Ethical utilitarianism and the theory of moral sentiments: Adam smith in relation to Hume and Bentham

Samuel Hollander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Does The Theory of Moral Sentiments reveal Adam Smith to be an "ethical utilitarian"? I approach the question by elucidating David Hume's qualifications to his own utility doctrine and the qualifications by Smith to his critique of that doctrine. I demonstrate Smith's acceptance of "happiness" as maximand, reject a narrow interpretation of the happiness entity frequently attributed to Jeremy Bentham, and confirm the role Bentham, no less than Smith and Hume, accords motivation in ethical evaluation. I conclude that the agreement amongst the three is such that to deny Smith the designation "ethical utilitarian" implies similar treatment of Hume and Bentham.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-580
Number of pages24
JournalEastern Economic Journal
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bentham
  • Hume
  • Justice
  • Smith
  • Utilitarianism

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