Below are some excerpts that I re-worded from Adam Smith's lesser-known first work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. I have been taking the compassionate course at the UU and was quite surpised to find these penned by word's most well known economist. I was also surprised to see that his interest was not initially in understanding markets, but in understanding people. He began his studies as a social philosopher.
No matter how selfish a man may be, most will always have some interest in the feelings of others. This pity or compassion is the emotion we feel when we see the misery of other creatures. The fact that we can derive sorrows from the sorrows of others is a matter too obvious to require any instances to prove it. This sentiment like all the other passions of human nature is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they may in fact feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The most hardened heart is not altogether without it.As we have no natural ability to experience what other men feel, we can never understand the depth and nature of their feelings beyond conceiving what we ourselves would feel in a similar situation – we rely on the impression of our own senses and our own personal histories. Though our brother may be on the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. Our own cognition never has and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is only through sheer imagination that we can form any conception of another's sensation.
The administration of the great system of the universe and the care of the universal happiness of all rational and sensible beings, is the business of God and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler department, but one much more suitable to the narrowness of his powers and his comprehension: the care of his own happiness; to the extent possible, that of his family, his friends, his country. But though we are endowed with a very strong desire of those ends, it has been entrusted to the slow and uncertain determinations of our reason to find out the proper means of bringing them about. Nature has directed us to these ends through innate instinct: hunger, thirst, the passion which unites the two sexes, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sakes. We do these things without any consideration of their tendency produce beneficial ends which the "great Director of nature" intended them to produce.
Thus being led they mean only their own convenience and the gratification of their insatiable desires and often vain desire, they divide with the others the products of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society.