Adam Smith: Self-command, practical reason and deontological insights

Maria A. Carrasco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In this paper, I argue that, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith conflates two different meanings of self-command, which is particularly puzzling because of the central role of this virtue in his theory. The first is the matrix of rational action, the one described in Part III of the TMS and learned in the great school of self-command. The second is the particular moral virtue of self-command. Distinguishing between these two meanings allows us, on the one hand, to solve some apparent paradoxes of the text; and, on the other, to identify various features of both the practical reason and deontological ethical traditions that are present in Smith's sentimentalism, enriching his phenomenological account of moral actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-414
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adam Smith
  • deontology
  • ethics
  • practical reason
  • self-command


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