Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 20 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Market skeptics have persuasively argued that the market is a social arena that is not simply amoral but that has negative moral consequences. Market apologists have offered two basic responses to this kind of charge: that the market is amoral, and that it transforms private vice into public virtue. This chapter discusses the moral teachings of the market—that is, the moral sentiments individuals are likely to acquire and develop as they engage in the market. Relying on Adam Smith’s discussions of the “impartial spectator,” that imaginary figure that each of us constructs to offer us moral guidance as we negotiate our lives, it is argued that there are good reasons to believe that our impartial spectators might be changed by our dealings in the market. Rather than celebrating selfishness and greed, the market tends to punish both vices. While the market is unlikely to promote the traditional virtues in the form that they are promoted in other contexts, the market is a moral teacher that rewards and so encourages virtuous behavior.

Keywords: Adam Smith, market, impartial spectator, private vice, public virtue

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.