Astronomy in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments

Sophy Ramírez  | 08 de noviembre de 2019  | Vistas: 7

In this conference, the master in economics,  Maria Pia Paganelli quoting some philosophers and sharing examples, explains the relationship between astronomy and morality in Adam Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).

She clarifies that even though there is an influence of Newton and that Adam Smith is considered the Newton of the social sciences there is an important affiliation of Copernican work in the book, and remarks the relevance of using astronomy to complement something that may not be related to it, such as a moral theory.  

“What Smith is implying is that there is cross-fertilization among different disciplines, so you can learn from one discipline and use that knowledge to understand another discipline better”.

The professor also comments on some of the controversies that the book created back then, separating the human or the earth as the center of the universe, debating what the Bible says about the earth being the only creation of God. 

Then Pia emphasizes the importance that we give to ourselves, always putting us before anyone else, willingly or not, and how much this could influence our morality. 

“You cut your finger, that's a very big deal because it hurts, that what upset you the most. The fact that there are hundreds of people in China leaves you indifferent. We are our own universe.”

After this, Pia Paganelli exposes Copernicus and Kepler’s ideas on the earth not being the center of the solar system and giving more importance to the sun, and how that humbles our vanity of thinking that we are the center of the universe.  

To conclude the conference, the economist demonstrates the importance of strangers, that makes us humble and develop our morality and the association it has with astronomy.


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Master in Economics and professor

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Universidad Francisco Marroquín