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God, Commerce, and Adam Smith through the Editions of The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Erik W. Matson

Abstract


This article provides an overview of the major changes across the editions of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). It deals with two issues relating to Smith’s theological and economic perspectives. Although Smith pares away some of the orthodox Christian theology in the later editions of TMS, even evincing a skeptical attitude in some moments about revealed theology and divine providence, his theory of conscience and the impartial spectator increasingly takes on a theological dimension. Second, the final edition of TMS implicitly presents honest commerce as a way of cooperating with the Deity in serving human happiness. The evolution of TMS points to a complexity in Smith’s theological perspectives and highlights interrelations of those perspectives with aspects of his economic philosophy.

Erik W. Matson, "God, Commerce, and Adam Smith through the Editions of The Theory of Moral Sentiments," Journal of Markets & Morality 24, no. 2 (2021): 269-288.


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