Sophie de Grouchy, Adam Smith, and the Politics of Sympathy

  • Eric Schliesser


This paper explains Sophie de Grouchy’s philosophical debts to Adam Smith. I have three main reasons for this: first, it should explain why eighteenth-century philosophical feminists (De Grouchy, James Millar, and Mary Wollstonecraft) found Smith, who has—to put it mildly—not been a focus of much recent feminist admiration, a congenial starting point for their own thinking; second, it illuminates De Grouchy’s considerable philosophical originality, especially her important, overlooked contributions to political theory; third, it is designed to remove some unfortunate misconceptions that have found their way into Karin Brown’s ‘Introduction’ to the recent and much-to-be-welcomed translation of Sophie de Grouchy’s Lettres Sur La Sympathie (Letters on Sympathy). While Brown claims that there are major ‘differences’ in their programs of ‘social reform’, I argue there are important commonalities between Smith and De Grouchy. In particular, I highlight how they share a common understanding of how human sensibilities are shaped by social institutions and I show that De Grouchy’s path-breaking analysis of negative and positive liberty is grounded in her extension of Smith’s political theory and moral psychology.


Sophie De Grouchy Adam Smith Liberty Sympathy Political theory 

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Schliesser
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Political ScienceUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Visiting Scholar, Smith Institute for Political Economy and PhilosophyChapman UniversityOrangeUSA

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