Socialized View of Man vs. Rational Choice Theory: What Does Smith’s Sympathy Have to Say?



Abstract: To explain the anomaly of cooperation in finitely repeated games, some economists advance a socialized view of man as an antidote to rational choice theory. This paper confronts these economists insofar as they trace the socialized view to Smith’s theory of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). TMS rather advances a view that anticipates rational choice theory. These economists misinterpret TMS because they fail to realize that Smith distinguishes between two functions of sympathy: one that determines the optimal decision and another that determines the command of that decision. The dual function of sympathy parallels the two senses of rational choice: rationality as making the optimal decision and rationality as commanding that decision. Thus Smith’s sympathy does not support the socialized view of man.

Max Scheler and Adam Smith on Sympathy


THE REVIEW OF POLITICS, Volume 79, Issue 3

Abstract: Recent efforts to theorize the role of emotions in political life have stressed the importance of sympathy, and have often recurred to Adam Smith to articulate their claims. In the early twentieth-century, Max Scheler disputed the salutary character of sympathy, dismissing it as an ultimately perverse foundation for human association. Unlike later critics of sympathy as a political principle, Scheler rejected it for being ill equipped to salvage what, in his opinion, should be the proper basis of morality, namely, moral value. Even if Scheler’s objections against Smith’s project prove to be ultimately mistaken, he had important reasons to call into question its moral purchase in his own time. Where the most dangerous idol is not self-love but illusory self-knowledge, the virtue of self-command will not suffice. Where identification with others threatens the social bond more deeply than faction, “standing alone” in moral matters proves a more urgent task.

Adam Smith on Justice, Social Justice, and Ultimate Justice



Abstract: Adam Smith argues that virtue falls into two broad categories: “justice,” which he calls a “negative” virtue because it principally comprises restraint from harming or injuring others; and “beneficence,” which he calls “positive” because it comprises the actions we ought to take to improve others’ situations. Smith’s conception of justice is thus quite “thin,” and some critics argue that it is indeed too thin, since it fails to incorporate substantive concerns for the well-being of others. In this essay, I lay out Smith’s conception of justice and offer a way to understand it that attempts to comprehend the various things he says about it. I then offer a cluster of objections drawing on criticisms that might fall under the heading of “social justice.” Finally, I suggest how Smith might respond to the criticisms by outlining a Smithian conception of what I call “ultimate justice.”

A liberal theory of externalities?



Abstract: Unlike exploitative exchanges, exchanges featuring externalities have never seemed to pose particular problems to liberal theories of justice. State interference with exchanges featuring externalities seems permissible, like it is for coercive or deceptive exchanges. This is because exchanges featuring negative externalities seem to be clear cases of the two exchanging parties harming a third one via the exchange—and thus of conduct violating the harm principle. This essay aims to put this idea into question. I will argue that exchanges featuring negative externalities are not unjust in this straightforward way, i.e. because they would constitute an instance of wrongfully causing or risking a bodily or material harm. In fact, unless we are subscribing to particularly demanding variants of liberalism—e.g. perfectionist liberalism—or unless we are exclusively focusing on borderline cases of externalities—i.e. of effects of exchanges hardly to be called externalities—there is no liberal theory of how exchanges featuring externalities are unjust.

How Not to Argue for Markets (or, Why the Argument from Mutually Beneficial Exchange Fails)



Abstract: In recent years, there has been considerable debate concerning the legitimate scope of market transactions. Markets in many goods that are usually held to be market-inalienable (including sex, human organs, sweatshop labor, women’s reproductive labor, humans, and votes) have all had their defenders—and detractors. Despite the variety of these “contested commodities,” one defense of the view that markets in them are morally legitimate is almost ubiquitous in the philosophical literature on the moral limits of markets. This “Argument from Mutually Beneficial Exchange” is simple. If a trade is voluntary, neither party would have participated in it unless they ex ante expected to benefit from doing so. Hence, provided that the trade in question does not violate the rights of any third party (e.g., it is not the sale of an assassin’s services) then a moral concern for the welfare improvement of each of both parties through the trade prima facie supports its moral permissibility. Taylor argues that this argument should be rejected. This is because it is based on illegitimately inferring from the fact that persons would prefer to trade in a good rather than not given the existence of a market in that good to the conclusion that consideration for the well-being of the would-be trading parties justifies allowing the market in question.

Moral markets: A marginalistic interpretation of Adam Smith



Abstract: The article is built upon James Otteson’s analogy between the structure of moral and economic rules. In Otteson’s interpretation of Adam Smith’s works both of them develop from an exchange of information of interacting agents. We develop that concept about Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, analyzing those exchanges, and considering them Moral Market processes, in the Austrian Tradition of markets as processes. We think that Smith’s emphasis on graduality and his metaphor of the Impartial Spectator allows us to propose a marginalistic approach to those markets stating how, in some of them which we call moral exchanges of justice, and through a great number of exchanges, moral rules of justice emerge. Finally, we present the problems that arise when legislation tries to change the results of these exchanges, in what we called a price control in the moral market.

Should There Be Freedom of Dissociation?


ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, Volume 37, Issue 2

Abstract: Contemporary liberal societies are seeing increasing pressure on individuals to act against their consciences. Most of the pressure is directed at freedom of religion but it also affects ethical beliefs more generally, contrary to the recognition of freedom of religion and conscience as a basic human right. I propose that freedom of dissociation, as a corollary of freedom of association, could be a practical and ethically acceptable solution to the conscience problem. I examine freedom of association and explain how freedom of dissociation follows from it, showing how dissociation protects freedom of religion and conscience. Extreme cases, such as the problem of the Satanist nurse, can be handled within a dissociationist framework, so it is reasonable to think less extreme cases can also be dealt with. The serious objection that dissociationism entails unjust discrimination is answered primarily by appeal to the need for ‘full and fair access’ to goods and services by all groups. I then allay important concerns about what kind of liberal society we should want to live in. Next, I refute the charge that a dissociationist society violates liberalism’s ‘higher good’, arguing that liberalism strictly does not have a higher good. I conclude with some reflections on what a dissociationist society might look like.