The morality of self-interest in Adam Smith

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Abstract

Self-interest is, in Adam Smith, more than an economic axiom that rules the workings of the market. It is an anthropological principle whose rational moderation allows the economic activities in commercial society to develop in a prudent and just way. These virtues have, in the Scottish Philosopher, certain traits that are characteristic of a materialistic and mechanistic anthropology, initiated by Thomas Hobbes, and are inserted in a modern Epicureanism mixed with certain Stoic narrative which is also characteristic of the Enlightenment. Combining these different elements, Adam Smith attempts to establish in commercial society a balance between individual interests where individuals, without losing their self-centred nature, cooperate with each other, but without having friendly or benevolent relations among themselves. In this way, Adam Smith proposes a moderate individualism for the workings of society.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)71-90
Number of pages20
JournalConvivium
Volume25
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2012

Keywords

  • Commercial society
  • Epicureanism
  • Justice
  • Materialism
  • Mechanism
  • Morality
  • Prudence
  • Self-interest
  • Self-love
  • Stoicism

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