1759 Smith

Adam Smith  1723-1790 (Scottish)

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Moral Philosopher, Pioneer of Political Economy (on sympathy)

Talks about sympathy as "fellow feeling" and as a social glue.

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it."

"Society is ... the mirror in which one catches sight of oneself, morally speaking."

"As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation."

1853  Adam Smith
Empathy in this context is more specifically understood as a phenomenon of “inner imitation,” where my mind mirrors the mental activities or experiences of another person based on the observation of his bodily activities or facial expressions. Empathy is ultimately based on an innate disposition for motor mimicry, a fact that is well established in the psychological literature and was already noticed by Adam Smith (1853).
(Stueber 2014Stueber, Karsten, "Empathy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

(from) The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Chap. I: Of Sympathy by Adam Smith]

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"By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and thence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something which, though weaker in degree, is not altogether unlike them. "

"Upon some occasions sympathy may seen to arise merely from the view of a certain emotion in another person. "

"When we see a stroke aimed and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another person, we naturally shrink and draw back our own leg or our own arm; and when it does fall, we feel it in some measure, and are hurt by it as well as the sufferer."

"When we see one man oppressed or injured by another, the sympathy which we feel with the distress of the sufferer seems to server only to animate our fellow-feeling with his resentment against the offended. We are rejoiced to see him attack his adversary in his turn, and are eager and ready to assist him."