Adam Smith Explains Why We Get So Angry About Politics
It is painful to see so many good friends exchanging barbs over who they are supporting. It is entirely about feelings—ambiguous mixed feelings and genuine fear—but what is expressed are reasons that justify or not tipping in one unhappy direction or the other. We live uncomfortably with inconsistency, and try valiantly to bend it into shape with a little reason, at least in appearance.
It reminds me of a proposition in The Theory of Moral Sentiments that cuts to the current debates. Adam Smith says:
“Love is an agreeable; resentment, a disagreeable passion; and accordingly we are not half so anxious that our friends should adopt our friendships, as that they should enter into our resentments. We can forgive them though they seem to be little affected with the favours which we may have received, but lose all patience if they seem indifferent about the injuries which may have been done to us: nor are we half so angry with them for not entering into our gratitude, as for not sympathizing with our resentment. They can easily avoid being friends to our friends, but can hardly avoid being enemies to those with whom we are at variance. We seldom resent their being at enmity with the first, though upon that account we may sometimes affect to make an awkward quarrel with them; but we quarrel with them in good earnest if they live in friendship with the last. The agreeable passions of love and joy can satisfy and support the heart without any auxiliary pleasure. The bitter and painful emotions of grief and resentment more strongly require the healing consolation of sympathy.”
(Pp 12-13 of the 1853 Stewart edition)
I use this edition because you can download this precious book in five different formats, free of charge, at this link here.
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