Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-4hhp2 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-27T04:18:40.966Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Sympathy for Whom? Smith's Reply to Hume

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2016



This essay presents a critical examination and development of an exchange between Adam Smith and David Hume on the nature of sympathy. I identify four objections to Smith's account in a letter from Hume and then argue that Smith's system has the resources to reply to all of them. As such, this essay shows that Smith's system provides a more robust foundation for a sentiment-based system of ethics than has been traditionally recognized.

Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Anscombe, E. (1958) ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’. Philosophy, 33, 119.Google Scholar
Árdal, P. (1989) Passion and Value in Hume's Treatise. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
Blackburn, S. (1998) Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reasoning. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Broadie, A. (2006) ‘Sympathy and the Impartial Spectator’. In Haakonssen, K. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), 158–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brown, V. (2013) ‘Intersubjectivity and Moral Judgment in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments’. In Fricke, C. and Føllesdal, D. (eds.), Intersubjectivity and Objectivity in Adam Smith and Edmund Husserl: A Collection of Essays (Munich: Walter de Gruyter), 243–72.Google Scholar
Darwall, S. (1999) ‘Sympathetic Liberalism: Recent Work on Adam Smith’. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 28, 139–64.Google Scholar
Fleischacker, S. (2013) ‘Sympathy in Hume and Smith: A Contrast, Critique, and Reconstruction’. In Fricke, C. and Føllesdal, D. (eds.), Intersubjectivity and Objectivity in Adam Smith and Edmund Husserl: A Collection of Essays (Munich: Walter de Gruyter), 273311.Google Scholar
Griswold, C. L. (1999) Adam Smith and the Virtues of the Enlightenment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Hanley, R. P. (2014) ‘Hume and Smith on Moral Philosophy’. In Russel, P. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Hume (Oxford: Oxford University Press), no pagination. Available at: Accessed 22 March 2016.Google Scholar
Hume, D. (2000) Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by Norton, D. F. and Norton, M. J.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Phillipson, N. (2010) Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Postema, G. J. (2005) ‘“Cemented with Diseased Qualities”: Sympathy and Comparison in Hume's Moral Psychology’. Hume Studies, 31, 249–98.Google Scholar
Raynor, D. (1984) ‘Hume's Abstract of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 22, 5179.Google Scholar
Sayre-McCord, G. (2015) ‘Hume and Smith on Sympathy, Approbation, and Moral Judgment’. In Schliesser, Eric (ed.), Sympathy: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 208–46.Google Scholar
Smith, A. (1987) The Correspondence of Adam Smith. Edited by Mossner, E. C. and Ross, I. A.. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Smith, A. (1983) Lectures of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. Edited by Bryce, J. C.. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, A. (1976) The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Edited by Raphael, D. D. and Macfie, A. L.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar