AdamSmithWorks Teaching Resources
Civility, Social Media, and our Need to Self-Check
Have we become increasingly defensive of our views? Are we less tolerant of alternative arguments and their proponents? Are we too quick to judge? Has the rise of social media increased our propensity to dwell on what disturbs us? With deep consideration of our responses to these questions, we might learn more about ourselves and how Adam Smith’s concepts of self-approbation and disapprobation can encourage our sympathetic sociability, propel us toward more civil discourse, and foster greater acceptance of others who hold opposing or different views.
In this era of political, social, and educational upheaval, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and an unpredictable future, it is important that we are conscious of our conduct when interacting with others, whether we are debating in the classroom, posting and responding on social media, or conversing in a socially-distanced, masked setting.
Adam Smith describes self reflection on of our behavior in this way:
“And, in the same manner, we either approve or disapprove of our own conduct, according as we feel that, when we place ourselves in the situation of another man, and view it, as it were, with his eyes and from his station, we either can or cannot entirely enter into and sympathize with the sentiments and motives which influenced it. We can never survey our own sentiments and motives, we can never form any judgment concerning them; unless we remove ourselves, as it were, from our own natural station, and endeavor to view them as at a certain distance from us.”
Smith describes approbation, or our self approval, as “the principle object” for “the love of it is the love of virtue.” If we become more concerned about doing what is right, showing consideration for others, not promoting ourselves, choosing to respect others, all for our own self approval, we will depend less on approval from others.
Thank you for being here with us, and as always, please let us know what we might do for you.
The AdamSmithWorks Team