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Jane Austens novels provide timeless insight into the practice of virtues and vices. They instruct their readers in rectitude and teach them that bad character inevitably leads to bad outcomes. Austen themes include the necessity of self-command, the importance of being other directed, the virtues of prudence, benevolence, and justice, as well as the follies of vanity, pride, greed, and the human tendency to misjudge oneself and others. Austen offers a no-nonsense moral philosophy of practical living that is quite similar to that of Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith. Smiths book in moral philosophy The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a rich work that outlines how humans acquire and apply moral reasoning. It also provides a path to human happiness which emphasizes developing habits of virtue and propriety that direct and control individual ambition.
Pride and Profit explores the ways in which Austens novels reflect Smiths ideas. More than this, they provide colorful illustrations of Smiths ideas on self-command, prudence, benevolence, justice, and impartiality as well as vanity, pride, and greed. Jane Austen channels Adam Smith in her stories and characters, and more importantly, embellishes, refines, and explains Smith. Our understanding of Smith is improved and expanded by reading Jane Austen because she bring his insights to life and adds insights of her own. Bohanon and Vachris show how Smithian perspectives on virtue are depicted in Austens novels and how Smiths and Austens perspectives reflect and define the bourgeoisie culture of the Enlightenment and industrial revolution.