Theory of Moral Sentiments

Adam SMITH

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Item#: 117053 price:$7,800.00

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"SMITH HIMSELF RANKED IT ABOVE THE WEALTH OF NATIONS": LANDMARK 1767 EDITION OF ADAM SMITH'S THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS, THE FIRST WITH HIS IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS CONCERNING THE FIRST FORMATION OF LANGUAGES, ADDED AT SMITH'S ORDERS

SMITH, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. London: Printed for A. Millar, A. Kincaid and J. Bell in Edinburgh, 1767. Octavo, contemporary full brown tree calf rebacked in calf-gilt, red morocco spine label; pp. (viii), 478. $7800.

Major third edition of Smith's first book, containing the first publication in book form of Smith's Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages, increasingly seen as "reflecting core ideas about communication that are integral to the full system of Smith's thought," along with the second edition's revisions at the core of "his central concepts of sympathy and the impartial spectator" (Tribe, 14). "One of the truly outstanding books in the intellectual history of the world" (Amartya Sen).

Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, his first book, is "one of the truly outstanding books in the intellectual history of the world" (Amartya Sen). First published in 1759, it laid the foundation for Wealth of Nations and proposed the theory repeated in the later work: that self-seeking men are often "led by an invisible hand… to advance the interest of the society." As the "fruit of his Glasgow years… Moral Sentiments would be enough to assure the author a respected place among Scottish moral philosophers, and Smith himself ranked it above the Wealth of Nations… Its central idea is the concept, closely related to conscience, of the impartial spectator who helps man to distinguish right from wrong. For the same purpose, Kant invented the categorical imperative and Freud the superego" (Niehans, 62). Basing moral sentiment on "the power one man has of putting himself in the place of another," in contrast to Hume's idea of self-interest, "Smith was henceforth recognized as one of the first authors of the day" (DNB). With Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations Smith created "not merely a treatise on moral philosophy and a treatise on economics, but a complete moral and political philosophy, in which the two elements of history and theory were to be closely conjoined" (Palgrave III:412-13).

This pivotal third edition stands out in containing the first publication in book form of Smith's Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages, as well as the extensive additions and revisions of the second edition (1761). Considerations "has increasingly been understood as reflecting core ideas about communication that are integral to the full system of Smith's thought" (Henley, ed. Adam Smith, 389). It earlier appeared in the obscure and short-lived Philological Miscellany (1761), and was added to this edition on Smith's specific orders. Dugald Stewart said that Smith, in particular, "set a high value" on Considerations (Account of the Life, xxxiv), and in his 1793 eulogy to Smith noted that Considerations introduces a "particular sort of enquiry, which, so far as I know, is entirely modern in origin, and which seems, in a peculiar degree to have interested Smith's curiosity. Something very similar to it may be traced in all his different works, whether moral, political, or literary."

Both Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations reflect Smith's attempts "to anchor the new science of political economy in a Newtonian universe, mechanical albeit harmonious and beneficial, in which society is shown to benefit from the unintended consequences of the pursuit of individual self-interest. There is thus a considerable affinity between the structure of Moral Sentiments and that of Wealth of Nations… Smith's ethics and his economics are integrated by the same principle of self-command, or self-reliance, which manifests itself in economics in laissez faire" (Spiegel, Growth of Economic Thought, 229-231). To Smith, when man pursues "his own private interests, the original and selfish sentiments of Moral Sentiments, he will, in the economic realm, choose those endeavors which will best serve society. Herein lies the connection between the two great works which make them the work of a single and largely consistent theorist" (Paul, "Adam Smith," 293). Continuously paginated with Considerations (437-478): titled Dissertation on the Origin of Languages on title page. ESTC T122844. Kress 6496. Goldsmith 10384. See ESTC 141578; Kress 5815; Goldsmith 9537; PMM 221. Contemporary owner signature dated 1808. Owner signature above title page; penciled inscription on front free endpaper.

Text quite fresh with mere trace of scattered foxing, contemporary calf-gilt boards with early restoration, beautifully rebacked. An attractive copy.

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