ideal observer

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Adam Smith (1723—1790) moral philosopher and political economist


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The view that what is morally best is what would be approved of by a benevolent, impartial, and all-knowing observer. The motive behind the view is to combine the idea that the good is that which is approved of or chosen, with acknowledgement that because of imperfections such as failure of sympathy, or partiality to friends and family, or ignorance, we as we are may actually choose and approve of what is bad. The remedy is to idealize the subject whose approval sets the standard. Adam Smith is often associated with the view, although his own position is actually more complex (see impartial spectator).

Subjects: Philosophy.

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