How should we interpret what Adam Smith said about self-love in book 1, chapter 2 of The Wealth of Nations (WN 1776)? Smith’s explanation of the role of self-love in motivating parties to exchange has been widely misunderstood. Understanding the textual setting of his reference to self-love is crucial to a correct interpretation. The first two chapters of WN must be read as a whole and in light of Smith’s idea of “sympathy” from the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) to get the full meaning of the appeal to self-love.
Robert A. Black, "What Did Adam Smith Say About Self-Love?" Journal of Markets & Morality 9, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 7-34