Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 2: Adam Smith

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    • 00:01

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR: One of the peoplewho was tremendously influenced by Hutchesonis Adam Smith, another of the giantsof the Scottish enlightenment.Smith's famous for two major works-- The Wealth of Nations,and The Theory of Moral Sentiments.The Wealth of Nations is a great work of economics.So important is this that he's been called

    • 00:22

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: the father of modern economics.So if you've ever taken a class in economics,who you're learning about now it's the father of that course.This might strike you as being a good thingif you enjoyed the course, or a very bad thingentirely if you didn't like the course.But if you didn't like the course,you can't really blame Smith.Blame your instructor, as long as it wasn't me, in which case

    • 00:43

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: it's entirely your fault. So Smith isthe father of modern economics.But with Hutcheson, he's also oneof the main advocates of a form of moral sentimentalism.Smith's sentimentalism, while it doestake strong influence from Hutcheson's, is alsodistinct from it.For Smith, when we see interactions between persons,

    • 01:05

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: we enter into vicarious experiencesof their pleasures and pains.We sympathize with their pleasureor we sympathize with their pains.For Smith, we link our sympathy to either approvalor disapproval.So if somebody responds in a way that wethink is appropriate-- for example,somebody pays another individual a compliment,

    • 01:27

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: they may respond in a way that we think is appropriate,thus leading to a mutually advantageous situation.We will approve of that particular response, morally.We would consider it to be morally appropriate.However, if a person overreacts or under reacts,we might actually disapprove of their response.And we do so perfectly naturally.

    • 01:48

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: So here's the simple example.Somebody offers a minor and unintentional insultor personal slight to another individual in a class.And the person who has been so slightedreacts violently and with a great rage.I think that most people's responseto the person who reacted is this is an overreaction.

    • 02:08

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: You'll not engaging in a morally appropriate way.Conversely, we might consider a person to be under reacting.One person offers a terrible and gratuitous insultto another and the person who's been insulted simplyshrugs it off.I think that in certain cases, wewould consider this to be an under reaction and a morally

    • 02:29

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: inappropriate under reaction.Notice that Smith is also careful not justto allow that persons can vicariousenter into sympathy with others, but also that they can judgethe reaction of the person with whom they are sympathizingas being appropriate or not.Moreover, Smith is willing to take this to extremes.

    • 02:51

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Smith give two examples where we aregoing to sympathize with persons situations,even though they themselves would not actuallyexperience the emotions that we are feeling vicariouslyon their behalf.Two examples of Smith's stand out here.One of them is of a normally functioningman who, through some trauma, suffers

    • 03:11

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: a reduction in his status to that of a contented infant.Typically, we would think that a great tragedyhas befallen this person.But owing to the reduction in status that he's had,he now just experiences the worldas a contented infant would.He clearly isn't going to feel the unhappiness that wewould feel on his behalf.Similarly, Smith also recognizes that we might feel sadness

    • 03:35

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: on behalf of persons who are now dead.Obviously, they are dead and they cannot actually experienceanything.But we recognize the losses that they've sufferedor the deprivation of the goods of lifethat they're subject to, and as a result, notes Smith,we might feel, on their behalf, regret and sadness,even though they themselves actually

    • 03:56

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: can never experience this.So notice what Smith is doing.Smith is not merely saying that we will sympathizewith the actual experiences of persons that we see,but also that we naturally sympathizewith persons' experiences of their situationas they should be experiencing their situation.

    • 04:18

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: So we might look upon interactions with others,knowing more from the persons whoare interacting about the situation in question.And as a result of this additional knowledge,feel that the interactions is eithermorally acceptable or morally suspect,based on our knowledge and our sympathy with the interactees,

    • 04:40

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: given our knowledge of their situation.So far we've been looking at Smith's view as somebodylooking on at the actions of others.But Smith is very clear that we can similarlyjudge our own actions.And now Smith obviously has a problem.Because our judging of our own actions is likelybe tainted by our self interest.

    • 05:02

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: How does Smith get around this?Smith notes that it's perfectly natural for personsto look upon their actions from a third person point of view--what might be termed an impartial spectatorpoint of view-- and to see what wouldan impartial spectator think of my actions in these situations?

    • 05:22

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: People might be familiar with the little bracelets whichsay WWJD.What Would Jesus Do?We can imagine Smith merchandisinghis own bracelets.WWASD.What Would Adam Smith Do?Or more precisely, WWIOD.What Would an Impartial Observer Do?

    • 05:45

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: So Smith is concerned with ensuringthat person's can regulate their actions in accordancewith this imaginary third person point of view.For Smith, this is especially the casewhen we come to consider questions of justiceand just interaction between persons.For Smith, we must recognize that person's can

    • 06:09

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: have resentment if they're treated badlyand gratitude if they're treated justly.We enter into sympathy with personsand approve if a person's response to an interactionis one that we consider to be appropriate.We would disapprove if it's one that weconsider to be inappropriate.Smith is very clear that when we consider interactions

    • 06:30

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: between people, there's a distinctionto be drawn between failing to receive a benefitand actually suffering some injury.If you fail to receive a benefit that somebody might haveconferred upon you, Smith notes it doesn't make that much senseto be resentful towards them.After all, they simply didn't harm you.

    • 06:51

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: They just didn't elevate your position.If you resent somebody for failingto confer a benefit upon you, youmight be responding inappropriately.Conversely, if you resent somebodyfor actually injuring you, from removingyour property, for assaulting you and so forth,that seems to be a perfectly just response.

    • 07:11

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: So notice what Smith is doing.He's taking on natural moral sentiments on natural responsesto interactions between people and he'sdrawing a distinction between resentment towards a failureto secure a benefit as being illegitimateand resentment towards some positive hurt

    • 07:32

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: as being legitimate.Putting this in modern terms of rights violations, for Smith,a failure to fulfill a claimed positive rightmight not be an injustice at all.But failure to respect person's negative rightsmight be a very grave injustice indeed.Smith, like Hutcheson before him,

    • 07:53

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: is taking on a moral sentimentalist approach,but he's doing so in a distinct fashion.Like Hutcheson, Smith is offeringa perfectly naturalized account of morality,which is going to accord with our natural responsesas humans.This, I think, is incredibly important in assessingwhether or not a particular social arrangement

    • 08:15

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: or moral claims are going to be just or not.If we take Smith's view seriously,we should recognize that persons areconstituted to resent having injury done to them,but might not be constituted to resent a failureto secure benefits.If this is so, then it seems the provision of benefits

    • 08:35

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: is far less important for a stateto do than actually to prevent peoplefrom incursions by others.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 2: Adam Smith

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Abstract

Professor James Stacey Taylor continues his discussion on the Scottish Enlightenment. This second segment focuses on the work of Adam Smith, highlighting his impact on economic theory and moral sentimentalism.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 2: Adam Smith

Professor James Stacey Taylor continues his discussion on the Scottish Enlightenment. This second segment focuses on the work of Adam Smith, highlighting his impact on economic theory and moral sentimentalism.

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