Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives internationales d’histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 191)

5. Concluding Remarks

The role of habit in Ferguson’s conception of spontaneous social order is four-fold: firstly, it serves as the ‘Maker’s’ temporal insurance policy by guaranteeing that any advances made in the past are enshrined in human behaviour to the point where they become reflexive; secondly, being essentially human products, habits permit the exercise of our ‘will and choice’, play a central role in our moral development and allow our emotions to play their proper role in the maintenance of social life; thirdly, habit solves the abstract problem of identifying the basis for political authority and fourthly, habits enhance communal bonds, permitting and encouraging us to live in the social condition intended for us by Nature. Partly because of the effects of habit, a society underpinned by passions is neither random nor precarious; rather, it is highly ordered, integrated and progressive. Ferguson’s sophisticated appreciation of this fact suggests that his aversion to radical social change was probably more scientific than ideological.


Moral Sense Moral Personality Spontaneous Order Social Sanction Impartial Spectator 
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