Adam Smith on Doing Good for Goodness’ Sake

Yesterday, I was looking up a point in Adam Smith’s largely overlooked classic on the application of morals to life, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. By accident, I ran across this affirmation of why we should be virtuous:

“But the philosophers of all the different sects very justly represent virtue; that is wise, just, firm, and temperate conduct; not only as the most probable, but as the certain and infallible road to happiness in this life. This conduct, however, could not always exempt, and might even sometimes expose the person who followed it to all the calamities which were incident to that unsettled situation of public affairs. They endeavored, therefore, to show that happiness was either altogether, or at least in great measure, independent of fortune: … Wise, prudent, and good conduct was, in the first place, the conduct most likely to ensure success in every species of undertaking; and secondly, though it should fail of success, yet the mind was not left without consolation. The virtuous man might still enjoy the complete approbation of his own breast; and might still feel that, however untoward soever things might be without, all was calm and peace and concord within. He might generally comfort himself, too, with the assurance that he possessed the love and esteem of every intelligent and impartial spectator, who could not fail both to admire his conduct, and to regret his misfortune.”