Sympathy & Self-Interest
As a professor at Glasgow University, Adam Smith compiled his thoughts on human morality into a book on ethics, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. He posited that people preserve harmony through a “mutual sympathy” for one another. This desire to adapt behavior to better get along with others is the foundation of morality and our ability to have productive economic interactions.
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
Today the avenues for human interaction and commerce are diverse. Often obscured by technology in an era criticized for its appeal to our individual vanity, one may question the power of “mutual sympathy.” However, just as the modern world enables greater self-interest, it also allows for greater sympathetic action as well.