Of Propriety John Smith Summary

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If the utility of wealth inspired people then they would admire the happiness that the rich, the noble or the ‘superior in society’, as Smith calls them, derive from their wealth and not the seemingly beauty that comes with wealth.

Smith asserts that sympathy drives us to act the way we do. As observers, we put ourselves in the position of a sufferer. We imagine what it is to be in their shoes and what they may be feeling. We form an imagination of how they are affected and conceive what we ourselves should feel in a similar situation. Because we only make an imagination of what the sufferer is going through, we can never fully feel what he or she is going through. We only feel something which is ‘weaker in degree’. A case in point, say you
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In Part I, ‘Of Propriety’, Smith discusses the relationship between passion and propriety. Of the three passions-social passions, unsocial passions and selfishness-unsocial passions consist of resentment. We find ourselves sympathizing with both the agent and subject of an action through unsocial passions such as anger and resentment. Smith adds that the sentiment of approbation is always pleasurable and within it there are two elements: the sympathetic passion of the spectator and the emotion which arises in the spectator in seeing ‘the perfect coincidence’ between the sympathetic passion and the original passion in the agent. In the later, ‘the sentiment of approbation properly consists’ and is always pleasurable. The first will be either pleasurable or painful, depending on the original passion; when I observe the passion of resentment in another person, I sympathize with this person, and feel the same pain as he or she feels. On its own I might not sympathize with the pain, and be repelled by it. If I am repelled, it is unlikely that sympathy with resentment could lead to the creation of a system of justice. For example, if John hits Steve, he (Steve) will resent John. As an objective spectator I feel Steve’s pain and get pleasure from sympathizing with Steve’s pain. And I demerit John’s action based on Steve’s response. We are only aware of utility of a punishment once the passion of resentment has disappeared. The result of this …show more content…
He focuses on virtues such a humanity, generosity and public spiritedness. One might expect that utility is involved in actions where these virtues are show cased. However, Smith says that we consider these virtues for other reasons such as propriety and not because of their utility. Smith believes that the qualities most useful to us are reason which lead us discern remote consequences and self-command that enable us delay happiness into the future. Smith further distinguishes between generosity where one has to make sacrifices to better another person and humanity involves entering into the sentiment of another through matching virtues. Public spirit is the same, where you would give your life in service to your country. Smith argues that in these cases our approbation arises out of the uncommon effort these people make; that ‘the utility of their actions only occurs to us as an afterthought, through reason, not through immediate appreciation.’ [TMS, IV.2.9, p.

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