Signaling Sympathy: Rule-Making as a Discovery Procedure in the Theory of Moral Sentiments
24 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 15, 2018
In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith delineates between general rules of conduct and morality that are precise and accurate, and rules that are loose, vague, and indeterminate. In a loose, vague, and indeterminate way, Smith’s characterization of the rules of conduct and morality may have anticipated the Hayekian knowledge problem, and his “undefinability” may have anticipated the idea of undecidability that characterizes Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem in that Smith anticipates the idea that a complex-enough system cannot be reduced to a simpler model without destroying key characteristics of the system. Thus, any attempt to codify the general rules of conduct and morality will result in a lower level of overall coordination of the social system than allowing the general rules to emerge through a rules-discovery process on the individual level.
Keywords: Adam Smith, complexity, general rules, morality
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