Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759 vs Theory of Moral Sentiments 1790: A Change of Mind or a Change of Constraints?

Studi e Note di Economia. 2011. XVI.2: 123-132

10 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2012

Date Written: April 17, 2012

Abstract

The 1790 edition of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments presents significant changes from the 1759 edition. In the 1790 edition Smith seems critical of the moral consequences of commerce. By focusing exclusively on the approbation generated by showing off material possession, I propose that the 1790 edition is just an updated edition of the1759, and does not represent a change of mind Smith had. Writing The Wealth of Nations Smith realizes the constraints in poor pre-commercial societies are different from the constraints in rich commercial societies and therefore behaviors and consequences will differ. The apparent contrast between the two editions of Theory of Moral Sentiments can therefore be interpreted as only apparent.

Keywords: Adam Smith, theory of moral sentiments, approbation

JEL Classification: B12, B31, P0

Suggested Citation

Paganelli, Maria Pia, Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759 vs Theory of Moral Sentiments 1790: A Change of Mind or a Change of Constraints? (April 17, 2012). Studi e Note di Economia. 2011. XVI.2: 123-132, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2041759

Maria Pia Paganelli (Contact Author)

Trinity University ( email )

Dept. of Economics
One Trinity Place
San Antonio, TX 78212
United States

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