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Adam Smith's impartial spectator and David Hume's general point of view have much in common, as do their moral theories more generally. However, this paper argues that a distinctive feature of Smith's theory—the pleasure of mutual sympathy—allows Smith to better explain a number of important features of norms. In particular, it provides Smith with a more plausible mechanism for explaining how norms emerge, and offers him a richer set of resources for explaining both why we are attracted to norms and why norms are often characterized by local similarity and global diversity. Rather than merely being a matter of historical interest, though, this paper argues that this aspect of Smith's theory warrants attention from contemporary social scientists interested in the nature of norms, as well as from philosophers interested in how we might look to our sentiments to ground our normative practices.


This is the accepted version of the following article:

Hankins, K., Thrasher, J. (2021). Smithian sympathy and the emergence of norms. Philos Phenomenol Res. 1– 19.

which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

Peer Reviewed






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