Reading for my class today, TMS part 1.
The chapter on ambition begins with the lovely passage:
It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize with more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer. Nay, it is chiefly from this regard to the sentiments of mankind, that we pursue riches and avoid poverty. For to what purpose is all the toil and bustle of this world? what is the end of of avarice and ambition, of the pursuit of wealth, of power, and preheminence? Is it to supply the necessities of nature? The wages of the meanest labourer can supply them. ... To be observed, to be attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and approbation, are all the advantages which we can propose to derive from it. It is the vanity, not the ease, or the pleasure, which interests us. But vanity is always founded upon the belief of our being the object of attention and approbation.
One wonders if these sentiments have been eroded over time? It seems -- but I'm not entirely sure -- that whatever mortification and suffering Smith describes has been mitigated over time as has their motivational force. If so, the question is why would the judgment of the impartial spectator have changed over time?