Vanity, Pride and Self-Deceit: Excessive Self-esteem in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments

Benoît Walraevens

Abstract

This paper studies how in his Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith answered to Mandeville on the role of pride and vanity in the economic and social dynamics of commercial societies. We show why vanity supersedes pride in his analysis and how he offers a more positive view of these two passions. We study in particular the economic and social consequences of pride and vanity and describe the psychological foundations of excessive self-esteem that these passions entail.

Code JEL: B12, B30.

Keywords

Smith, Mandeville, vanity, pride, self-deceit.