When Kafka was NOT the rage

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

Common looking-glasses, it is said, are extremely deceitful, and by the glare which they throw over the face, conceal from the partial eyes of the person many deformities which are obvious to every body besides. But there is not in the world such a smoother of wrinkles as is every man’s imagination, with regard to the blemishes of his own character.

In fairness to Smith, this passage appears only in the first edition of TMS; it was excised from the succeeding five editions that appeared in his lifetime. It’s also quite out of keeping with the overall thrust of the text, particularly its lengthy passages on the torment we subject ourselves to when we act in ways we believe are less than praiseworthy, even if everyone else believes the contrary.


  1. Jack September 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm | #

    “I have done that,” says my memory. “I cannot have done that,” says my pride, and remains adamant. At last — memory yields.
    — Nietzsche

  2. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm | #

    Actually, I think this concept is rather dangerous, and it only helps abusers and dominators.

    You can always accuse someone else of having committed a misdeed of some kind, as a pretext to either punish them or simply as an excuse not to listen to them, or not to change your mind.

    And if that person denies the charge, you can always say that this person is simply in denial, or egocentric, or has a self-serving memory.

    Then you can pick and pick and pick at that person until he finally caves to your distorted charges, just so you’ll stop badgering him.

    This is a favorite trick of the Republican Party, for example: accuse someone of doing something wrong, then accuse them of not taking personal responsibility (or at least of practicing self-deception) when they deny the charge.

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