Sorry, more Ritchie. His comment at his place.
I’ll quote this from a review of On Kindness by Adam Philips & Barbara Taylor, Hamish Hamilton, £14.99 in the Guardian today:
“Kindness was mankind’s “greatest delight”, the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius declared, and thinkers and writers have echoed him down the centuries. But today many people find these pleasures literally incredible, or at least highly suspect. An image of the self has been created that is utterly lacking in natural generosity. Most people appear to believe that deep down they (and other people) are mad, bad and dangerous to know; that as a species – apparently unlike other species of animal – we are deeply and fundamentally antagonistic to each other, that our motives are utterly self-seeking and that our sympathies are forms of self-protectiveness.
Kindness – not sexuality, not violence, not money – has become our forbidden pleasure. In one sense kindness is always hazardous because it is based on a susceptibility to others, a capacity to identify with their pleasures and sufferings. Putting oneself in someone else’s shoes, as the saying goes, can be very uncomfortable. But if the pleasures of kindness – like all the greatest human pleasures – are inherently perilous, they are none the less some of the most satisfying we possess.
In 1741 the Scottish philosopher David Hume, confronted by a school of philosophy that held mankind to be irredeemably selfish, lost patience. Any person foolish enough to deny the existence of human kindness had simply lost touch with emotional reality, Hume insisted: “He has forgotten the movements of his heart.”
For nearly all of human history – up to and beyond Hume’s day, the so-called dawn of modernity – people have perceived themselves as naturally kind. In giving up on kindness – and especially our own acts of kindness – we deprive ourselves of a pleasure that is fundamental to our sense of well-being.”
Your argument that economics follows immutable laws of human nature is simply wrong. The current view of that nature has been perverted, not least by economists, and libertarians in particular, as the article goes on to note. Hobbes has a lot to answer for, but the fact is that for a great many people in the world the maxim that a person should love their neighbour as themselves (found in all the major world religions) holds true. Your view of economics and the inevitability of human nature is wrong Tim, because it is built on sand.
My response, as I don\’t know whether it will get published.
Umm. Richard, at the risk of being banned from the comments here again.
You do know that David Hume was the best (philosophic) friend of Adam Smith, don’t you? You do know that Adam Smith wrote “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”? You do know that Smith wrote about “sympathy ” (what we would probably these days call empathy)?
I am, as a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, a follower of Smithian (and by implications, Humean) philosophic thought. I am not a Hobbesian. I’m afraid that you are once again betraying your paucity of knowledge about such matters.
Both Smith and Hume pointed out that “sympathy” (as they called it) was indeed entirely human and entirely admirable. But that it wasn’t unlimited. There’s a passage in Wealth of Nations where Smith points out that what happens to Chinamen (his phrase, not mine) is of less import than what happens to our neighbours.
This is indeed a “law of human nature”. What happens to those socially or societally close to us is more important to us (whether it should be or not) than what happens to those who are not so. This is a simple observation of human nature. One made by Smith with the aid of Hume.
Indeed, those who worry about inequality within a society, as opposed to those worrying about global inequality, are making the same argument. When people say that “relative poverty” in the UK is a problem, they are stating that inequality here is of more import than inequality between, say Britons and Ugandans. For that inequality is happening close to us and as Smith and Hume said, empathy (or sympathy) seem to work harder the closer we are to each other.
You’re going to have to do much better than this to prove that I’m some sort of heartless bastard, sorry. In fact, you’re going to have to get a rather greater education than you seem to have in either economics or the philosophy that underlies the major economic schools before you can even critique, let alone criticise, my opinions.
As I’ve said before, you just don’t know what you’re talking about as yet.