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The wisdom of Adam

After more than 200 years, science admits it: Adam Smith was right
Science Notebook by Anjana Ahuja - Times Online

IF YOU want to get a feel for cutting-edge science, may I recommend Adam Smith? Yes, the same Adam Smith who wrote Wealth of Nations. He also penned, in 1759, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a melodic work in which he describes the powerful, instinctive nature of “sympathy”:
“Man, say they, conscious of his own weakness, and of the need which he has for the assistance of others, rejoices whenever he observes that they adopt his own passions . . . and grieves whenever he observes the contrary . . . But both the pleasure and the pain are always felt so instantaneously, and often upon such frivolous occasions, that it seems evident that neither of them can be derived from any such self-interested consideration.”

Smith saw sympathy (compassion and commiseration for another person, even if you don’t share his troubles), or empathy (if you do), as an innate characteristic of man. It served, Smith suggested, as man’s moral compass, was difficult to overcome, and from it flourished an unwritten code of ethics that held society together.

During the past ten years scientists have confirmed Smith’s insights.

...our moral code is so ingrained that substituting it with formal regulation can lead to worse behaviour...

The old boy he spoke sense again.



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