Adam Smith Program
Department of Economics · George Mason University

Eugene Heath (SUNY New Paltz): Adam Smith's Conception of Self-Love


Start Time
Saturday, 14 Oct 2023
End Time
Saturday, 14 Oct 2023
Adam Smith Program

Presenation title: Adam Smith's Conception of Self-Love

Abstract: This presentation reassesses the nature and role of self-love in Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments. After distinguishing several notions of self-love (Aristotelian, Stoic, Augustinian), I contend that Smith employs an Augustinian notion of self-love as a second-order affection attached to our natural first-person perspective. Self-love renders us partial, but the impartial spectator allows an escape from this affection to self. I conclude by noting how this understanding may affect specific interpretive questions regarding Smith's moral and economic theories. 

Reading: Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, (1) Part I, Section 1, Chs. 3 & 4 (pp. 16–23); (2) Part III, Ch. 4 (pp. 156–161)