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A Cooperative Species by Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles

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A Cooperative Species

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.

Adam Smith, The Theory of MoralSentiments (2000[1759]) Chapter 1, p. 3

Is our conscience nothing but “the inner voice that tells us that somebody might be looking,” as the jaundiced H. L. Mencken (1949) put it? Or did the 20th century American essayist overlook humanity’s penchant genuinely to care for others, including total strangers, and to act morally, even when nobody is looking? And if Adam Smith’s affirmation of humanity’s moral sentiments is more nearly correct than ...

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