• The Theory of Moral Sentiments

  • By: Adam Smith
  • Narrated by: Michael Lunts
  • Length: 16 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (94 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

‘How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.’ 

So begins The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), the first major text by Adam Smith, who, seven years later, was to publish what was to become one of the major economic classics, The Wealth of Nations (1776). However, Smith regarded The Theory of Moral Sentiments as his most important work because in it he identified the profound human instinct to act not necessarily in self-interest but through, as he phrased it, a ‘mutual sympathy of sentiments’. 

The work is divided into seven parts, starting with Part 1: Of the Propriety of Action, in which Smith proposes the idea that ‘Sympathy’ can underlie human actions towards others, prompted by various emotions, be it perception of misfortune in others or simply ‘the pleasure of mutual sympathy’. Other parts include ‘Of the Effect of Utility upon the Sentiment of Approbation’, ‘Of the Character of Virtue’ and finally ‘Of Systems of Moral Philosophy’. 

In this concluding section, Smith considers the views of other philosophers, including Epicurus, Zeno, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Hobbes, as well as the opinions of his mentor, Dr Francis Hutchison, an important influence. In short, Smith proposes that man’s sense of morality is interwoven with social instincts as much as reason or self-interest. Sympathy - the contemporary word we would use is empathy - is a universal and strongly held emotion in mankind, he says, imbued with virtue, prudence, justice and beneficence. The Theory of Moral Sentiments was, and remains, a milestone in Western philosophy.

Public Domain (P)2018 Ukemi Productions Ltd

What listeners say about The Theory of Moral Sentiments

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What Makes Humans Humane

Important, interesting,, and amazing-- Adam Smith's insights into human nature are also timeless. Michael Lunts does an excellent job of reading this classic. All who invest the time to listen to and absorb its wisdom will come away better than when they started. Another excellent release from Ukemi Audiobooks. Highly recommended.

6 people found this helpful

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TMS - Background for Human Behavior

This book provides a reasoned explanation of how we function with reality and between one another. Beautifully written and explained. Very relevant to today as it was when written in the mid 1700s. So dense it deserves more than one reading.

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Etiquette guide by emotionaly intelligent scholar.

Moral philosopher in enlightment age, Adam Smith has high EQ in mordern sense. That is interesting trait of him cause we know enlightment age as totally in rational atmosphere. He loved his mother very well, and has no relationship with women in life long time. So his two literature, this and Wealth of nations, is almost dedicated to his mother to be in charge as father and mother that give nation wisdom of economical supply and emotional serve. If I may say so, his two book maintain human mind as moderate intelligence.

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Great for aspiring philosophers

Smith touches on issues of psychology and ethics that are rarely understood and yet he does so learnedly and with uplam. Highly recommended!!!

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One of the best books ever written.

A book all humans should read. A top 5 for sure among all works in English.

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time for a long read?

Very long tome, sometimes rambling and hard to follow. but it gives a thorough examination of behavior through the eyes of the time

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A Masterpiece to be Sure

Having read Wealth of Nations, I knew what I was in for with regard to language and style. This is not an easy read. But having finished it, I'm drawn to read it again one chapter or section at a time to really get the meaning. It starts out with the simplest of observations but those become the building blocks for progressively deeper and deeper assessments. The Invisible Hand observation comes about half way through. It's one of the most important observations ever made and yet you would miss it if you weren't listening for it. So I wonder how many other matters did I miss for just hearing the words but missing the deeper meaning. This is a truly great work that has meaning today.

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Not for audio

Should be read on hardback unless you are familiar with archaic vocabulary and sentence composition.

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Should be read by readers of The Wealth of Nations

Well voiced.
The text has value and makes for a good companion to Smith's more famous work: The Wealth of Nations. However, some parts have not aged well, especially when he talks about savages and females. (Tho to be fair, he doesn't assert that his views of them are based upon their inherent natures, but upon the natures of their societies.) Still, it should be required reading for those who read The Wealth of Nations, as the sentiments expressed here help clarify Smith's thoughts there.

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Worthy read which needs a better reader

Smith's ideas are deep and worthy. His prose are dense and his grammar makes a somewhat challenging audiobook...and it's still worth your time.
The good part of the book is the first 75%. Part seven (the last part) is a comparison of philosophers and can be skipped.
Lunts's reading feels appropriate at first; at some point, his posh accent became stuffy and unnecessary. Eventually his voice turned grating.
Smith really nails the insights into humanity, I plan to read this again!