. 6
( 13)


in his cell, obliged to mortify the ¬‚esh and to subject it to the spirit,
is supported by the hope of an assured recompence, and by the secret
unction of that grace which softens the yoke of the Lord. But you, on
the bed of death, can you dare to represent to Him your fatigues and
the daily hardships of your employment? can you dare to solicit Him
for any recompence? and in all the exertions that you have made, in all
the violences that you have done to yourselves, what is there that He
ought to place to His own account? The best days of your life, however,
have been sacri¬ced to your profession, and ten years service has more
worn out your body, than would, perhaps, have done a whole life of re-
pentance and morti¬cation. Alas! my brother, one single day of those
sufferings, consecrated to the Lord, would, perhaps, have obtained

 I.e. the French and British courts.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

you an eternal happiness. One single action, painful to nature, and of-
fered up to Him, would, perhaps, have secured to you the inheritance
of the Saints. And you have done all this, and in vain, for this world.™

µ To compare, in this manner, the futile morti¬cations of a monastery,
to the ennobling hardships and hazards of war; to suppose that one
day, or one hour, employed in the former should, in the eye of the
great Judge of the world, have more merit than a whole life spent hon-
ourably in the latter, is surely contrary to all our moral sentiments;
to all the principles by which nature has taught us to regulate our
contempt or admiration. It is this spirit, however, which, while it has
reserved the celestial regions for monks and friars, or for those whose
conduct and conversation resembled those of monks and friars, has
condemned to the infernal all the heroes, all the statesmen and law-
givers, all the poets and philosophers of former ages; all those who
have invented, improved, or excelled in the arts which contribute to
the subsistence, to the conveniency, or to the ornament of human life;
all the great protectors, instructors, and benefactors of mankind; all
those to whom our natural sense of praise-worthiness forces us to as-
cribe the highest merit and most exalted virtue. Can we wonder that so
strange an application of this most respectable doctrine should some-
times have exposed it to contempt and derision; with those at least
who had themselves, perhaps, no great taste or turn for the devout
and contemplative virtues?aµ

Of the in¬‚uence and authority of conscience
Chapter III
± But though the approbation of his own conscience can scarce, upon
some extraordinary occasions, content the weakness of man; though

a See Voltaire.
Vous y grillez sage et docte Platon,
Divin Homere, eloquent Ciceron, etc.
 Jean-Baptiste Massillon (±“±·) was a popular preacher to the French court and became
Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand in ±·±·. The reference is to his ˜Discours prononc´ a une b´ n´ diction
e` ee
des drapeaux du r´ giment de Catinat™. Cf. WN V.i.e., and David Hume, Enquiry, IX.±.iii.
µ Voltaire, La Pucelle d™Orl´ans (±·), chant µ.
 Most of the text of the ¬rst eleven paragraphs of this chapter were introduced in the second edition
as additions to III., while the remainder of the chapter was added in the sixth edition.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

the testimony of the supposed impartial spectator, of the great inmate
of the breast, cannot always alone support him; yet the in¬‚uence and
authority of this principle is, upon all occasions, very great; and it
is only by consulting this judge within, that we can ever see what
relates to ourselves in its proper shape and dimensions; or that we
can ever make any proper comparison between our own interests
and those of other people.

 As to the eye of the body, objects appear great or small, not so much
according to their real dimensions, as according to the nearness
or distance of their situation; so do they likewise to what may be
called the natural eye of the mind: and we remedy the defects of
both these organs pretty much in the same manner. In my present
situation an immense landscape of lawns, and woods, and distant
mountains, seems to do no more than cover the little window which
I write by, and to be out of all proportion less than the chamber
in which I am sitting. I can form a just comparison between those
great objects and the little objects around me, in no other way, than
by transporting myself, at least in fancy, to a different station, from
whence I can survey both at nearly equal distances, and thereby form
some judgment of their real proportions. Habit and experience have
taught me to do this so easily and so readily, that I am scarce sensible
that I do it; and a man must be, in some measure, acquainted with the
philosophy of vision, before he can be thoroughly convinced, how
little those distant objects would appear to the eye, if the imagination,
from a knowledge of their real magnitudes, did not swell and dilate

 In the same manner, to the sel¬sh and original passions of human
nature, the loss or gain of a very small interest of our own, appears
to be of vastly more importance, excites a much more passionate joy
or sorrow, a much more ardent desire or aversion, than the greatest
concern of another with whom we have no particular connexion. His
interests, as long as they are surveyed from this station, can never be
put into the balance with our own, can never restrain us from doing
whatever may tend to promote our own, how ruinous soever to him.

· Cf. ˜Of the External Senses™, µ (in EPS).

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

Before we can make any proper comparison of those opposite inter-
ests, we must change our position. We must view them, neither from
our own place nor yet from his, neither with our own eyes nor yet
with his, but from the place and with the eyes of a third person, who
has no particular connexion with either, and who judges with impar-
tiality between us. Here, too, habit and experience have taught us to
do this so easily and so readily, that we are scarce sensible that we do
it; and it requires, in this case too, some degree of re¬‚ection, and even
of philosophy, to convince us, how little interest we should take in the
greatest concerns of our neighbour, how little we should be affected
by whatever relates to him, if the sense of propriety and justice did
not correct the otherwise natural inequality of our sentiments.

 Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads
of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and
let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort
of connexion with that part of the world, would be affected upon
receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine,
¬rst of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that
unhappy people, he would make many melancholy re¬‚ections upon
the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of
man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too,
perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings
concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the
commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in
general. And when all this ¬ne philosophy was over, when all these
humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue
his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with
the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened.
The most frivolous disaster which could befal himself would oc-
casion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little ¬nger
to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw
them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of
a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that im-
mense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than
this paltry misfortune of his own. To prevent, therefore, this paltry

 Cf. Hume, Treatise, II.iii..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

misfortune to himself, would a man of humanity be willing to sacri-
¬ce the lives of a hundred millions of his brethren, provided he had
never seen them? Human nature startles with horror at the thought,
and the world, in its greatest depravity and corruption, never pro-
duced such a villain as could be capable of entertaining it. But what
makes this difference? When our passive feelings are almost always so
sordid and so sel¬sh, how comes it that our active principles should
often be so generous and so noble? When we are always so much more
deeply affected by whatever concerns ourselves, than by whatever
concerns other men; what is it which prompts the generous, upon
all occasions, and the mean upon many, to sacri¬ce their own in-
terests to the greater interests of others? It is not the soft power of
humanity, it is not that feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has
lighted up in the human heart, that is thus capable of counteracting
the strongest impulses of self-love. It is a stronger power, a more
forcible motive, which exerts itself upon such occasions. It is reason,
principle, conscience, the inhabitant of the breast, the man within,
the great judge and arbiter of our conduct. It is he who, whenever we
are about to act so as to affect the happiness of others, calls to us, with
a voice capable of astonishing the most presumptuous of our pas-
sions, that we are but one of the multitude, in no respect better than
any other in it; and that when we prefer ourselves so shamefully and
so blindly to others, we become the proper objects of resentment,
abhorrence, and execration. It is from him only that we learn the real
littleness of ourselves, and of whatever relates to ourselves, and the
natural misrepresentations of self-love can be corrected only by the
eye of this impartial spectator. It is he who shows us the propriety
of generosity and the deformity of injustice; the propriety of resign-
ing the greatest interests of our own, for the yet greater interests of
others, and the deformity of doing the smallest injury to another,
in order to obtain the greatest bene¬t to ourselves. It is not the love
of our neighbour, it is not the love of mankind, which upon many
occasions prompts us to the practice of those divine virtues. It is a
stronger love, a more powerful affection, which generally takes place
upon such occasions; the love of what is honourable and noble, of
the grandeur, and dignity, and superiority of our own characters.
 Contrast with Hutcheson, Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (±·µ), II..ii“iii
and Hume, Enquiry, IX.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

µ When the happiness or misery of others depends in any respect upon
our conduct, we dare not, as self-love might suggest to us, prefer the
interest of one to that of many. The man within immediately calls
to us, that we value ourselves too much and other people too little,
and that, by doing so, we render ourselves the proper object of the
contempt and indignation of our brethren. Neither° is this senti-
ment con¬ned to men of extraordinary magnanimity and virtue. It is
deeply impressed upon every tolerably good soldier, who feels that he
would become the scorn of his companions, if he could be supposed
capable of shrinking from danger, or of hesitating, either to expose
or to throw away his life, when the good of the service required it.

 One individual must never prefer himself so much even to any other
individual, as to hurt or injure that other, in order to bene¬t himself,
though the bene¬t to the one should be much greater than the hurt
or injury to the other. The poor man must neither defraud nor steal
from the rich, though the acquisition might be much more bene¬cial
to the one than the loss could be hurtful to the other. The man within
immediately calls to him, in this case too, that he is no better than his
neighbour, and that by this unjust preference he renders himself the
proper object of the contempt and indignation of mankind; as well as
of the punishment which that contempt and indignation must nat-
urally dispose them to in¬‚ict, for having thus violated one of those
sacred rules, upon the tolerable observation of which depend the
whole security and peace of human society. There is no commonly
honest man who does not more dread the inward disgrace of such
an action, the indelible stain which it would for ever stamp upon his
own mind, than the greatest external calamity which, without any
fault of his own, could possibly befal him; and who does not inwardly
feel the truth of that great stoical maxim, that for one man to de-
prive another unjustly of any thing, or unjustly to promote his own
advantage by the loss or disadvantage of another, is more contrary
to nature, than death, than poverty, than pain, than all the misfor-
tunes which can affect him, either in his body, or in his external

° The rest of §µ and the whole of § were added in edition .
± Cf. Cicero, De of¬ciis, III.v.±.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

· When the happiness or misery of others, indeed, in no respect de-
pends upon our conduct, when our interests are altogether separated
and detached from theirs, so that there is neither connexion nor
competition between them, we do not always think it so necessary to
restrain, either our natural and, perhaps, improper anxiety about our
own affairs, or our natural and, perhaps, equally improper indiffer-
ence about those of other men. The most vulgar education teaches us
to act, upon all important occasions, with some sort of impartiality
between ourselves and others, and even the ordinary commerce of
the world is capable of adjusting our active principles to some degree
of propriety. But it is the most arti¬cial and re¬ned education only,
it has been said, which can correct the inequalities of our passive
feelings; and we must for this purpose, it has been pretended, have
recourse to the severest, as well as to the profoundest philosophy.

 Two different sets of philosophers have attempted to teach us this
hardest of all the lessons of morality. One set have laboured to in-
crease our sensibility to the interests of others; another, to diminish
that to our own. The ¬rst would have us feel for others as we naturally
feel for ourselves. The second would have us feel for ourselves as we
naturally feel for others. Both, perhaps, have carried their doctrines
a good deal beyond the just standard of nature and propriety.

 The ¬rst are those whining and melancholy moralists, who are per-
petually reproaching us with our happiness, while so many of our
brethren are in misery,b who regard as impious the natural joy of
prosperity, which does not think of the many wretches that are at

b See Thomson™s Seasons, Winter: ˜Ah! little think the gay licentious proud,™ etc. See also Pascal.
 The reference is ˜Winter™ (lines “), the ¬rst of The Seasons (±·“°) by James Thomson
Ah! little think the gay licentious proud,
Whom pleasure, power, and af¬‚uence surround “
They, who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth,
And wanton, often cruel, riot waste “
Ah! little think they, while they dance along,
How many feel, this very moment, death
And all the sad variety of pain;
This-worldly happiness as a hindrance to happiness in God is a common theme in the Pens´es
(±·°) by Blaise Pascal (±“).

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

every instant labouring under all sorts of calamities, in the languor
of poverty, in the agony of disease, in the horrors of death, under the
insults and oppression of their enemies. Commiseration for those
miseries which we never saw, which we never heard of, but which we
may be assured are at all times infesting such numbers of our fellow-
creatures, ought, they think, to damp the pleasures of the fortunate,
and to render a certain melancholy dejection habitual to all men. But
¬rst of all, this extreme sympathy with misfortunes which we know
nothing about, seems altogether absurd and unreasonable. Take the
whole earth at an average, for one man who suffers pain or misery,
you will ¬nd twenty in prosperity and joy, or at least in tolerable
circumstances. No reason, surely, can be assigned why we should
rather weep with the one than rejoice with the twenty. This arti¬cial
commiseration, besides, is not only absurd, but seems altogether
unattainable; and those who affect this character have commonly
nothing but a certain affected and sentimental sadness, which, with-
out reaching the heart, serves only to render the countenance and
conversation impertinently dismal and disagreeable. And last of all,
this disposition of mind, though it could be attained, would be per-
fectly useless, and could serve no other purpose than to render mis-
erable the person who possessed it. Whatever interest we take in the
fortune of those with whom we have no acquaintance or connexion,
and who are placed altogether out of the sphere of our activity, can
produce only anxiety to ourselves, without any manner of advantage
to them. To what purpose should we trouble ourselves about the
world in the moon? All men, even those at the greatest distance, are
no doubt entitled to our good wishes, and our good wishes we natu-
rally give them. But if, notwithstanding, they should be unfortunate,
to give ourselves any anxiety upon that account, seems to be no part
of our duty. That we should be but little interested, therefore, in the
fortune of those whom we can neither serve nor hurt, and who are
in every respect so very remote from us, seems wisely ordered by
Nature; and if it were possible to alter in this respect the original
constitution of our frame, we could yet gain nothing by the change.

±° It is never objected to us that we have too little fellow-feeling with
the joy of success. Wherever envy does not prevent it, the favour
which we bear to prosperity is rather apt to be too great; and the same

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

moralists who blame us for want of suf¬cient sympathy with the mis-
erable, reproach us for the levity with which we are too apt to admire
and almost to worship the fortunate, the powerful, and the rich.

±± Among the moralists who endeavour to correct the natural inequal-
ity of our passive feelings by diminishing our sensibility to what
peculiarly concerns ourselves, we may count all the ancient sects of
philosophers, but particularly the ancient Stoics. Man, according to
the Stoics, ought to regard himself, not as something separated and
detached, but as a citizen of the world, a member of the vast com-
monwealth of nature. To the interest of this great community, he
ought at all times to be willing that his own little interest should be
sacri¬ced. Whatever concerns himself, ought to affect him no more
than whatever concerns any other equally important part of this im-
mense system. We should view ourselves, not in the light in which
our own sel¬sh passions are apt to place us, but in the light in which
any other citizen of the world would view us. What befalls ourselves
we should regard as what befalls our neighbour, or, what comes to
the same thing, as our neighbour regards what befalls us. ˜When our
neighbour,™ says Epictetus, ˜loses his wife, or his son, there is nobody
who is not sensible that this is a human calamity, a natural event alto-
gether according to the ordinary course of things; but, when the same
thing happens to ourselves, then we cry out, as if we had suffered the
most dreadful misfortune. We ought, however, to remember how we
were affected when this accident happened to another, and such as
we were in his case, such ought we to be in our own.™

 §±° was added in edition .
 Encheiridion (˜Handbook™), , by Epictetus (c. AD µ°-c. ±°). “ In editions “µ the text continues
as follows (with minor variations):
How dif¬cult soever it may be to attain this supreme degree of magnanimity and
¬rmness, it is by no means either absurd or useless to attempt it. Though few men
have the stoical idea of what this perfect propriety requires, yet all men endeavour
in some measure to command themselves, and to bring down their sel¬sh passions
to something which their neighbour can go along with. But this can never be done
so effectually as by viewing whatever befals themselves in the light in which their
neighbours are apt to view it. The stoical philosophy, in this respect, does little more
than unfold our natural ideas of perfection. There is nothing absurd or improper,
therefore, in aiming at this perfect self-command. Neither would the attainment of it
be useless, but, on the contrary, the most advantageous of all things, as establishing
our happiness upon the most solid and secure foundation, a ¬rm con¬dence in that

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

±µ Those private misfortunes, for which our feelings are apt to go be-
yond the bounds of propriety, are of two different kinds. They are
either such as affect us only indirectly, by affecting, in the ¬rst place,
some other persons who are particularly dear to us; such as our par-
ents, our children, our brothers and sisters, our intimate friends; or
they are such as affect ourselves immediately and directly, either in
our body, in our fortune, or in our reputation; such as pain, sickness,
approaching death, poverty, disgrace, etc.

± In misfortunes of the ¬rst kind, our emotions may, no doubt, go very
much beyond what exact propriety will admit of; but they may like-
wise fall short of it, and they frequently do so. The man who should
feel no more for the death or distress of his own father, or son, than for
those of any other man™s father or son, would appear neither a good
son nor a good father. Such unnatural indifference, far from excit-
ing our applause, would incur our highest disapprobation. Of those
domestic affections, however, some are most apt to offend by their
excess, and others by their defect.· Nature, for the wisest purposes,
has rendered, in most men, perhaps in all men, parental tenderness a
much stronger affection than ¬lial piety. The continuance and prop-
agation of the species depend altogether upon the former, and not
upon the latter. In ordinary cases, the existence and preservation of
the child depend altogether upon the care of the parents. Those of

wisdom and justice which governs the world, and an intire resignation of ourselves,
and of whatever relates to ourselves to the all-wise disposal of this ruling principle in
It scarce ever happens, however, that we are capable of adjusting our passive feelings
to this perfect propriety. We indulge ourselves, and even the world indulges us, in
some degree of irregularity in this respect. Though we should be too much affected by
what concerns ourselves, and too little by what concerns other men, yet, if we always
act with impartiality between ourselves and others, if we never actually sacri¬ce any
great interest of others, to any little interest of our own, we are easily pardoned: and
it were well, if upon all occasions, those who desire to do their duty were capable of
maintaining even this degree of impartiality between themselves and others. But this
is very far from being the case. Even in good men, the judge within us is often in
danger of being corrupted by the violence and injustice of their sel¬sh passions, and
is often induced to make a report very different from what the real circumstances of
the case are capable of authorising.
µ The rest of the chapter was added in edition .
 Cf. LJ (A) i.±; LJ (B) .
· Cf. below, VI.ii.±.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

the parents seldom depend upon that of the child. Nature, therefore,
has rendered the former affection so strong, that it generally requires
not to be excited, but to be moderated; and moralists seldom endeav-
our to teach us how to indulge, but generally how to restrain our
fondness, our excessive attachment, the unjust preference which we
are disposed to give to our own children above those of other people.
They exhort us, on the contrary, to an affectionate attention to our
parents, and to make a proper return to them, in their old age, for the
kindness which they had shown to us in our infancy and youth. In the
Decalogue we are commanded to honour our fathers and mothers.
No mention is made of the love of our children. Nature had suf¬-
ciently prepared us for the performance of this latter duty. Men are
seldom accused of affecting to be fonder of their children than they
really are. They have sometimes been suspected of displaying their
piety to their parents with too much ostentation. The ostentatious
sorrow of widows has, for a like reason, been suspected of insincerity.
We should respect, could we believe it sincere, even the excess of
such kind affections; and though we might not perfectly approve, we
should not severely condemn it. That it appears praise-worthy, at
least in the eyes of those who affect it, the very affectation is a proof.

± Even the excess of those kind affections which are most apt to of-
fend by their excess, though it may appear blameable, never appears
odious. We blame the excessive fondness and anxiety of a parent, as
something which may, in the end, prove hurtful to the child, and
which, in the mean time, is excessively inconvenient to the parent;
but we easily pardon it, and never regard it with hatred and detesta-
tion. But the defect of this usually excessive affection appears always
peculiarly odious. The man who appears to feel nothing for his own
children, but who treats them upon all occasions with unmerited
severity and harshness, seems of all brutes the most detestable. The
sense of propriety, so far from requiring us to eradicate altogether
that extraordinary sensibility, which we naturally feel for the mis-
fortunes of our nearest connections, is always much more offended
by the defect, than it ever is by the excess of that sensibility. The
stoical apathy is, in such cases, never agreeable, and all the meta-
physical sophisms by which it is supported can seldom serve any
other purpose than to blow up the hard insensibility of a coxcomb to

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

ten times its native impertinence. The poets and romance writers,
who best paint the re¬nements and delicacies of love and friendship,
and of all other private and domestic affections, Racine and Voltaire;
Richardson, Maurivaux, and Riccoboni; are, in such cases, much
better instructors than Zeno, Chrysippus, or Epictetus.

±µ That moderated sensibility to the misfortunes of others, which does
not disqualify us for the performance of any duty; the melancholy
and affectionate remembrance of our departed friends; the pang, as
Gray says, to secret sorrow dear; are by no means undelicious sen-
sations. Though they outwardly wear the features of pain and grief,
they are all inwardly stamped with the ennobling characters of virtue
and self-approbation.

± It is otherwise in the misfortunes which affect ourselves immediately
and directly, either in our body, in our fortune, or in our reputation.
The sense of propriety is much more apt to be offended by the ex-
cess, than by the defect of our sensibility, and there are but very few
cases in which we can approach too near to the stoical apathy and

±· That we have very little fellow-feeling with any of the passions which
take their origin from the body, has already been observed.° That
pain which is occasioned by an evident cause; such as, the cutting or
tearing of the ¬‚esh; is, perhaps, the affection of the body with which

 Since he brackets him with Racine, Smith is presumably thinking of Voltaire in his role as play-
wright, cf. the appreciations below at III..±; V.±.; VI.ii.±.; in ˜Letter to the Edinburgh Review™,
±· (in EPS); and, as reported in Rhetoric, Appendix I, p. ±, note. Smith next refers to major rep-
resentatives of the fashionable sentimentalist literature of his day. Samuel Richardson (±“±·±)
was famous for his three epistolary novels, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (±·°“±), Clarissa, or, the
History of a Young Lady (±·“) and Sir Charles Grandison (±·µ). Although Pierre Marivaux™s
(±“±·) main claim to fame, then as now, rested on his plays (cf. Rhetoric, lecture ° (ii.)),
his appearance alongside Richardson and Riccoboni indicates that Smith may be thinking of
his novels, in particular Les Aventures de ***, ou les Effets surprenants de la sympathie (±·±“±).
Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni (±·±“) wrote a continuation of Marivaux™s un¬nished novel La Vie
de Marianne (±·°) and several epistolary novels and translations from English in the ±·µ°s and
°s. Smith met her in Paris in ±·, cf. letter No. , Corr. p. ±±. Finally Smith rounds up three
of the main stoics, the founder of the school, Zeno of Citium (c. “ BC), the third head of
the Stoa, Chrysippus (c. °“°· BC), and the aforementioned Roman stoic (cf. note  above).
 ˜Epitaph on Mrs. Clerke™. Concerning Thomas Gray, see note ± above.
° I.ii.±.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

the spectator feels the most lively sympathy. The approaching death
of his neighbour, too, seldom fails to affect him a good deal. In both
cases, however, he feels so very little in comparison of what the per-
son principally concerned feels, that the latter can scarce ever offend
the former by appearing to suffer with too much ease.

± The mere want of fortune, mere poverty, excites little compassion.
Its complaints are too apt to be the objects rather of contempt than of
fellow-feeling.± We despise a beggar; and, though his importunities
may extort an alms from us, he is scarce ever the object of any seri-
ous commiseration. The fall from riches to poverty, as it commonly
occasions the most real distress to the sufferer, so it seldom fails
to excite the most sincere commiseration in the spectator. Though,
in the present state of society, this misfortune can seldom happen
without some misconduct, and some very considerable misconduct
too, in the sufferer; yet he is almost always so much pitied that he
is scarce ever allowed to fall into the lowest state of poverty; but by
the means of his friends, frequently by the indulgence of those very
creditors who have much reason to complain of his imprudence, is
almost always supported in some degree of decent, though humble,
mediocrity. To persons under such misfortunes, we could, perhaps,
easily pardon some degree of weakness; but, at the same time, they
who carry the ¬rmest countenance, who accommodate themselves
with the greatest ease to their new situation, who seem to feel no
humiliation from the change, but to rest their rank in the society,
not upon their fortune, but upon their character and conduct, are
always the most approved of, and never fail to command our highest
and most affectionate admiration.

± As, of all the external misfortunes which can affect an innocent man
immediately and directly, the undeserved loss of reputation is cer-
tainly the greatest; so a considerable degree of sensibility to whatever
can bring on so great a calamity, does not always appear ungraceful
or disagreeable. We often esteem a young man the more, when he
resents, though with some degree of violence, any unjust reproach
that may have been thrown upon his character or his honour. The

± Cf. I.iii..l.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

af¬‚iction of an innocent young lady, on account of the groundless
surmises which may have been circulated concerning her conduct,
appears often perfectly amiable. Persons of an advanced age, whom
long experience of the folly and injustice of the world, has taught to
pay little regard, either to its censure or to its applause, neglect and
despise obloquy, and do not even deign to honour its futile authors
with any serious resentment. This indifference, which is founded
altogether on a ¬rm con¬dence in their own well-tried and well-
established characters, would be disagreeable in young people, who
neither can nor ought to have any such con¬dence. It might in them
be supposed to forebode, in their advancing years, a most improper
insensibility to real honour and infamy.

° In all other private misfortunes which affect ourselves immediately
and directly, we can very seldom offend by appearing to be too little
affected. We frequently remember our sensibility to the misfortunes
of others with pleasure and satisfaction. We can seldom remember
that to our own, without some degree of shame and humiliation.

± If we examine the different shades and gradations of weakness and
self-command, as we meet with them in common life, we shall very
easily satisfy ourselves that this control of our passive feelings must
be acquired, not from the abstruse syllogisms of a quibbling dialec-
tic, but from that great discipline which Nature has established for
the acquisition of this and of every other virtue; a regard to the
sentiments of the real or supposed spectator of our conduct.

 A very young child has no self-command; but, whatever are its emo-
tions, whether fear, or grief, or anger, it endeavours always, by the
violence of its outcries, to alarm, as much as it can, the attention of its
nurse, or of its parents. While it remains under the custody of such
partial protectors, its anger is the ¬rst and, perhaps, the only passion
which it is taught to moderate. By noise and threatening they are,
for their own ease, often obliged to frighten it into good temper; and
the passion which incites it to attack, is restrained by that which
teaches it to attend to its own safety. When it is old enough to go
to school, or to mix with its equals, it soon ¬nds that they have no
such indulgent partiality. It naturally wishes to gain their favour,

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

and to avoid their hatred or contempt. Regard even to its own safety
teaches it to do so; and it soon ¬nds that it can do so in no other way
than by moderating, not only its anger, but all its other passions, to
the degree which its play-fellows and companions are likely to be
pleased with. It thus enters into the great school of self-command, it
studies to be more and more master of itself, and begins to exercise
over its own feelings a discipline which the practice of the longest
life is very seldom suf¬cient to bring to complete perfection.

 In all private misfortunes, in pain, in sickness, in sorrow, the weak-
est man, when his friend, and still more when a stranger visits him,
is immediately impressed with the view in which they are likely to
look upon his situation. Their view calls off his attention from his
own view; and his breast is, in some measure, becalmed the moment
they come into his presence. This effect is produced instantaneously
and, as it were, mechanically; but, with a weak man, it is not of long
continuance. His own view of his situation immediately recurs upon
him. He abandons himself, as before, to sighs and tears and lamen-
tations; and endeavours, like a child that has not yet gone to school,
to produce some sort of harmony between his own grief and the
compassion of the spectator, not by moderating the former, but by
importunately calling upon the latter.

 With a man of a little more ¬rmness, the effect is somewhat more
permanent. He endeavours, as much as he can, to ¬x his attention
upon the view which the company are likely to take of his situation.
He feels, at the same time, the esteem and approbation which they
naturally conceive for him when he thus preserves his tranquillity;
and, though under the pressure of some recent and great calamity,
appears to feel for himself no more than what they really feel for
him. He approves and applauds himself by sympathy with their ap-
probation, and the pleasure which he derives from this sentiment
supports and enables him more easily to continue this generous ef-
fort. In most cases he avoids mentioning his own misfortune; and his
company, if they are tolerably well bred, are careful to say nothing
which can put him in mind of it. He endeavours to entertain them,
in his usual way, upon indifferent subjects, or, if he feels himself
strong enough to venture to mention his misfortune, he endeavours

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

to talk of it as, he thinks, they are capable of talking of it, and even
to feel it no further than they are capable of feeling it. If he has not,
however, been well inured to the hard discipline of self-command,
he soon grows weary of this restraint. A long visit fatigues him; and,
towards the end of it, he is constantly in danger of doing, what he
never fails to do the moment it is over, of abandoning himself to all
the weakness of excessive sorrow. Modern good manners, which are
extremely indulgent to human weakness, forbid, for some time, the
visits of strangers to persons under great family distress, and permit
those only of the nearest relations and most intimate friends. The
presence of the latter, it is thought, will impose less restraint than
that of the former; and the sufferers can more easily accommodate
themselves to the feelings of those, from whom they have reason to
expect a more indulgent sympathy. Secret enemies, who fancy that
they are not known to be such, are frequently fond of making those
charitable visits as early as the most intimate friends. The weakest
man in the world, in this case, endeavours to support his manly
countenance, and, from indignation and contempt of their malice,
to behave with as much gaiety and ease as he can.

µ The man of real constancy and ¬rmness, the wise and just man who
has been thoroughly bred in the great school of self-command, in the
bustle and business of the world, exposed, perhaps, to the violence
and injustice of faction, and to the hardships and hazards of war,
maintains this control of his passive feelings upon all occasions; and
whether in solitude or in society, wears nearly the same countenance,
and is affected very nearly in the same manner. In success and in
disappointment, in prosperity and in adversity, before friends and
before enemies, he has often been under the necessity of supporting
this manhood. He has never dared to forget for one moment the
judgment which the impartial spectator would pass upon his senti-
ments and conduct. He has never dared to suffer the man within the
breast to be absent one moment from his attention. With the eyes of
this great inmate he has always been accustomed to regard whatever
relates to himself. This habit has become perfectly familiar to him.
He has been in the constant practice, and, indeed, under the con-
stant necessity, of modelling, or of endeavouring to model, not only
his outward conduct and behaviour, but, as much as he can, even his

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

inward sentiments and feelings, according to those of this awful and
respectable judge. He does not merely affect the sentiments of the im-
partial spectator. He really adopts them. He almost identi¬es himself
with, he almost becomes himself that impartial spectator, and scarce
even feels but as that great arbiter of his conduct directs him to feel.

 The degree of the self-approbation with which every man, upon
such occasions, surveys his own conduct, is higher or lower, exactly
in proportion to the degree of self-command which is necessary in
order to obtain that self-approbation. Where little self-command
is necessary, little self-approbation is due. The man who has only
scratched his ¬nger, cannot much applaud himself, though he should
immediately appear to have forgot this paltry misfortune. The man
who has lost his leg by a cannon shot, and who, the moment after,
speaks and acts with his usual coolness and tranquillity, as he ex-
erts a much higher degree of self-command, so he naturally feels
a much higher degree of self-approbation. With most men, upon
such an accident, their own natural view of their own misfortune
would force itself upon them with such a vivacity and strength
of colouring, as would entirely efface all thought of every other
view. They would feel nothing, they could attend to nothing, but
their own pain and their own fear; and not only the judgment
of the ideal man within the breast, but that of the real spectators
who might happen to be present, would be entirely overlooked and

· The reward which Nature bestows upon good behaviour under mis-
fortune, is thus exactly proportioned to the degree of that good
behaviour. The only compensation she could possibly make for the
bitterness of pain and distress is thus too, in equal degrees of good be-
haviour, exactly proportioned to the degree of that pain and distress.
In proportion to the degree of the self-command which is necessary
in order to conquer our natural sensibility, the pleasure and pride of
the conquest are so much the greater; and this pleasure and pride
are so great that no man can be altogether unhappy who completely
enjoys them. Misery and wretchedness can never enter the breast
in which dwells complete self-satisfaction; and though it may be too
much, perhaps, to say, with the Stoics, that, under such an accident

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

as that above mentioned, the happiness of a wise man is in every
respect equal to what it could have been under any other circum-
stances; yet it must be acknowledged, at least, that this complete
enjoyment of his own self-applause, though it may not altogether
extinguish, must certainly very much alleviate his sense of his own

 In such paroxysms of distress, if I may be allowed to call them so,
the wisest and ¬rmest man, in order to preserve his equanimity, is
obliged, I imagine, to make a considerable, and even a painful ex-
ertion. His own natural feeling of his own distress, his own natural
view of his own situation, presses hard upon him, and he cannot,
without a very great effort, ¬x his attention upon that of the im-
partial spectator. Both views present themselves to him at the same
time. His sense of honour, his regard to his own dignity, directs
him to ¬x his whole attention upon the one view. His natural, his
untaught and undisciplined feelings, are continually calling it off to
the other. He does not, in this case, perfectly identify himself with
the ideal man within the breast, he does not become himself the
impartial spectator of his own conduct. The different views of both
characters exist in his mind separate and distinct from one another,
and each directing him to a behaviour different from that to which
the other directs him. When he follows that view which honour and
dignity point out to him, Nature does not, indeed, leave him with-
out a recompense. He enjoys his own complete self-approbation,
and the applause of every candid and impartial spectator. By her un-
alterable laws, however, he still suffers; and the recompense which
she bestows, though very considerable, is not suf¬cient completely
to compensate the sufferings which those laws in¬‚ict. Neither is it
¬t that it should. If it did completely compensate them, he could,
from self-interest, have no motive for avoiding an accident which
must necessarily diminish his utility both to himself and to society;
and Nature, from her parental care of both, meant that he should
anxiously avoid all such accidents. He suffers, therefore, and though,
in the agony of the paroxysm, he maintains, not only the man-
hood of his countenance, but the sedateness and sobriety of his
judgment, it requires his utmost and most fatiguing exertions, to
do so.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 By the constitution of human nature, however, agony can never be
permanent; and, if he survives the paroxysm, he soon comes, without
any effort, to enjoy his ordinary tranquillity. A man with a wooden
leg suffers, no doubt, and foresees that he must continue to suffer
during the remainder of his life, a very considerable inconveniency.
He soon comes to view it, however, exactly as every impartial spec-
tator views it; as an inconveniency under which he can enjoy all the
ordinary pleasures both of solitude and of society. He soon identi¬es
himself with the ideal man within the breast, he soon becomes him-
self the impartial spectator of his own situation. He no longer weeps,
he no longer laments, he no longer grieves over it, as a weak man
may sometimes do in the beginning. The view of the impartial spec-
tator becomes so perfectly habitual to him, that, without any effort,
without any exertion, he never thinks of surveying his misfortune
in any other view.

° The never-failing certainty with which all men, sooner or later, ac-
commodate themselves to whatever becomes their permanent sit-
uation, may, perhaps, induce us to think that the Stoics were, at
least, thus far very nearly in the right; that, between one perma-
nent situation and another, there was, with regard to real happiness,
no essential difference: or that, if there were any difference, it was
no more than just suf¬cient to render some of them the objects of
simple choice or preference; but not of any earnest or anxious de-
sire: and others, of simple rejection, as being ¬t to be set aside or
avoided; but not of any earnest or anxious aversion. Happiness
consists in tranquillity and enjoyment. Without tranquillity there
can be no enjoyment; and where there is perfect tranquillity there
is scarce any thing which is not capable of amusing. But in every
permanent situation, where there is no expectation of change, the
mind of every man, in a longer or shorter time, returns to its natural
and usual state of tranquillity. In prosperity, after a certain time,
it falls back to that state; in adversity, after a certain time, it rises
up to it. In the con¬nement and solitude of the Bastile, after a cer-
tain time, the fashionable and frivolous Count de Lauzun recovered
tranquillity enough to be capable of amusing himself with feeding a

 See e.g. Cicero, De ¬nibus, III.xvi.µ.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

spider. A mind better furnished would, perhaps, have both sooner
recovered its tranquillity, and sooner found, in its own thoughts, a
much better amusement.

± The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life,
seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one perma-
nent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between
poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public
station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputa-
tion. The person under the in¬‚uence of any of those extravagant
passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often
disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that
which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however,
might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life,
a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and
equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve
to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued
with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules ei-
ther of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of
our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly,
or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice. Wherever pru-
dence does not direct, wherever justice does not permit, the attempt
to change our situation, the man who does attempt it, plays at the
most unequal of all games of hazard, and stakes every thing against
scarce any thing. What the favourite of the king of Epirus said to
his master, may be applied to men in all the ordinary situations of
human life. When the King had recounted to him, in their proper
order, all the conquests which he proposed to make, and had come
to the last of them; And what does your Majesty propose to do then?
said the Favourite. “ I propose then, said the King, to enjoy myself
with my friends, and endeavour to be good company over a bottle. “
And what hinders your Majesty from doing so now? replied the

 Antonin Nompar de Caumont, comte (later duc) de Lauzun, ±“±·, was imprisoned in the
Bastille for six months in ±µ and again in ±, in both cases because of trouble with Louis XIV
over mistresses. And he served ten years, ±·±“±, in the fortress of Pinerolo in French controlled
Piedmont because of his pursuit of an heiress whose inheritance was meant for somebody else.
Smith™s source is likely to be Racine™s historical writings though the precise reference has not been

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Favourite. In the most glittering and exalted situation that our idle
fancy can hold out to us, the pleasures from which we propose to de-
rive our real happiness, are almost always the same with those which,
in our actual, though humble station, we have at all times at hand,
and in our power. Except the frivolous pleasures of vanity and supe-
riority, we may ¬nd, in the most humble station, where there is only
personal liberty, every other which the most exalted can afford; and
the pleasures of vanity and superiority are seldom consistent with
perfect tranquillity, the principle and foundation of all real and sat-
isfactory enjoyment. Neither is it always certain that, in the splendid
situation which we aim at, those real and satisfactory pleasures can be
enjoyed with the same security as in the humble one which we are so
very eager to abandon. Examine the records of history, recollect what
has happened within the circle of your own experience, consider with
attention what has been the conduct of almost all the greatly unfortu-
nate, either in private or public life, whom you may have either read
of, or heard of, or remember; and you will ¬nd that the misfortunes
of by far the greater part of them have arisen from their not knowing
when they were well, when it was proper for them to sit still and to be
contented. The inscription upon the tomb-stone of the man who had
endeavoured to mend a tolerable constitution by taking physic; ˜I was
well, I wished to be better; here I am™;µ may generally be applied with
great justness to the distress of disappointed avarice and ambition.

 It may be thought a singular, but I believe it to be a just observation,
that, in the misfortunes which admit of some remedy, the greater
part of men do not either so readily or so universally recover their
natural and usual tranquillity, as in those which plainly admit of
none. In misfortunes of the latter kind, it is chie¬‚y in what may be
called the paroxysm, or in the ¬rst attack, that we can discover any
sensible difference between the sentiments and behaviour of the wise
and those of the weak man. In the end, Time, the great and universal
comforter, gradually composes the weak man to the same degree of
tranquillity which a regard to his own dignity and manhood teaches
 The dialogue is between King Pyrrhus and his minister Cineas and it is derived from Plutarch,
Parallel Lives, Pyrrhus, ±.
µ An Italian epitaph quoted in Dryden, ˜The Dedication of the Aeneis™ (±·) and in The Spectator,
µ ( March ±·±±).

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

the wise man to assume in the beginning. The case of the man with
the wooden leg is an obvious example of this. In the irreparable
misfortunes occasioned by the death of children, or of friends and
relations, even a wise man may for some time indulge himself in some
degree of moderated sorrow. An affectionate, but weak woman, is
often, upon such occasions, almost perfectly distracted. Time, how-
ever, in a longer or shorter period, never fails to compose the weakest
woman to the same degree of tranquillity as the strongest man. In all
the irreparable calamities which affect himself immediately and di-
rectly, a wise man endeavours, from the beginning, to anticipate and
to enjoy before-hand, that tranquillity which he foresees the course
of a few months, or a few years, will certainly restore to him in the

 In the misfortunes for which the nature of things admits, or seems to
admit, of a remedy, but in which the means of applying that remedy
are not within the reach of the sufferer, his vain and fruitless attempts
to restore himself to his former situation, his continual anxiety for
their success, his repeated disappointments upon their miscarriage,
are what chie¬‚y hinder him from resuming his natural tranquillity,
and frequently render miserable, during the whole of his life, a man
to whom a greater misfortune, but which plainly admitted of no
remedy, would not have given a fortnight™s disturbance. In the fall
from royal favour to disgrace, from power to insigni¬cancy, from
riches to poverty, from liberty to con¬nement, from strong health to
some lingering, chronical, and perhaps incurable disease, the man
who struggles the least, who most easily and readily acquiesces in
the fortune which has fallen to him, very soon recovers his usual
and natural tranquillity, and surveys the most disagreeable circum-
stances of his actual situation in the same light, or, perhaps, in a
much less unfavourable light, than that in which the most indif-
ferent spectator is disposed to survey them. Faction, intrigue, and
cabal, disturb the quiet of the unfortunate statesman. Extravagant
projects, visions of gold mines, interrupt the repose of the ruined
bankrupt. The prisoner, who is continually plotting to escape from
his con¬nement, cannot enjoy that careless security which even a
prison can afford him. The medicines of the physician are often
the greatest torment of the incurable patient. The monk who, in

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

order to comfort Joanna of Castile, upon the death of her husband
Philip, told her of a King, who, fourteen years after his decease, had
been restored to life again, by the prayers of his af¬‚icted queen, was
not likely, by his legendary tale, to restore sedateness to the distem-
pered mind of that unhappy Princess. She endeavoured to repeat
the same experiment in hopes of the same success; resisted for a
long time the burial of her husband, soon after raised his body from
the grave, attended it almost constantly herself, and watched, with
all the impatient anxiety of frantic expectation, the happy moment
when her wishes were to be grati¬ed by the revival of her beloved

 Our sensibility to the feelings of others, so far from being inconsis-
tent with the manhood of self-command, is the very principle upon
which that manhood is founded. The very same principle or instinct
which, in the misfortune of our neighbour, prompts us to compas-
sionate his sorrow; in our own misfortune, prompts us to restrain
the abject and miserable lamentations of our own sorrow. The same
principle or instinct which, in his prosperity and success, prompts us
to congratulate his joy; in our own prosperity and success, prompts
us to restrain the levity and intemperance of our own joy. In both
cases, the propriety of our own sentiments and feelings seems to be
exactly in proportion to the vivacity and force with which we enter
into and conceive his sentiments and feelings.

µ The man of the most perfect virtue, the man whom we naturally love
and revere the most, is he who joins, to the most perfect command
of his own original and sel¬sh feelings, the most exquisite sensibility
both to the original and sympathetic feelings of others. The man
who, to all the soft, the amiable, and the gentle virtues, joins all the
great, the awful, and the respectable, must surely be the natural and
proper object of our highest love and admiration.

 The person best ¬tted by nature for acquiring the former of those two
sets of virtues, is likewise best ¬tted for acquiring the latter. The man

See Robertson™s Charles V. vol. ii. pp. ± and ±µ, ¬rst edition.

 William Robertson (±·±“), History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (±·).

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

who feels the most for the joys and sorrows of others, is best ¬tted for
acquiring the most complete control of his own joys and sorrows. The
man of the most exquisite humanity, is naturally the most capable
of acquiring the highest degree of self-command. He may not, how-
ever, always have acquired it; and it very frequently happens that he
has not. He may have lived too much in ease and tranquillity. He may
have never been exposed to the violence of faction, or to the hardships
and hazards of war. He may have never experienced the insolence of
his superiors, the jealous and malignant envy of his equals, or the
pilfering injustice of his inferiors. When, in an advanced age, some
accidental change of fortune exposes him to all these, they all make
too great an impression upon him. He has the disposition which
¬ts him for acquiring the most perfect self-command; but he has
never had the opportunity of acquiring it. Exercise and practice
have been wanting; and without these no habit can ever be tolera-
bly established. Hardships, dangers, injuries, misfortunes, are the
only masters under whom we can learn the exercise of this virtue.
But these are all masters to whom nobody willingly puts himself to

· The situations in which the gentle virtue of humanity can be most
happily cultivated, are by no means the same with those which are
best ¬tted for forming the austere virtue of self-command. The
man who is himself at ease can best attend to the distress of others.
The man who is himself exposed to hardships is most immediately
called upon to attend to, and to control his own feelings. In the
mild sunshine of undisturbed tranquillity, in the calm retirement
of undissipated and philosophical leisure, the soft virtue of human-
ity ¬‚ourishes the most, and is capable of the highest improvement.
But, in such situations, the greatest and noblest exertions of self-
command have little exercise. Under the boisterous and stormy sky
of war and faction, of public tumult and confusion, the sturdy sever-
ity of self-command prospers the most, and can be the most success-
fully cultivated. But, in such situations, the strongest suggestions
of humanity must frequently be sti¬‚ed or neglected; and every such
neglect necessarily tends to weaken the principle of humanity. As it
may frequently be the duty of a soldier not to take, so it may some-
times be his duty not to give quarter; and the humanity of the man

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

who has been several times under the necessity of submitting to this
disagreeable duty, can scarce fail to suffer a considerable diminution.
For his own ease, he is too apt to learn to make light of the misfor-
tunes which he is so often under the necessity of occasioning; and the
situations which call forth the noblest exertions of self-command,
by imposing the necessity of violating sometimes the property, and
sometimes the life of our neighbour, always tend to diminish, and
too often to extinguish altogether, that sacred regard to both, which
is the foundation of justice and humanity. It is upon this account,
that we so frequently ¬nd in the world men of great humanity who
have little self-command, but who are indolent and irresolute, and
easily disheartened, either by dif¬culty or danger, from the most
honourable pursuits; and, on the contrary, men of the most perfect
self-command, whom no dif¬culty can discourage, no danger appal,
and who are at all times ready for the most daring and desperate
enterprises, but who, at the same time, seem to be hardened against
all sense either of justice or humanity.

 In solitude, we are apt to feel too strongly whatever relates to our-
selves: we are apt to over-rate the good of¬ces we may have done, and
the injuries we may have suffered: we are apt to be too much elated
by our own good, and too much dejected by our own bad fortune.
The conversation of a friend brings us to a better, that of a stranger
to a still better temper. The man within the breast, the abstract and
ideal spectator of our sentiments and conduct, requires often to be
awakened and put in mind of his duty, by the presence of the real
spectator: and it is always from that spectator, from whom we can
expect the least sympathy and indulgence, that we are likely to learn
the most complete lesson of self-command.

 Are you in adversity? Do not mourn in the darkness of solitude, do
not regulate your sorrow according to the indulgent sympathy of
your intimate friends; return, as soon as possible, to the day-light of
the world and of society. Live with strangers, with those who know
nothing, or care nothing about your misfortune; do not even shun
the company of enemies; but give yourself the pleasure of mortifying
their malignant joy, by making them feel how little you are affected
by your calamity, and how much you are above it.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

° Are you in prosperity? Do not con¬ne the enjoyment of your good
fortune to your own house, to the company of your own friends,
perhaps of your ¬‚atterers, of those who build upon your fortune the
hopes of mending their own; frequent those who are independent of
you, who can value you only for your character and conduct, and not
for your fortune. Neither seek nor shun, neither intrude yourself into
nor run away from the society of those who were once your superiors,
and who may be hurt at ¬nding you their equal, or, perhaps, even
their superior. The impertinence of their pride may, perhaps, render
their company too disagreeable: but if it should not, be assured that it
is the best company you can possibly keep; and if, by the simplicity of
your unassuming demeanour, you can gain their favour and kindness,
you may rest satis¬ed that you are modest enough, and that your
head has been in no respect turned by your good fortune.

± The propriety of our moral sentiments is never so apt to be cor-
rupted, as when the indulgent and partial spectator is at hand, while
the indifferent and impartial one is at a great distance.

 Of the conduct of one independent nation towards another, neutral
nations are the only indifferent and impartial spectators. But they
are placed at so great a distance that they are almost quite out of sight.
When two nations are at variance, the citizen of each pays little regard
to the sentiments which foreign nations may entertain concerning
his conduct. His whole ambition is to obtain the approbation of his
own fellow-citizens; and as they are all animated by the same hostile
passions which animate himself, he can never please them so much
as by enraging and offending their enemies. The partial spectator is
at hand: the impartial one at a great distance. In war and negotia-
tion, therefore, the laws of justice are very seldom observed. Truth
and fair dealing are almost totally disregarded. Treaties are violated;
and the violation, if some advantage is gained by it, sheds scarce any
dishonour upon the violator. The ambassador who dupes the min-
ister of a foreign nation, is admired and applauded. The just man
who disdains either to take or to give any advantage, but who would
think it less dishonourable to give than to take one; the man who,
in all private transactions, would be the most beloved and the most
esteemed; in those public transactions is regarded as a fool and an

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

idiot, who does not understand his business; and he incurs always the
contempt, and sometimes even the detestation of his fellow-citizens.
In war, not only what are called the laws of nations, are frequently
violated, without bringing (among his own fellow-citizens, whose
judgments he only regards) any considerable dishonour upon the
violator; but those laws themselves are, the greater part of them, laid
down with very little regard to the plainest and most obvious rules of
justice. That the innocent, though they may have some connexion
or dependency upon the guilty (which, perhaps, they themselves
cannot help), should not, upon that account, suffer or be punished
for the guilty, is one of the plainest and most obvious rules of justice.
In the most unjust war, however, it is commonly the sovereign or the
rulers only who are guilty. The subjects are almost always perfectly
innocent. Whenever it suits the conveniency of a public enemy, how-
ever, the goods of the peaceable citizens are seized both at land and
at sea; their lands are laid waste, their houses are burnt, and they
themselves, if they presume to make any resistance, are murdered
or led into captivity; and all this in the most perfect conformity to
what are called the laws of nations.·

 The animosity of hostile factions, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is
often still more furious than that of hostile nations; and their con-
duct towards one another is often still more atrocious. What may
be called the laws of faction have often been laid down by grave
authors with still less regard to the rules of justice than what are
called the laws of nations. The most ferocious patriot never stated
it as a serious question, Whether faith ought to be kept with public
enemies? “ Whether faith ought to be kept with rebels? Whether
faith ought to be kept with heretics? are questions which have been
often furiously agitated by celebrated doctors both civil and eccle-
siastical. It is needless to observe, I presume, that both rebels and
heretics are those unlucky persons, who, when things have come to
a certain degree of violence, have the misfortune to be of the weaker
party. In a nation distracted by faction, there are, no doubt, always a
few, though commonly but a very few, who preserve their judgment

· Cf. VI.ii. and LJ(B) ff.
 Cf. WN V.i.f.± and V.i.g.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

untainted by the general contagion. They seldom amount to more
than, here and there, a solitary individual, without any in¬‚uence, ex-
cluded, by his own candour, from the con¬dence of either party, and
who, though he may be one of the wisest, is necessarily, upon that
very account, one of the most insigni¬cant men in the society. All
such people are held in contempt and derision, frequently in detes-
tation, by the furious zealots of both parties. A true party-man hates
and despises candour; and, in reality, there is no vice which could so
effectually disqualify him for the trade of a party-man as that single
virtue. The real, revered, and impartial spectator, therefore, is, upon
no occasion, at a greater distance than amidst the violence and rage
of contending parties. To them, it may be said, that such a spectator
scarce exists any where in the universe. Even to the great Judge of
the universe, they impute all their own prejudices, and often view
that Divine Being as animated by all their own vindictive and impla-
cable passions. Of all the corrupters of moral sentiments, therefore,
faction and fanaticism have always been by far the greatest.

 Concerning the subject of self-command, I shall only observe fur-
ther, that our admiration for the man who, under the heaviest and
most unexpected misfortunes, continues to behave with fortitude
and ¬rmness, always supposes that his sensibility to those misfor-
tunes is very great, and such as it requires a very great effort to
conquer or command. The man who was altogether insensible to
bodily pain, could deserve no applause from enduring the torture
with the most perfect patience and equanimity. The man who had
been created without the natural fear of death, could claim no merit
from preserving his coolness and presence of mind in the midst of the
most dreadful dangers. It is one of the extravagancies of Seneca,
that the Stoical wise man was, in this respect, superior even to a
God; that the security of the God was altogether the bene¬t of na-
ture, which had exempted him from suffering; but that the security
of the wise man was his own bene¬t, and derived altogether from
himself and from his own exertions.

µ The sensibility of some men, however, to some of the objects which
immediately affect themselves, is sometimes so strong as to render
 De Providentia, vi..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

all self-command impossible. No sense of honour can control the
fears of the man who is weak enough to faint, or to fall into con-
vulsions, upon the approach of danger. Whether such weakness of
nerves, as it has been called, may not, by gradual exercise and proper
discipline, admit of some cure, may, perhaps, be doubtful. It seems
certain that it ought never to be trusted or employed.

Chapter IV Of the nature of self-deceit, and of the origin
and use of general rules
± In order to pervert the rectitude of our own judgments concerning the
propriety of our own conduct, it is not always necessary that the real
and impartial spectator should be at a great distance. When he is at
hand, when he is present, the violence and injustice of our own sel¬sh
passions are sometimes suf¬cient to induce the man within the breast
to make a report very different from what the real circumstances of
the case are capable of authorising.

 There are two different occasions upon which we examine our own
conduct, and endeavour to view it in the light in which the impartial
spectator would view it: ¬rst, when we are about to act; and secondly,
after we have acted. Our views are apt to be very partial in both cases;
but they are apt to be most partial when it is of most importance that
they should be otherwise.

 When we are about to act, the eagerness of passion will seldom allow
us to consider what we are doing, with the candour of an indiffer-
ent person. The violent emotions which at that time agitate us, dis-
colour our views of things; even when we are endeavouring to place
ourselves in the situation of another, and to regard the objects that
interest us in the light in which they will naturally appear to him,
the fury of our own passions constantly calls us back to our own
place, where every thing appears magni¬ed and misrepresented by
self-love. Of the manner in which those objects would appear to an-
other, of the view which he would take of them, we can obtain, if I
may say so, but instantaneous glimpses, which vanish in a moment, and
which, even while they last, are not altogether just. We cannot even for
that moment divest ourselves entirely of the heat and keenness with

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

which our peculiar situation inspires us, nor consider what we are
about to do with the complete impartiality of an equitable judge. The
passions, upon this account, as father Malebranche says, all justify
themselves, and seem reasonable and proportioned to their objects, as
long as we continue to feel them.µ°

 When the action is over, indeed, and the passions which prompted
it have subsided, we can enter more coolly into the sentiments of the
indifferent spectator. What before interested us is now become almost
as indifferent to us as it always was to him, and we can now examine
our own conduct with his candour and impartiality. The man of to-day
is no longer agitated by the same passions which distracted the man of
yesterday: and when the paroxysm of emotion, in the same manner as
when the paroxysm of distress, is fairly over, we can identify ourselves,
as it were, with the ideal man within the breast, and, in our own
character, view, as in the one case, our own situation, so in the other,
our own conduct, with the severe eyes of the most impartial spectator.
But our judgments now are often of little importance in comparison of
what they were before; and can frequently produce nothing but vain
regret and unavailing repentance; without always securing us from
the like errors in time to come. It is seldom, however, that they are
quite candid even in this case. The opinion which we entertain of our
own character depends entirely on our judgments concerning our past
conduct. It is so disagreeable to think ill of ourselves, that we often
purposely turn away our view from those circumstances which might
render that judgment unfavourable. He is a bold surgeon, they say,
whose hand does not tremble when he performs an operation upon
his own person; and he is often equally bold who does not hesitate
to pull off the mysterious veil of self-delusion, which covers from his
view the deformities of his own conduct. Rather than see our own
behaviour under so disagreeable an aspect, we too often, foolishly and
weakly, endeavour to exasperate anew those unjust passions which had
formerly misled us; we endeavour by arti¬ce to awaken our old hatreds,
and irritate afresh our almost forgotten resentments: we even exert
ourselves for this miserable purpose, and thus persevere in injustice,

µ° Nicolas Malebranche (±“±·±µ), De la recherche de la v´rit´ (±·“µ) V.xi. Smith refers to the
same passage in ˜The History of Astronomy™, III.± (in EPS).

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

merely because we once were unjust, and because we are ashamed and
afraid to see that we were so.

µ So partial are the views of mankind with regard to the propriety of their
own conduct, both at the time of action and after it; and so dif¬cult is it
for them to view it in the light in which any indifferent spectator would
consider it. But if it was by a peculiar faculty, such as the moral sense
is supposed to be, that they judged of their own conduct, if they were
endued with a particular power of perception, which distinguished the
beauty or deformity of passions and affections; as their own passions
would be more immediately exposed to the view of this faculty, it
would judge with more accuracy concerning them, than concerning
those of other men, of which it had only a more distant prospect.µ±

 This self-deceit, this fatal weakness of mankind, is the source of half
the disorders of human life. If we saw ourselves in the light in which
others see us, or in which they would see us if they knew all, a reforma-
tion would generally be unavoidable. We could not otherwise endure
the sight.

· Nature, however, has not left this weakness, which is of so much
importance, altogether without a remedy; nor has she abandoned us
entirely to the delusions of self-love. Our continual observations upon
the conduct of others, insensibly lead us to form to ourselves certain
general rules concerning what is ¬t and proper either to be done or to
be avoided. Some of their actions shock all our natural sentiments. We
hear every body about us express the like detestation against them.
This still further con¬rms, and even exasperates our natural sense of
their deformity. It satis¬es us that we view them in the proper light,
when we see other people view them in the same light. We resolve
never to be guilty of the like, nor ever, upon any account, to render
ourselves in this manner the objects of universal disapprobation. We
thus naturally lay down to ourselves a general rule, that all such actions
are to be avoided, as tending to render us odious, contemptible, or
punishable, the objects of all those sentiments for which we have the
greatest dread and aversion. Other actions, on the contrary, call forth

µ± Cf. the more elaborate criticism of Francis Hutcheson at VII.iii..µ“±°.

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

our approbation, and we hear every body around us express the same
favourable opinion concerning them. Every body is eager to honour
and reward them. They excite all those sentiments for which we have
by nature the strongest desire; the love, the gratitude, the admiration
of mankind. We become ambitious of performing the like; and thus
naturally lay down to ourselves a rule of another kind, that every
opportunity of acting in this manner is carefully to be sought after.

 It is thus that the general rules of morality are formed. They are ul-
timately founded upon experience of what, in particular instances,
our moral faculties, our natural sense of merit and propriety, approve,
or disapprove of. We do not originally approve or condemn particu-
lar actions; because, upon examination, they appear to be agreeable
or inconsistent with a certain general rule. The general rule, on the
contrary, is formed, by ¬nding from experience, that all actions of a
certain kind, or circumstanced in a certain manner, are approved or
disapproved of. To the man who ¬rst saw an inhuman murder, com-
mitted from avarice, envy, or unjust resentment, and upon one too that
loved and trusted the murderer, who beheld the last agonies of the dy-
ing person, who heard him, with his expiring breath, complain more
of the per¬dy and ingratitude of his false friend, than of the violence
which had been done to him, there could be no occasion, in order to
conceive how horrible such an action was, that he should re¬‚ect, that
one of the most sacred rules of conduct was what prohibited the taking
away the life of an innocent person, that this was a plain violation of
that rule, and consequently a very blamable action. His detestation of
this crime, it is evident, would arise instantaneously and antecedent to
his having formed to himself any such general rule. The general rule,
on the contrary, which he might afterwards form, would be founded
upon the detestation which he felt necessarily arise in his own breast,
at the thought of this, and every other particular action of the same

 When we read in history or romance, the account of actions either of
generosity or of baseness, the admiration which we conceive for the
one, and the contempt which we feel for the other, neither of them
arise from re¬‚ecting that there are certain general rules which declare
all actions of the one kind admirable, and all actions of the other

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

contemptible. Those general rules, on the contrary, are all formed
from the experience we have had of the effects which actions of all
different kinds naturally produce upon us.

±° An amiable action, a respectable action, an horrid action, are all of
them actions which naturally excite for the person who performs
them, the love, the respect, or the horror of the spectator. The general
rules which determine what actions are, and what are not, the objects
of each of those sentiments, can be formed no other way than by
observing what actions actually and in fact excite them.

±± When these general rules, indeed, have been formed, when they are
universally acknowledged and established, by the concurring senti-
ments of mankind, we frequently appeal to them as to the standards of
judgment, in debating concerning the degree of praise or blame that
is due to certain actions of a complicated and dubious nature. They
are upon these occasions commonly cited as the ultimate foundations
of what is just and unjust in human conduct; and this circumstance
seems to have misled several very eminent authors, to draw up their
systems in such a manner, as if they had supposed that the original
judgments of mankind with regard to right and wrong, were formed
like the decisions of a court of judicatory, by considering ¬rst the
general rule, and then, secondly, whether the particular action under
consideration fell properly within its comprehension.

± Those general rules of conduct, when they have been ¬xed in our
mind by habitual re¬‚ection, are of great use in correcting the misrep-
resentations of self-love concerning what is ¬t and proper to be done
in our particular situation. The man of furious resentment, if he was
to listen to the dictates of that passion, would perhaps regard the death
of his enemy, as but a small compensation for the wrong, he imagines,
he has received; which, however, may be no more than a very slight
provocation. But his observations upon the conduct of others, have
taught him how horrible all such sanguinary revenges appear. Unless
his education has been very singular, he has laid it down to himself
as an inviolable rule, to abstain from them upon all occasions. This
rule preserves its authority with him, and renders him incapable of
being guilty of such a violence. Yet the fury of his own temper may be

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

such, that had this been the ¬rst time in which he considered such an
action, he would undoubtedly have determined it to be quite just and
proper, and what every impartial spectator would approve of. But that
reverence for the rule which past experience has impressed upon him,
checks the impetuosity of his passion, and helps him to correct the
too partial views which self-love might otherwise suggest, of what was
proper to be done in his situation. If he should allow himself to be so
far transported by passion as to violate this rule, yet, even in this case,
he cannot throw off altogether the awe and respect with which he has
been accustomed to regard it. At the very time of acting, at the moment
in which passion mounts the highest, he hesitates and trembles at the
thought of what he is about to do: he is secretly conscious to himself
that he is breaking through those measures of conduct which, in all
his cool hours, he had resolved never to infringe, which he had never
seen infringed by others without the highest disapprobation, and of
which the infringement, his own mind forebodes, must soon render
him the object of the same disagreeable sentiments. Before he can take
the last fatal resolution, he is tormented with all the agonies of doubt
and uncertainty; he is terri¬ed at the thought of violating so sacred
a rule, and at the same time is urged and goaded on by the fury of
his desires to violate it. He changes his purpose every moment; some-
times he resolves to adhere to his principle, and not indulge a passion
which may corrupt the remaining part of his life with the horrors of
shame and repentance; and a momentary calm takes possession of his
breast, from the prospect of that security and tranquillity which he
will enjoy when he thus determines not to expose himself to the haz-
ard of a contrary conduct. But immediately the passion rouses anew,
and with fresh fury drives him on to commit what he had the instant
before resolved to abstain from. Wearied and distracted with those
continual irresolutions, he at length, from a sort of despair, makes the
last fatal and irrecoverable step; but with that terror and amazement
with which one ¬‚ying from an enemy, throws himself over a precipice,
where he is sure of meeting with more certain destruction than from
any thing that pursues him from behind. Such are his sentiments even
at the time of acting; though he is then, no doubt, less sensible of the
impropriety of his own conduct than afterwards, when his passion
being grati¬ed and palled, he begins to view what he has done in the
light in which others are apt to view it; and actually feels, what he

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

had only foreseen very imperfectly before, the stings of remorse and
repentance begin to agitate and torment him.

Chapter V Of the in¬‚uence and authority of the general rules of morality,
and that they are justly regarded as the laws of the Deity
± The regard to those general rules of conduct, is what is properly called
a sense of duty, a principle of the greatest consequence in human life,
and the only principle by which the bulk of mankind are capable of
directing their actions. Many men behave very decently, and through
the whole of their lives avoid any considerable degree of blame, who
yet, perhaps, never felt the sentiment upon the propriety of which
we found our approbation of their conduct, but acted merely from a
regard to what they saw were the established rules of behaviour. The
man who has received great bene¬ts from another person, may, by
the natural coldness of his temper, feel but a very small degree of the
sentiment of gratitude. If he has been virtuously educated, however,
he will often have been made to observe how odious those actions
appear which denote a want of this sentiment, and how amiable the
contrary. Though his heart therefore is not warmed with any grate-
ful affection, he will strive to act as if it was, and will endeavour to
pay all those regards and attentions to his patron which the liveliest
gratitude could suggest. He will visit him regularly; he will behave
to him respectfully; he will never talk of him but with expressions
of the highest esteem, and of the many obligations which he owes to
him. And what is more, he will carefully embrace every opportunity
of making a proper return for past services. He may do all this too
without any hypocrisy or blamable dissimulation, without any sel¬sh
intention of obtaining new favours, and without any design of impos-
ing either upon his benefactor or the public. The motive of his actions
may be no other than a reverence for the established rule of duty, a
serious and earnest desire of acting, in every respect, according to the
law of gratitude. A wife, in the same manner, may sometimes not feel
that tender regard for her husband which is suitable to the relation
that subsists between them. If she has been virtuously educated, how-
ever, she will endeavour to act as if she felt it, to be careful, of¬cious,
faithful, and sincere, and to be de¬cient in none of those attentions
which the sentiment of conjugal affection could have prompted her to

Of judgments of our own sentiments and conduct and of duty

perform.µ Such a friend, and such a wife, are neither of them, un-
doubtedly, the very best of their kinds; and though both of them may
have the most serious and earnest desire to ful¬l every part of their
duty, yet they will fail in many nice and delicate regards, they will
miss many opportunities of obliging, which they could never have
overlooked if they had possessed the sentiment that is proper to their
situation. Though not the very ¬rst of their kinds, however, they are
perhaps the second; and if the regard to the general rules of conduct
has been very strongly impressed upon them, neither of them will fail
in any very essential part of their duty. None but those of the happiest
mould are capable of suiting, with exact justness, their sentiments and
behaviour to the smallest difference of situation, and of acting upon
all occasions with the most delicate and accurate propriety. The coarse
clay of which the bulk of mankind are formed, cannot be wrought up


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