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Sophie de Grouchy's Letters on SympathyA Critical Engagement with Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments$
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Sandrine Bergès

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190637088

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190637088.001.0001

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Letters to C***, on The Theory of Moral Sentiments (p.56)

(p.55) Part II Translation
Sophie de Grouchy's Letters on Sympathy
Sandrine Bergès
Oxford University Press

Grouchy’s eight Letters on Sympathy, written in the early 1790s and published in 1798, alongside her translation of Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, develop an account of sympathy rooted in physiology, but they have far reaching moral, social, and political consequences. While Grouchy is enthusiastic about Smith’s own account of sympathy, she voices a number of disagreements with his account. Letter V gives a more detailed account of the sort of moral theory that can be derived, from sympathy, one that has elements of consequentialism and virtue ethics. While the first five letters are concerned with the development of morality from the physiological origins of sympathy, the last three are an attempt to apply the theory to social, legal, and political reform within a republican framework. Sympathy, if it is well developed, Grouchy argues, ought to be sufficient to remove extreme inequalities and to prevent crime without having recourse to harsh laws.

Keywords:   sentiment, sympathy, utility, law, inequality, physiology, abstraction

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