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On Seeing Invisible Hands: Adam Smith’s Benevolence and Self-Love

Orlando Samões


In this article I will focus on two questions: First, does the “invisible hand” metaphor contribute to understanding the commercial society? And second, does it help us cope with the tensions between self-love, interest, and benevolence? While trying to answer these questions, I will examine connotations that Adam Smith’s idea of “invisible hand” have had as well as his possible sources of inspiration for such choice of words. In the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith implies that in the commercial society each participant seems to be concerned with his own self-love and interest. While in The Theory of Moral Sentiments we find him suggesting the crucial importance of the moral approbation bestowed through selfless acts of benevolence. This article argues that Smith’s invisible hand in the marketplace may bring together passions centered upon the self with passions centered upon others. By doing so this article contributes to smooth the allegedly differences of philosophy between Adam Smith’s two great books.

Orlando Samões, "On Seeing Invisible Hands: Adam Smith’s Benevolence and Self-Love," Journal of Markets & Morality 25, no. 2 (2022): 217-236

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