Soft Dualism in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments: The Body, the Person and the non-Egoistic Personal Body
Saint-Joseph University Faculty of Economics Beirut, LEBANON
Please cite the paper as:
Nizar HARIRI, (2017), Soft Dualism in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments: The Body, the Person and the non-Egoistic Personal Body, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2017, Economic Philosophy: Complexities in Economics, 2nd October to 30th November 2017
In his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith defended a mind-body dualism, through a metaphor that considered the body as “home”: sympathy is bringing, through imagination, and only through imagination, other people’s emotions back home, to one’s personal body. In this article, I argue that Smith offered an unexplored theory of the human body that could shed new light on the mind-body problem. According to this reading, sympathy or “fellow-feeling” would be best defined as a faculty engaging one person to feel with others, sharing their sufferings and their joys, by imagining what a neutral impartial observer may feel in their place, in their body, and bringing these emotions back home, to the personal body. Therefore, I argue that Smith defended a soft-dualistic approach that is radically opposed to Locke’s possessive individualism as well as to Descartes substance-dualism. Smith’s dualism does not elevate the person to a disembodied entity (a pure mind) or a transcendental subject, nor reduce the body to a mere mechanism or an object that one may own. Thus, Smith did not reduce the body to a machine that hosts a metaphysical subject or a pure consciousness (the non-Cartesian moment) nor to an “object”, a “thing” or a “property” that could be owned by a person (the non-Lockean moment). The point of view of the sympathetic and impartial spectator is only supposing (at least at the level of imagination) that the moral agent is capable of being in a different body, and that every human person is both body and mind that could feel, judge and act from different spots, and not only from the specific coordinates in space that constitute the personal body.