be founded in the unalterable principles
of human nature.

± The all-wise Author of Nature has, in this manner, taught man to re-
spect the sentiments and judgments of his brethren; to be more or less
pleased when they approve of his conduct, and to be more or less hurt
when they disapprove of it. He has made man, if I may say so, the im-
mediate judge of mankind; and has, in this respect, as in many others,
created him after his own image, and appointed him his vicegerent
upon earth, to superintend the behaviour of his brethren. They are
taught by nature, to acknowledge that power and jurisdiction which
has thus been conferred upon him, to be more or less humbled and
morti¬ed when they have incurred his censure, and to be more or less
elated when they have obtained his applause.±

° Cicero, De Of¬ciis, I.xxi.·±.
± The corresponding paragraph in editions “µ reads, with minor variations, as follows:
The great judge of the world, has, for the wisest reasons, thought proper to interpose,
between the weak eye of human reason, and the throne of his eternal justice, a degree of
obscurity and darkness, which though it does not intirely cover that great tribunal from
the view of mankind, yet renders the impression of it faint and feeble in comparison
of what might be expected from the grandeur and importance of so mighty an object.
If those in¬nite rewards and punishments which the Almighty has prepared for
those who obey or transgress his will, were perceived as distinctly as we foresee
the frivolous and temporary retaliations which we may expect from one another, the
weakness of human nature, astonished at the immensity of objects so little ¬tted to
its comprehension, could no longer attend to the little affairs of this world; and it is
absolutely impossible that the business of society could have been carried on, if, in
this respect, there had been a fuller revelation of the intentions of providence than
that which has already been made. That men, however, might never be without a
rule to direct their conduct by, nor without a judge whose authority should enforce its

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 But though man has, in this manner, been rendered the immediate
judge of mankind, he has been rendered so only in the ¬rst instance;
and an appeal lies from his sentence to a much higher tribunal, to the
tribunal of their own consciences, to that of the supposed impartial
and well-informed spectator, to that of the man within the breast, the
great judge and arbiter of their conduct. The jurisdictions of those
two tribunals are founded upon principles which, though in some
respects resembling and akin, are, however, in reality different and
distinct. The jurisdiction of the man without, is founded altogether
in the desire of actual praise, and in the aversion to actual blame. The
jurisdiction of the man within, is founded altogether in the desire of
praise-worthiness, and in the aversion to blame-worthiness; in the de-
sire of possessing those qualities, and performing those actions, which
we love and admire in other people; and in the dread of possessing
those qualities, and performing those actions, which we hate and de-
spise in other people. If the man without should applaud us, either for
actions which we have not performed, or for motives which had no
in¬‚uence upon us; the man within can immediately humble that pride
and elevation of mind which such groundless acclamations might oth-
erwise occasion, by telling us, that as we know that we do not deserve
them, we render ourselves despicable by accepting them. If, on the
contrary, the man without should reproach us, either for actions which
we never performed, or for motives which had no in¬‚uence upon those
which we may have performed; the man within may immediately cor-
rect this false judgment, and assure us, that we are by no means the
proper objects of that censure which has so unjustly been bestowed
upon us. But in this and in some other cases, the man within seems
sometimes, as it were, astonished and confounded by the vehemence
and clamour of the man without. The violence and loudness, with
which blame is sometimes poured out upon us, seems to stupify and
benumb our natural sense of praise-worthiness and blame-worthiness;
and the judgments of the man within, though not, perhaps, absolutely
altered or perverted, are, however, so much shaken in the steadiness
observation, the author of nature has made man the immediate judge of mankind, and
has, in this respect, as in many others, created him after his own image, and appointed
him his vicegerent upon earth to superintend the behaviour of his brethren. They
are taught by nature to acknowledge that power and jurisdiction which has thus been
conferred upon him, and to tremble and exult according as they imagine that they
have either merited his censure, or deserved his applause.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

and ¬rmness of their decision, that their natural effect, in securing the
tranquillity of the mind, is frequently in a great measure destroyed. We
scarce dare to absolve ourselves, when all our brethren appear loudly to
condemn us. The supposed impartial spectator of our conduct seems
to give his opinion in our favour with fear and hesitation; when that of
all the real spectators, when that of all those with whose eyes and from
whose station he endeavours to consider it, is unanimously and vio-
lently against us. In such cases, this demigod within the breast appears,
like the demigods of the poets, though partly of immortal, yet partly
too of mortal extraction. When his judgments are steadily and ¬rmly
directed by the sense of praise-worthiness and blame-worthiness, he
seems to act suitably to his divine extraction: But when he suffers him-
self to be astonished and confounded by the judgments of ignorant
and weak man, he discovers his connexion with mortality, and appears
to act suitably, rather to the human, than to the divine, part of his

 This paragraph replaces a passage which, with minor variations, reads as follows in editions “µ:
But whatever may be the authority of this inferiour tribunal which is continually before
their eyes, if at any time it should decide contrary to those principles and rules, which
nature has established for regulating its judgments, men feel that they may appeal
from this unjust decision, and call upon a superiour tribunal, the tribunal established
in their own breasts, to redress the injustice of this weak or partial judgment.
There are certain principles established by nature for governing our judgments
concerning the conduct of those we live with. As long as we decide according to
those principles, and neither applaud nor condemn any thing which nature has not
rendered the proper object of applause or condemnation, nor any further than she
has rendered it such, as our sentence is, in this case, if I may say so, quite agreeable to
law, it is liable neither to repeal nor to correction of any kind. The person concerning
whom we form these judgments, must himself necessarily approve of them. When
he puts himself into our situation, he cannot avoid viewing his own conduct in the
very same light in which we appear to view it. He is sensible, that to us, and to every
impartial spectator, he must necessarily appear the natural and proper object of those
sentiments which we express with regard to him. Those sentiments, therefore, must
necessarily produce their full effect upon him, and he cannot fail to conceive all the
triumph of self-approbation from, what appears to him, such merited applause, as well
as all the horrors of shame from, what, he is sensible, is such deserved condemnation.
But it is otherwise, if we have either applauded or condemned him, contrary to those
principles and rules which nature has established for the direction of our judgments
concerning every thing of this kind. If we have either applauded or condemned him
for what, when he puts himself into our situation, does not appear to him to be the
object either of applause or condemnation; as in this case he cannot enter into our
sentiments, provided he has any constancy or ¬rmness, he is but little affected by
them, and can neither be much elevated by the favourable, nor greatly morti¬ed by
the unfavourable decision. The applause of the whole world will avail but little, if our
own conscience condemn us; and the disapprobation of all mankind is not capable of

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

oppressing us, when we are absolved by the tribunal within our own breast, and when
our own mind tells us that mankind are in the wrong.
But though this tribunal within the breast be thus the supreme arbiter of all our
actions, though it can reverse the decisions of all mankind with regard to our character
and conduct, and mortify us amidst the applause or support us under the censure
of the world; yet, if we enquire into the origin of its institution, its jurisdiction we
shall ¬nd is in a great measure derived from the authority of that very tribunal, whose
decisions it so often and so justly reverses.
When we ¬rst come into the world, from the natural desire to please, we accustom
ourselves to consider what behaviour is likely to be agreeable to every person we
converse with, to our parents, to our masters, to our companions. We address ourselves
to individuals, and for some time fondly pursue the impossible and absurd project of
gaining the good-will and approbation of every body. We are soon taught by experience,
however, that this universal approbation is altogether unattainable. As soon as we come
to have more important interests to manage, we ¬nd, that by pleasing one man, we
almost certainly disoblige another, and that by humouring an individual, we may
often irritate a whole people. The fairest and most equitable conduct must frequently
obstruct the interests, or thwart the inclinations of particular persons, who will seldom
have candour enough to enter into the propriety of our motives, or to see that this
conduct, how disagreeable soever to them, is perfectly suitable to our situation. In
order to defend ourselves from such partial judgments, we soon learn to set up in our
own minds a judge between ourselves and those we live with. We conceive ourselves
as acting in the presence of a person quite candid and equitable, of one who has no
particular relation either to ourselves, or to those whose interests are affected by our
conduct, who is neither father, nor brother, nor friend either to them or to us, but
is merely a man in general, an impartial spectator who considers our conduct with
the same indifference with which we regard that of other people. If, when we place
ourselves in the situation of such a person, our own actions appear to us under an
agreeable aspect, if we feel that such a spectator cannot avoid entering into all the
motives which in¬‚uenced us, whatever may be the judgments of the world, we must
still be pleased with our own behaviour, and regard ourselves, in spite of the censure
of our companions, as the just and proper objects of approbation.
On the contrary, if the man within condemns us, the loudest acclamations of
mankind appear but as the noise of ignorance and folly, and whenever we assume
the character of this impartial judge, we cannot avoid viewing our own actions with
his distaste and dissatisfaction. The weak, the vain, and the frivolous, indeed, may
be morti¬ed by the most groundless censure, or elated by the most absurd applause.
Such persons are not accustomed to consult the judge within concerning the opinion
which they ought to form of their own conduct. This inmate of the breast, this ab-
stract man, the representative of mankind, and substitute of the Deity, whom nature
has constituted the supreme judge of all their actions, is seldom appealed to by them.
They are contented with the decision of the inferiour tribunal. The approbation of
their companions, of the particular persons whom they have lived and conversed with,
has generally been the ultimate object of all their wishes. If they obtain this, their joy is
compleat; and if they fail, they are entirely disappointed. They never think of appealing
to the superior court. They have seldom enquired after its decisions, and are altogether
unacquainted with the rules and forms of its procedure. When the world injures them,
therefore, they are incapable of doing themselves justice, and are, in consequence, nec-
essarily the slaves of the world. But it is otherwise with the man who has, upon all
occasions, been accustomed to have recourse to the judge within, and to consider, not
what the world approves or disapproves of, but what appears to this impartial spectator,
the natural and proper object of approbation or disapprobation. The judgment of this
supreme arbiter of his conduct, is the applause, which he has been accustomed princi-
pally to court, is the censure which he has been accustomed principally to fear. Com-
pared with this ¬nal decision, the sentiments of all mankind, though not altogether

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

 In such cases, the only effectual consolation of humbled and af¬‚icted
man lies in an appeal to a still higher tribunal, to that of the all-seeing
Judge of the world, whose eye can never be deceived, and whose
judgments can never be perverted. A ¬rm con¬dence in the unerring
rectitude of this great tribunal, before which his innocence is in due
time to be declared, and his virtue to be ¬nally rewarded, can alone
support him under the weakness and despondency of his own mind,
under the perturbation and astonishment of the man within the breast,
whom nature has set up as, in this life, the great guardian, not only of
his innocence, but of his tranquillity. Our happiness in this life is thus,
upon many occasions, dependent upon the humble hope and expecta-
tion of a life to come: a hope and expectation deeply rooted in human
nature; which can alone support its lofty ideas of its own dignity; can
alone illumine the dreary prospect of its continually approaching mor-
tality, and maintain its cheerfulness under all the heaviest calamities
to which, from the disorders of this life, it may sometimes be exposed.
That there is a world to come, where exact justice will be done to
every man, where every man will be ranked with those who, in the
moral and intellectual qualities, are really his equals; where the owner
of those humble talents and virtues which, from being depressed by
fortune, had, in this life, no opportunity of displaying themselves;
which were unknown, not only to the public, but which he himself
could scarce be sure that he possessed, and for which even the man
within the breast could scarce venture to afford him any distinct and
clear testimony; where that modest, silent, and unknown merit, will
be placed upon a level, and sometimes above those who, in this world,
had enjoyed the highest reputation, and who, from the advantage
of their situation, had been enabled to perform the most splendid
and dazzling actions; is a doctrine, in every respect so venerable, so
comfortable to the weakness, so ¬‚attering to the grandeur of human
nature, that the virtuous man who has the misfortune to doubt of it,
cannot possibly avoid wishing most earnestly and anxiously to believe
it. It could never have been exposed to the derision of the scoffer, had
not the distribution of rewards and punishments, which some of its
most zealous assertors have taught us was to be made in that world

indifferent, appear to be but of small moment; and he is incapable of being either
much elevated by their favourable, or greatly depressed by their most disadvantageous

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

to come, been too frequently in direct opposition to all our moral

 That the assiduous courtier is often more favoured than the faithful
and active servant; that attendance and adulation are often shorter and
surer roads to preferment than merit or service; and that a campaign
at Versailles or St James™s is often worth two either in Germany or
Flanders, is a complaint which we have all heard from many a ven-
erable, but discontented, old of¬cer. But what is considered as the
greatest reproach even to the weakness of earthly sovereigns, has been
ascribed, as an act of justice, to divine perfection; and the duties of
devotion, the public and private worship of the Deity, have been rep-
resented, even by men of virtue and abilities, as the sole virtues which
can either entitle to reward or exempt from punishment in the life to
come. They were the virtues, perhaps, most suitable to their station,
and in which they themselves chie¬‚y excelled; and we are all naturally
disposed to over-rate the excellencies of our own characters. In the dis-
course which the eloquent and philosophical Massillon pronounced,
on giving his benediction to the standards of the regiment of Catinat,
there is the following address to the of¬cers: ˜What is most deplorable
in your situation, Gentlemen, is, that in a life hard and painful, in
which the services and the duties sometimes go beyond the rigour and
severity of the most austere cloisters; you suffer always in vain for the
life to come, and frequently even for this life. Alas! the solitary monk


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