Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

Adam Smith’s Other Masterwork

Adam Smith (Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
The Theory of Moral Sentiments offers a needed theory of sympathy 

Adam Smith is today known as the founding father of economics. But by profession he was a university professor, holding a chair in moral philosophy. It was in this capacity that in 1759 he published the first of his two books. Neither can be fully appreciated without the other — and both deserve our careful attention now, perhaps more than ever.

Smith’s first book was The Theory of Moral Sentiments. An instant hit, it early on caught the attention of such prominent admirers as Edmund Burke, David Hume, and John Adams. The aim of the book is at once descriptive and

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