Interviewer: Adam Smith, as a man who has rarely left Scotland, you like to present yourself as a font of knowledge on many controversial topics, but what exactly is your specialist field?
Smith: I have dedicated my life to the study of philosophy and the moral nature of mankind. My conclusions are published as The Theory of Moral Sentiments. My other passion is the workings of international commerce and finance, and my theories can be read been in my treatise, The Wealth Of Nations.
Interviewer: It is the accepted belief that man will first examine his own morality, then use his conclusions to judge others. However, you seem to think you know better?
Smith: I most certainly do. I believe that we first examine the morality of our fellow man, sympathise with him, and then use that to judge our own morality. The starting point for all human relations is the sympathy one feels for his fellow man. Man is naturally selfish in that he is driven by self interest. However, he does possess principles which cause him to be interested in the fortunes of others, which in turn make his fellow man’s happiness necessary to his own sense of well being - making him aware of his own morality. Therefore, morally speaking, society is the mirror in which one catches sight of oneself. The great law of Christianity is to love thy neighbour as we love ourselves. But the great law of nature is to love ourselves as we love our neighbour.
Interviewer: Your theories on philosophy question the beliefs that millions of church goers hold dear. Have you no respect for the moral code by which they live their lives, and worse, no respect for the church, or even God?
Smith: I became very sceptical about the church at an early age. Whilst studying theology at Oxford University, I was punished for reading the work of my fellow Scot, the philosopher David Hume. I grew suspicious of a church which would accuse a man of heresy, ban his books and attempt to discredit his work simply because he dared to question the blind faith of its followers.
At Oxford, many of my fellow students chose to abandon the careers for which they were studying – instead they decided upon a life in the clergy. Some had little or no interest in the church, and many held no firm religious beliefs. However, they saw the material benefits available to men of the cloth, and followed this path towards an easy and profitable lifestyle.