Journaltalk - The Impartial Spectator and Moral Judgment

The Impartial Spectator and Moral Judgment

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Author
  • Vivienne Brown
Volume Number 13
Issue Number 2
Pages 232–248
File URL The Impartial Spectator and Moral Judgment
Publication year 2016

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Publisher INST SPONTANEOUS ORDER ECONOMICS
Grouping social sciences
Categories economic, economics

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2 comments

  1. I enjoyed your article, not least because it helped to familiarize me with a literature that I have read only a little of. As you know, I am not a Smith scholar. I have been drawn into TMS because of unanswered, or badly answered, research questions in the experimental (and behavioral) economics literature. For me TMS provides a comprehensive means of understanding the predictive and modeling failures (and successes) of economics since the 1870s fork in the road.
    On the distinction between empathy and normative sympathy. As I see it, we can only imagine what we would feel in another’s situation, never what that person feels. But through our interaction, when I conjecture and take action that misreads what that person feels, and receive corrective feedback, I am aware of error in the rules I follow when mapping propriety as a function of circumstances into an action. I modify my rule-following based on fellow-feeling, and thence my actions.
    As I see Smith on morality, it is social order. Smith and the Scots are trying to understand the invisible forces that account for it. Smith came to understand his own program better through the six editions of TMS over 31 years. Hence, the decline, but not complete elimination of the Divine—he knew that you can’t get purpose out of a better understanding of how things work; it does not pop out of the observations. This explains his discussion of how in “operations…of the mind” we often fail to “distinguish the efficient from the final cause.” He is trying to see how human society adapts, learns and becomes fitter, where it does, and where it goes wrong where it does not. It was an incomplete model, but a powerful thinking machine that was not a lost legacy in economics, but one never found. The success of WN swamped TMS, so who cared about human sentiment? I love the return to Smith and a focus on adjustment processes in rule space.

    posted 06 Jun 2016 by Vernon L. Smith

  2. I enjoyed your article, not least because it helped to familiarize me with a literature that I have read only a little of. As you know, I am not a Smith scholar. I have been drawn into TMS because of unanswered, or badly answered, research questions in the experimental (and behavioral) economics literature. For me TMS provides a comprehensive means of understanding the predictive and modeling failures (and successes) of economics since the 1870s fork in the road.
    On the distinction between empathy and normative sympathy. As I see it, we can only imagine what we would feel in another’s situation, never what that person feels. But through our interaction, when I conjecture and take action that misreads what that person feels, and receive corrective feedback, I am aware of error in the rules I follow when mapping propriety as a function of circumstances into an action. I modify my rule-following based on fellow-feeling, and thence my actions.
    As I see Smith on morality, it is social order. Smith and the Scots are trying to understand the invisible forces that account for it. Smith came to understand his own program better through the six editions of TMS over 31 years. Hence, the decline, but not complete elimination of the Divine—he knew that you can’t get purpose out of a better understanding of how things work; it does not pop out of the observations. This explains his discussion of how in “operations…of the mind” we often fail to “distinguish the efficient from the final cause.” He is trying to see how human society adapts, learns and becomes fitter, where it does, and where it goes wrong where it does not. It was an incomplete model, but a powerful thinking machine that was not a lost legacy in economics, but one never found. The success of WN swamped TMS, so who cared about human sentiment? I love the return to Smith and a focus on adjustment processes in rule space.

    posted 06 Jun 2016 by Vernon L. Smith

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