Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and Moral Theory (Ideas in Context)
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This 2010 text pursues Adam Smith's views on moral judgement, humanitarian care, commerce, justice and international law both in historical context and through a twenty-first-century cosmopolitan lens, making this a major contribution not only to Smith studies but also to the history of cosmopolitan thought and to contemporary cosmopolitan discourse itself. Forman-Barzilai breaks ground, demonstrating the spatial texture of Smith's moral psychology and the ways he believed that physical, affective and cultural distance constrain the identities, connections and ethical obligations of modern commercial people. Forman-Barzilai emphasizes his resistance to the sort of relativism, moral insularity and cultural chauvinism that too often accompany localist critiques of cosmopolitan thought today. This is a fascinating, revisionist study that integrates the perspectives of intellectual history, moral philosophy, political theory, cultural theory, international relations theory and political economy, and will appeal across the humanities and social sciences.
Princeton University Press, 2001), pp. 3–33, at p. 33. TMS VII.ii.1.44 (p. 292). Sympathy in space 177 The impartial spectator “overawes” our emotions, tempers and moderates the “vehemence” of our aﬀective attachments here. This was its role in Smith’s theory. On its own terms, Smith’s model succeeds in mediating our self-regarding and other-regarding tendencies, disciplining propriety, and ensuring relatively stable and sociable communities. But rendering crosscultural judgments that don’t
properly functioning societies require that men be perpetually subjected to traditional moral prohibitions enforced by absolute rulers, a punitive clergy and a vengeful God. Instead Smith described a lighter, freer, self-regulating method of social coordination that worked endogenously – proof for critics of progress and modernity that free men could live sociably without consensus on the meaning of God’s will, and without being coerced.42 A key feature of Smith’s moral system is that it
the beauty and deformity of his own mind.18 If we wish to grasp the epistemology of Smithian conscience this image of the “social mirror” may be the single most revealing passage in the Moral Sentiments. What this passage conveys is that Smith’s orientation to our moral faculties began with a description of our immersion in society. This is how we come to know who we are, what the world is, and how to coordinate a balance between the two. Smith referred to this process as “sympathy.” I argue
Essay on Kitsch and Death (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), esp. pp. 102–105. 152 The circle of humanity B. AFFECTIVE “CONNEXION”: ON “FEELING TOO STRONGLY” The greatest crimes do not arise from a want of feeling for others but from an oversensibility for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires. (Edmund Burke to the Chevalier de Rivarol (1791)) We come now to the second space in which Smith considered the phenomenon of sympathy. Here I explore Smith’s thoughts on aﬀective
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.70 66 67 70 Recall TMS VII.ii.1.44 (p. 292): “By nature the events which immediately aﬀect that little department in which we ourselves have some management and direction, which immediately