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Adam SmithSystematic Philosopher and Public Thinker$
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Eric Schliesser

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190690120

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190690120.001.0001

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The Sympathetic Process and Judgments of Propriety

The Sympathetic Process and Judgments of Propriety

(p.107) 5 The Sympathetic Process and Judgments of Propriety
Adam Smith

Eric Schliesser

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes Adam Smith’s views on sympathy and sympathetic judgment(s). It shows that the sympathetic process presupposes and crucially depends on counterfactual, causal reasoning. In particular the chapter argue for four related claims. The first is that according to Smith the sympathetic process depends on a type of causal reasoning that goes well beyond the kind of simulationist theory standardly attributed to him. The second is that the Smithian imagination in the sympathetic process works by way of counterfactual reasoning and that even the feelings we ought to feel as a consequence of the sympathetic process need not be actual, but counterfactual. The third is that Smithian agents are non-trivially understood as belonging to the causal order of nature. This chapter illustrates this third point through an extended digression on Smith’s views on moral luck (the piacular). Fourth, Smithian judgments of propriety are intrinsically judgments about the proportionality of causal relations.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, moral luck, piacular, sympathy, counterfactual, judgment, propriety

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