Monday, December 10, 2012

A Bit From A Theory Of Moral Sentiments

In Adam Smith's Theory Of Moral Sentiments he puts the example of somebody hearing or reading that somewhere remote from him a terrible circumstance has taken a massive amount of lives as we heard a few years ago about Haiti. We are discomfited by the news but no so much. We are able to eat our dinner that night, entertain ourselves over the course of the evening and we can likely sleep quite well. Contrast that, Smith says, to the news that you must soon lose your small finger. That news will occasion much more anxiety and perhaps a few nights of restless sleep. But then says Smith, in a brilliant twist in his thought piece, imagine we could save an equal number of the lives just hypothetically lost by sacrificing that same small finger. Indubitably says Smith most of us would readily sacrifice our finger.  

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