How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness Info

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A forgotten book by one of history's greatest thinkers
reveals the surprising connections between happiness, virtue, fame, and
fortune.

Adam Smith may have become the patron saint of
capitalism after he penned his most famous work, The Wealth of
Nations
. But few people know that when it came to the behavior of
individuals—the way we perceive ourselves, the way we treat
others, and the decisions we make in pursuit of happiness—the
Scottish philosopher had just as much to say. He developed his ideas on
human nature in an epic, sprawling work titled The Theory of
Moral Sentiments
.
Most economists have never read it, and for
most of his life, Russ Roberts was no exception. But when he finally
picked up the book by the founder of his field, he realized he’d
stumbled upon what might be the greatest self-help book that almost no
one has read.
In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life,
Roberts examines Smith’s forgotten masterpiece, and finds a
treasure trove of timeless, practical wisdom. Smith’s insights
into human nature are just as relevant today as they were three hundred
years ago. What does it take to be truly happy? Should we pursue fame
and fortune or the respect of our friends and family? How can we make
the world a better place? Smith’s unexpected answers, framed
within the rich context of current events, literature, history, and pop
culture, are at once profound, counterintuitive, and highly
entertaining.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness:

4

Oct 25, 2014

This book really goes a long way in taking a work written in the mid-1700s and making it relevant for the 21st Century.

Adam Smith, of course, is famous as the father of modern economics through his book The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This book is based on an earlier work The Theory of Moral Sentiments in which he philosophises about human nature and human interaction.

It is amazing how similar we are now as to how we were then. How This book really goes a long way in taking a work written in the mid-1700s and making it relevant for the 21st Century.

Adam Smith, of course, is famous as the father of modern economics through his book The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This book is based on an earlier work The Theory of Moral Sentiments in which he philosophises about human nature and human interaction.

It is amazing how similar we are now as to how we were then. How similar our desires to integrate harmoniously into a larger society and be loved and respected.

The author, Russ Robertsis both lucid and entertaining as he dissects this seminal work.

As far as I'm concerned it's a "must read". It's easy to understand and follow. There is virtually next to zero in terms of economic or academic jargon or posturing. The book is instructive without being didactic.

Worth the time. ...more
3

Sep 04, 2017

2.5 Stars
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I appreciate the author's passion for Adam Smith and desire to convey his theories and work to modern readers.
On the other hand, one of the first things you learn in academic writing is not to bore your reader with block quotes. And this book contains many block quotes.
Russ Roberts is an Adam Smith fangirl who wishes to share his passion for the author and desires to turn Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments into a modern 2.5 Stars
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I appreciate the author's passion for Adam Smith and desire to convey his theories and work to modern readers.
On the other hand, one of the first things you learn in academic writing is not to bore your reader with block quotes. And this book contains many block quotes.
Russ Roberts is an Adam Smith fangirl who wishes to share his passion for the author and desires to turn Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments into a modern day self-help book. I think what frustrated me most about this book is that it seemed to take ideas and theories that ought to have been quite interesting and left them...shallow. I was frustrated by the repetitive nature of the work and the basic, pop-psychology lingo used to 'flesh' out the ideas.
Further, I found I did not agree (or I found a different foundation for agreeing) with many of the points of the book. (Presumably, Smith's viewpoints.)
I will read the original work eventually because if nothing else, this book piqued my interest. But at the same time, it also lowered my expectations. ...more
3

Dec 31, 2017

I think the author did a really nice job taking a 1700s tome I was never going to read and turning it into a little book that made some sense. There was nothing Earth-shattering in it: the main point seemed to be that happiness comes from trying to be a good person. The reason this is important though is the sourceAdam Smithwho is generally used as the mouthpiece for dog-eat-dog laissez-faire materialistic capitalism. I think the author did a really nice job taking a 1700s tome I was never going to read and turning it into a little book that made some sense. There was nothing Earth-shattering in it: the main point seemed to be that happiness comes from trying to be a good person. The reason this is important though is the source—Adam Smith—who is generally used as the mouthpiece for dog-eat-dog laissez-faire materialistic capitalism. ...more
3

Apr 13, 2017

The author probably thought that his readers have an average age of twelve, I could not think of any other reason for so many explanations and elaborations on so many self-explanatory things. Or else, he wanted to give his book a respectable size.
3

Apr 25, 2015

A quick, interesting read about Adam Smith's lesser-known work The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Roberts shows how Smith's advice and observations - made a few centuries ago - ring just as true today. Chapters with advice on how to make the world a better place and how to be "lovely" in Smith's sense of the word are upbeat and easy to digest.
4

Jun 08, 2018

Delightful book. I'm one who thinks that the original book should be read before reading books about the original, but this one was a quick read that helped set a foundation should I read the original later on. The book in question is The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith. It is his lesser-known book and was written before his more popular Wealth of Nations. Russ Roberts, author of this book, expounds on Adam Smith's contention that "Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be Delightful book. I'm one who thinks that the original book should be read before reading books about the original, but this one was a quick read that helped set a foundation should I read the original later on. The book in question is The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith. It is his lesser-known book and was written before his more popular Wealth of Nations. Russ Roberts, author of this book, expounds on Adam Smith's contention that "Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely." This book cleared up some economic thought for me and was just a pleasant book to read. I listen to the author's weekly podcast EconTalk and had wanted to read this book for a while. I'm glad I did. ...more
5

Feb 14, 2015

This book is phenomenal! It reviews and distills Adam Smith's first book, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." I never knew he had written such a book. This first book of Smith's iterates how wealth and fame do not assure happiness, but rather, being prudent and lovely will lead to happiness. Toward the end of the book, I started listing the people to whom I would give this book. I borrowed this book from the library, but I like it so much I am going to purchase it so I can read it again in the This book is phenomenal! It reviews and distills Adam Smith's first book, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." I never knew he had written such a book. This first book of Smith's iterates how wealth and fame do not assure happiness, but rather, being prudent and lovely will lead to happiness. Toward the end of the book, I started listing the people to whom I would give this book. I borrowed this book from the library, but I like it so much I am going to purchase it so I can read it again in the future - it is that good. ...more
5

Oct 24, 2014

Finally, an economist finishes and thoughtfully considers the other (and arguably more important) half of Adam Smith's seminal treatise on human behavior. Russ Roberts writes a wonderful narrative that weaves together the main themes of Smith's book, "The Theory of Moral Sentimants." Personally, I've struggled to get through Smith's complex rant on happiness and virtues. It's both repetitious non-linear. But Robert's analysis has convinced me that it may actually be worth the effort to slog Finally, an economist finishes and thoughtfully considers the other (and arguably more important) half of Adam Smith's seminal treatise on human behavior. Russ Roberts writes a wonderful narrative that weaves together the main themes of Smith's book, "The Theory of Moral Sentimants." Personally, I've struggled to get through Smith's complex rant on happiness and virtues. It's both repetitious non-linear. But Robert's analysis has convinced me that it may actually be worth the effort to slog through...eventually.

Smith became known for his observations about human self-interest and specialization, but his work on morality was largely forgotten. Interestingly, his book the "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" was written before and continually revised after his work on "The Wealth of Nations." While the latter laid a foundation for the modern study of economics, the former explored human interaction outside of commercial pursuits, and was more influential during his life.

As a student of Economics, I find this other perspective a useful addition to my education. Economics is an incredibly useful way of studying and measuring human interactions within complex systems. So useful, in fact, that it has begun to infiltrate and change the way other disciplines study human behavior. But Economics can also be cold and mechanistic, teaching its students to consider the world through the narrow prism of trade-offs and benefit-cost analyses.

Modern Economics has even given us the tools to deliberately create new ways of managing resources in areas where creating systems of exchange were once thought too difficult (e.g. the environment). Yet in the "Theory of Moral Sentiments" Smith points out us that commercial activity is bound by, and not a replacement for, a society's ethics. He reminds us that the sum of human interactions cannot be considered only through the calculation of benefits and costs. This is not only an important reminder for economists, but for anyone working in the fields of business and public policy. ...more
3

Oct 25, 2014

easy to read..."If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don't gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone/s feelings even when it's clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone's expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others be good as well. Set a good example, and by your easy to read..."If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don't gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone/s feelings even when it's clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone's expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others be good as well. Set a good example, and by your loveliness you will not only be loved but you may influence the world."
Suggestions for further reading: "Read more Adam Smith and Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse and less of the Daily Kos and the Drudge Report." ...more
3

Nov 05, 2014

Delightful and useful

This book is easily comparable to "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and Russ Roberts mentions Alain de Botton's book as an inspiration in the acknowledgements at the end. Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments is much lesser known than Wealth of Nations but no less important. Readers will be thankful that Roberts has digested Adam Smith's difficult to read text - I love an obtusely written book and my copy of TMS has sat on the shelf unconquered for close to two decades - Delightful and useful

This book is easily comparable to "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and Russ Roberts mentions Alain de Botton's book as an inspiration in the acknowledgements at the end. Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments is much lesser known than Wealth of Nations but no less important. Readers will be thankful that Roberts has digested Adam Smith's difficult to read text - I love an obtusely written book and my copy of TMS has sat on the shelf unconquered for close to two decades - and produced a more palatable summary of Smith's major arguments. I originally questioned Roberts choice to untether himself from TMS logical sequence but finished the book untroubled, He is thankfully generous with quoting long selectionsso you get a feel for the original language.
The timelessness of Smith's guidance is what makes this book useful. The infatuation with a pocket watch is eerily similar to that of the latest smartphone. Honestly evaluating our behavior is so difficult that, "Rather than see ourselves as we truly are, we see ourselves as we would
like to be. Self deception can be more comforting tan self knowledge. We like to fool ourselves." (Roberts)
Most entertaining is Smith's guidance on the illusory benefits of celebrity and money. Smith: "The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.

Most rewarding is the idea that being good is the way to feel good. Roberts: "When we earn the admiration of others honestly by being respectable, honorable, blameless, generous, and kind, the end result is true happiness....Loveliness is an end in and of itself".

Smith's demand that we strictly adhere to the rules of justice shows how he understands human nature all too well. We are very clever at finding "special circumstances" where rule breaking is permissible, even necessary. Roberts: "Hard-and-fast rules are easier to keep than rules that are slightly relaxed. You'd think abstinence would be much harder to keep than moderation. Yet it is much easier to give up potato chips than to eat just one. Or a few."

The chapter "How to Make the World a Better Place" describes how each person can and must contribute by doing good each an every day. These small acts accrete imperceptibly but result in massive effects. The English language isn't dictated by a committee of scholars but composed of the daily usage of millions. Similarly, there are few obvious benefits to voting - the impact of an individual vote is mathematically meaningless - but millions of individual votes each election renew our democratic system.

Doing good will not only make you happy but make the world a better place? Not a bad lesson from a entertaining and well written book.
...more
5

Mar 26, 2015

This is one of the most user-friendly books I've ever read regarding Adam Smith. Russ Roberts is a phenomenal writer, the subject is wonderful, and I would recommend this to economists and non-economists alike.
4

Jan 11, 2020

An engaging an easy read outlining the contributions to moral philosophy by Adam Smith for those who aren't inclined to read The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Hopefully one that will inspire readers to reconsider that inclination.
5

Jun 16, 2015

One of those wonderful books that is very easy to read but has deep ideas. It is fascinating how modern Adam Smith sounds once you get past the vocabulary.
Reread September 2016 for the Sunday Philosophers. Enjoyed it as much the second time around. Makes me want to read Smith's book (I enjoyed the Wealth of Nations in college.)
4

Mar 19, 2015

This book is the closest I've ever encountered to a beach read about the work of Adam Smith. Roberts explores how Smith's other, lesser known book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, applies the same perspective as the Wealth of Nations on how human nature is rather than how it should be, this time with a look at human societies instead of just economies. If you don't have time to read Smith's book yourself, you should read this -- and even if you have, it's worth a read (and a re-read). If you This book is the closest I've ever encountered to a beach read about the work of Adam Smith. Roberts explores how Smith's other, lesser known book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, applies the same perspective as the Wealth of Nations on how human nature is rather than how it should be, this time with a look at human societies instead of just economies. If you don't have time to read Smith's book yourself, you should read this -- and even if you have, it's worth a read (and a re-read). If you have a friend who's in need of a self-help book but they might be offended by the usual drivel offered in that category, give them this book. ...more
1

Jun 15, 2015

this book is a compilation of tidbits of adam smiths the theory of moral sentiments extremely dumbed down, with unnecessary color commentary by the author, and smiths books major points explained (over and over again, in different ways, as if to middle-schoolers). maybe thats the demographic they were going for, based on the cover image, the simple vocabulary, and the celebrity stories used to explain a couple of smiths concepts. if you understand english and enjoy reading and can form an this book is a compilation of tidbits of adam smith’s ‘the theory of moral sentiments’ extremely dumbed down, with unnecessary color commentary by the author, and smith’s book’s major points explained (over and over again, in different ways, as if to middle-schoolers). maybe that’s the demographic they were going for, based on the cover image, the simple vocabulary, and the celebrity stories used to explain a couple of smith’s concepts. if you understand english and enjoy reading and can form an independent idea, just read adam smith’s original book instead of wasting your time on this one. but if you’ve tried reading it and couldn’t understand it, then this book might be perfect for you, although you might disagree with a couple of the author’s interpretations of some of smith’s ideas. ...more
5

Feb 05, 2018

An economist and a rabbi walk into a bar and co-author a work on the meaning of life. That's not the opening line to a joke, but a near-description of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. This little book gives a modern interpretation of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, girding it with references to Rabbi Hillel. The contents are surprising, if your association of "economist" is with strictly matters financial, like stocks and trade deficits. Ironically, writes Russ Roberts, the subjects An economist and a rabbi walk into a bar and co-author a work on the meaning of life. That's not the opening line to a joke, but a near-description of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. This little book gives a modern interpretation of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, girding it with references to Rabbi Hillel. The contents are surprising, if your association of "economist" is with strictly matters financial, like stocks and trade deficits. Ironically, writes Russ Roberts, the subjects economists are consulted most on, like the future health of the global economy, is what they're worst at doing. The heart of economics as originated by Adam Smith is behavioral, however, judging how people use their scarce resources to make the best life possible for themselves -- both as individuals, and with other people. The same desire for understanding that Smith applied to humans at the level of nations in The Wealth of Nations is applied more intimately to individual persons here. What do we really want?

The answer isn't money, though it can help. The Theory of Moral Sentiments contends that what people want most, what actually makes us happy, is to be loved and lovely. This isn't about romance or aesthetics; Smith's use of love encompasses respect, admiration and affection. "Lovely", too, also has a deeper meaning: it is to be worthy of respect, admiration, and affection. People not only want to be held high in the esteem of others, but they want to have earned that place. Part of Smith's argument is that each of us has an Impartial Observer in our heads, an ethereally human figure who is constantly watching, judging, and arguing with us. A conscience, so to speak, a means through which we can evaluate our own actions or behavior from an outside perspective, to see ourselves as we are being seen. This conscience is not perfect -- it can be lied to and argued with through justifications of our behavior -- but unless its voice is smothered and distorted by our own willful actions, it is invaluable. We can strengthen the observer by reflecting on the behavior of others -- when we see them acting irrationally, we can turn our analysis on ourselves, to see that behavior which we dislike present in our own actions. We can use this impartial observer to help not fool ourselves, to help us become lovelier -- and so, loved. The impartial observer rings a bell for me in part because of past readings into primate social behavior, particularly the fact that chimpanzees and such will often act in private in ways that strongly imply they are imagining what the consequences of their being caught in unsocial behavior would be. I suspect that this observer is some kind of internal-audit tool of our socially-oriented brains, useful for anticipating how our behavior will be interpreted by others.

Students of schools of Greek philosophy like Stoicism -- which regarded moral excellence or virtue as its own reward -- will recognize the 'virtue' of Smith's loveliness straightaway. Epicureans, who regarded simple pleasures as the key to the good life, will also find an ally in Smith, when he asks: "What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?". Smith regarded the chase for fame, power, and gadgets and goods as self-defeating. These itches are insatiable, leading us to constant torment as we try to reach greater and greater levels. Even those who reach the top must find it a hollow victory, judging by the inner lives and outer behavior of celebrities, politicians, and such. If we understand our core desires, however -- this yearning to be loved and lovely -- we can be conscious of when we are attempting to fill the real need with ersatz praise, in admiration for our things rather than ourselves.

Those who have an interest in human flourishing will definitely find this little book worth their attention.
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5

May 20, 2019

Really interesting idea of comparing Adam Smith's book with today. I know this type has become a bit of a cottage industry, but this is quite well done. Dealing with celebrity, money, and power amongst other things I found it quite relevant to life.

A long start to finish because I misplace my copy. Glad to finish though.
3

Jun 11, 2018

I wanted to know what Adam Smith said in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, but didn't actually want to read it. Russ Robert's charming little book satisfied that urge. The take-away point is just what you'd expect from a self-help book (although you might not have expected it from the writer of The Wealth of Nations): find happiness locally, and don't pursue money and fame as ends in themselves.

Here are some favourite quotes:

"If you want to get better at what you do, if you want to get better at I wanted to know what Adam Smith said in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, but didn't actually want to read it. Russ Robert's charming little book satisfied that urge. The take-away point is just what you'd expect from a self-help book (although you might not have expected it from the writer of The Wealth of Nations): find happiness locally, and don't pursue money and fame as ends in themselves.

Here are some favourite quotes:

"If you want to get better at what you do, if you want to get better at this thing called life, you have to pay attention."

"We may be overly sensitive to our physical deformities or even the slightest physical imperfections when we look in the mirror. Our eyes are drawn to those shortcomings the way a sore tooth attracts the tongue. But our moral failings? My failings as a husband, as a father, or a son or a friend? There is apparently no mirror for those. Most of the time, I'd rather not look."

"...if you want to be rich and famous, powerful and successful, you have to give up leisure and ease and careless security forever."

"Smith understands something deep about human nature... Hard-and-fast rules are easier to keep than rules that are slightly relaxed. The opposite should be true. You'd think abstinence would be much harder to keep than moderation. Yet it is much easier to give up potato chips than to eat just one."

"Smith's vision of what sustains civilization is the stream of approval and disapproval we all provide as we respond to the conduct of those around us."

"The 'buy local' movement has been successful with a very limited number of products—food and some handcrafted items. The ability to broaden the scope of the movement is very limited. We tried buying local once; it was called the Middle Ages... There just isn't enough specialization possible with a limited set of trading partners. Self-sufficiency is the road to poverty."

"As F.A. Hayek pointed out in The Fatal Conceit, a modern person has to inhabit two worlds at the same time—a world that is intimate and a world that is distant, a world that is held together by love and a world that is held together by prices and monetary incentives."

"Looking for love? Look locally. We have precious little of it in our lives anyway. Let's reserve it for those we see every day. Love locally, trade globally." ...more
2

May 06, 2015

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Summary: Adam Smith wrote the book which formed modern capitalism, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations. He wrote a second book that isnt nearly as popular: The Theory of moral sentiments. This book disects the theory or moral sentiments and it gives modern day examples. At a high level, Adam Smiths is summed up as love locally, trade globally.

Should you read the book: No, my highlights or any other Summary: Adam Smith wrote the book which formed modern capitalism, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations. He wrote a second book that isn’t nearly as popular: The Theory of moral sentiments. This book disects the theory or moral sentiments and it gives modern day examples. At a high level, Adam Smith’s is summed up as love locally, trade globally.

Should you read the book: No, my highlights or any other summary should be sufficient.

Memorable Quotes:
Chapter 1 How Adam smith can change your life
Economics helps you understand that money isn’t the only thing that matters in life. Economics teaches you that making a choice means giving up something. And economics can help you apperciate complexity and how seemingly unrelated actions and people can become entangled.

Chapter2 How to know yourself
We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

I Always encourage the students to address their employer’s self-love and not just their humanity- to come up with some reason XYZ will benefit from hiring them. How would your skills serve the goals of XYZ?

SO if the milk of human kindness is in such short supply, why aren’t we more outrageously selfish, more sordid? Smith’s answer is that our behaviour is driven by an imaginary interaction with what he calls the impartial spectator - a figure we imagine whom we converse with in some virtual sense, an impartial, objective figure who sees the morality of our actions clearly. It is this figure we answer to when we consider what is moral or right.

The impartial spectator reminds us that we are not the centre of the universe.

Stepping outside yourself is an opportunity for what is sometimes called mindfulness-the art of paying attention instead of drifting through life oblivious to your flaws and habits.

If you want to get better at what you do, if you want to get better at this thing called life, you have to pay attention. When you pay attention, you can remember what really matters, what is real and enduring, versus what is false and fleeting.

Chapter 3 How to be Happy
Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely.

When Smith says that we want to be lovely, he means worth of being loved... He’s saying that we want to be seen as having integrity, honesty, good principles.

Chapter 4 How not to fool yourself
Life is punctuated by choices like these, in which you have to choose between what is easy and convenient for you (finish your tour and enjoy the acclaim) and a chance to help those around you (Go home and comfort your sister).

I call these the “Smaller decisions”, but they are really not so small. Day by day, the add up to a life.

What before interested is now become almost as indifferent to us as it always was to him, and we can now examine our own conduct with his candour and impartiality.

We often purposely turn away our view from those circumstances which might render that judgement unfavourable.

Equally bold who does not hesitate to pull off the mysterious veil of self-delusion, which covers from his view the deformities of his own conduct.

While we may think our house is actually more beautiful than it is or our skills are more valuable than they really are, when we try to sell our house or look for a job, we gain a richer appreciation of how things truly are.

If we saw ourselves in the light in which others see us, or in which the would see us if the knew all, a reformation would generally be unavoidable. We could not otherwise endure the sight.

Baal Shem Tov the founder of the Hasidic movement said … we notice the flaws in those around us to remind us of our own flaws and to spur us to self-improvement.

We learn what is appropriate, and what is not, from the actions of others.


Reason people use selfless-sounding language .. we say these things not only to convince others but also to convince ourselves.


Our behaviour sometimes falls short of our ideals because we don’t realize we’re not living up to our ideals.

Smith reminds us that it’s hard to objective when you have a horse in the race- your own self-intrest.

We like to think we’re lovely, so we overemphasize and embrace memories that confirm our self-image while forgetting or misremembering anything that casts us in less attractive light.

The universe is full of dots. Connect the right ones and you can draw anything. The important question is not whether the dots you picked are really there, but why you chose to ignore all the others.

They’re come to ignore the possibilityy that there are other solutions to your problem that might actually be more effective or cheaper.

Using the wrong map unknowingly is worse than no map at all-it leads you to overconfidence that can be more harmful than confronting the reality that you’re lost.


Chatper 5 How to be loved
What can be added to the happiness of the man who is in health, who is out of debt, and has a clear conscience?

Every year his salary grows. Every few years he moves into a bigger house and gets a new car. IS he happier? Evidently Not. Just one more year. Then he’ll have enough, he says.

Once we conquer Rome, we’ll be able to subdue all of Itally…. What shall we do then? Asks Cineas. Pyrrhus answers smiling:
‘ We will live at our ease, my dear friend, and drink all day, and divert ourselves with pleasant conversation'
Then Cineas brings down the hammer on the king:
“And what hinders your majesty from doing so now?'
We have all the tools of contentment at hand already.

How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility?

We imagine we’d be happier if only we were richer or more famous or had a better job. Greed, ambition, and vanity are how Smith characterizes the vices that push us toward dissatisfaction with what we already have.

Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be purseued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice.

The qualiities most useful to ourselves are, first of all, superior reason nd understanding, by which we are capable of discerning the remote consequences of all our actions, and of foreseeing the advantages or detriment which is likey to result from them: and secondly, self command, by which we are enabled to abstain from present pleasure or to endure present pain, in order to obtain a greater pleasure or to avoid a greater pain in some future time. In the union of those two qualities consists the virtue of prudence, of all the virtues that which is most useful to the individual.

We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous.

We idolize those who are idolized. We love those who are loved. Part of it is an awe for excellence.

Seek wisdom and virtue. Behave as if an impartial spectator is watching you. Use the idea of an impartial spectator to step outside yourself and see yourself as others see you. Use that vision to know yourself. Avoid the seducations of mney and fame, for they will never satisfy.

Chatpter 6 How to be Lovely
TO be content, you need to be loved and to be lovely. You need to be respected and respectable. You need to be praised and praiseworthy. You need to matter to other people, and you need for their image of you to be the real you- you need to earn their respect and honour and admiration honestly.

Emotional interaction is a duet in which we are constantly fine-tuning our volume to match that of our fellow.


After some emotional challenge, when we pull ourselves together in front of a group of strangers were not just putting up a brave front. We actually feel better. The relative calm of the stranger, transmitted to us because of the stranger’s inability to fully sympathize with our situation, actually has a beneficial effect.

Whenever we cordially congratulate our friends, which however, to the disgrace of human nature, we do but seldom, their joy literally becomes our joy: we are, for the moment, as happy as they are: our heart swells and overflows with real pleasure.

We … work ourselves up into an artificial sympathy, which however, when it is raised, is always the slightest and most transitory imaginable; and generally, as soon as we have left the room, vanishes, and is gone forever.

Chatper 7 how to be good
Prudence means, in modern terms, taking care of yourself, justice means not hurting others, and beneficence means being good to others.

The Prudent man, says Smith, is sincere and honest. At the same time, he doesn’t volunteer everything he knows; he is reserved and cautious in his speech and his action. He doesn’t stick his opinion into every discussion. He’s a good friend, but he manages to avoid melodrama n his relationships… not a party animal… Such a social scene “might interrupt the steadiness of his industry, or break n upon the strictness of his frugality”.

The prudent man always studies seriously and earnestly to understand whatever he professes to understand, and not merely to persuade other people that he understands it; and though his talents may not always be very brilliant, they are always perfectly genuine.


Chapter 8 How to make the world a better place
Smith argues that norms and culture are at the result of the tiny and infinitely numerous and subtle ways we interact.

Being trustworthy and honest and a reliable friend or parent or child doesn’t just lead to pleasant interactions with people around you. It doesn’t just lead to having a good reputation and being respected. Being trustworthy and honest maintains and helps to extend the culture of decency beyond your own reach.

Every time you reward someone’s trust or go the extra mile, you are encouraging others to do the same.

If we all keep making small steps like that, we’ll all end up very far away from where we’d like to be.

Chatper 9 How not to make the world a better place
Every good deed we do has an immediate impact, but the ripple effects of the impartial spectator and the norms that are created by both our actions and our approval and disapproval of others create an additional impact on the world around us.

It can be better to leave some things alone rather to try to steer them

Chatper 10 How to live in the modern world.
Rich men of great ambitions actually achieve:
Make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments simply has a different focus from that of The Wealth of Nations. It doesn’t represent a different view of human nature or d fife rent theory of how people behave or a more optimistic vision of humanity. IT’s about a different sphere of human interaction. He is mostly interested in how people actually behave, not how he’d like them to behave.

F.A. Hayek pointed out in The Fatal Conceit, a modern person has to inhabit two worlds at the same time-a world that is intimate and a world that is distant, a world that is held together by love and a world that is held together by prices and monetary incentives. Hayek argued that we have an urge to take the norms and culture of our intimate family life and try to extend them into our less intimate commercial life.

Smith felt that we cannot extend the love and concern(both selfless and self-interested beyond our immediateecircle of friends and associates. WE can only pretend to do so.

Love locally, trade globally.
...more
5

Oct 13, 2019

"While few people still read "The Wealth of Nations", fewer read or have even heard of Adam Smith's "The Theory of Moral Sentiments"

What is the Good Life?
What role does Virtue play?
Where Morality comes from and Why people can act with Decency and Virtue even when it conflicts with their own self-interest?

Even though people can be pretty Selfish, they do care about other people's happiness.

The book changed the way I looked at people, and maybe more important, it changed the way I looked at "While few people still read "The Wealth of Nations", fewer read or have even heard of Adam Smith's "The Theory of Moral Sentiments"

What is the Good Life?
What role does Virtue play?
Where Morality comes from and Why people can act with Decency and Virtue even when it conflicts with their own self-interest?

Even though people can be pretty Selfish, they do care about other people's happiness.

The book changed the way I looked at people, and maybe more important, it changed the way I looked at myself.

Adam Smith
- made us aware of how people interact with each other
- dispenses timeless advice about how to treat Money, Ambition, Fame, and Morality
- tells us how to find Happiness, how to treat material success and failure
- describes the path to Virtue and Goodness and why it's a path worth pursuing"

...more
4

Mar 19, 2018

To my surprise, I spent a week with an economist through Russ Roberts - an economist researcher's eyes. It was daunting at first knowing the background of where the philosophies come from, but page by page diminish the intensity. With his relaxing way in collaborating the second masterpiece of Adam Smith's book 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' with our daily life situations, I am hooked on how much life lessons I gain from this book. Though they serve as a gentle reminder to readers, everyone To my surprise, I spent a week with an economist through Russ Roberts - an economist researcher's eyes. It was daunting at first knowing the background of where the philosophies come from, but page by page diminish the intensity. With his relaxing way in collaborating the second masterpiece of Adam Smith's book 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' with our daily life situations, I am hooked on how much life lessons I gain from this book. Though they serve as a gentle reminder to readers, everyone would be very grateful to be awakened on the essentials, and see ourselves grow from 'Impartial Spectator' - in which Adam defines as a figure we imagine whom we converse with in some virtual sense, an impartial, objective figure who sees the morality of our actions clearly. ...more
3

Oct 17, 2019

The little thought examples that are talked about such as cutting your finger vs people suffering elsewhere are very interesting but they are mostly in the begining. The rest of the book is mostly about how you should not care so much about money. I found that it dragged a bit, the book should have been half the length for how many ideas it explores. Better yet it should have just been "the theory of moral sentiments" but annotated. But I guess Americans are obsessed with putting their names on The little thought examples that are talked about such as cutting your finger vs people suffering elsewhere are very interesting but they are mostly in the begining. The rest of the book is mostly about how you should not care so much about money. I found that it dragged a bit, the book should have been half the length for how many ideas it explores. Better yet it should have just been "the theory of moral sentiments" but annotated. But I guess Americans are obsessed with putting their names on things. ...more
5

Mar 31, 2017

Think of this as "Adam Smith for Dummies" although it's still a very rich read. More accessible/understandable than the style of writing used in the 1700's (admit it, you struggle with it also...) this book is a guided tour that makes for a much easier journey through the original text. Russ Roberts does an excellent job of leading you through the densely-but-beautifully-written original book, making great observations along the way.

I slogged through Adam Smith's more well known book (The Wealth Think of this as "Adam Smith for Dummies" although it's still a very rich read. More accessible/understandable than the style of writing used in the 1700's (admit it, you struggle with it also...) this book is a guided tour that makes for a much easier journey through the original text. Russ Roberts does an excellent job of leading you through the densely-but-beautifully-written original book, making great observations along the way.

I slogged through Adam Smith's more well known book (The Wealth of Nations) many years ago in college, but had never even heard of his other book before - "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". The man was a very well rounded genius - he understood human nature and economic forces extremely well, and after finishing this book I wish I had read it first - long before Wealth of Nations.

Turns out the great minds of the past are still quite relevant in modern times. ...more
5

Sep 05, 2019

Fascinating book.

Lots of good points to consider.
3

Dec 22, 2019

Listened to this on the drive from South Carolina to Florida. I liked it. Really spoke to my wife now. She wants it on her Audible.

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