Most of us know Adam Smith for his 1776, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the book that explained why those nations engaged in the production of goods and services gained wealth far greater than those that pursued a mercantilist philosophy of accumulating hoards of gold and silver. Less well known is Smith’s earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he explores ideas about individual freedom and self-interest, conscience and virtue, and moral philosophy. Russ Roberts calls it, “the greatest self-help guide you’ve never read.” In Moral Sentiments Adam Smith tells us that:
“Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires, not only praise, but praiseworthiness; The love of praise-worthiness is by no means derived altogether from the love of praise. Those two principles, though they resemble one another, though they are connected, and often blended with one another, are yet, in many respects, distinct and independent of one another.”
Roberts’ book offers to bring Adam Smith’s earlier writing into the popular culture, to improve it. The culture, that is. Here is an excellent video of a recent interview of Russ Roberts by Glenn Reynolds:
*The didactic novels of the 18th Century, such as Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, might also be called self-help guides.