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The Secret, Natural, Theological Foundation of Adam Smith's Work

James E. Alvey


This article will discuss the theological foundation of Adam Smiths writings. Teleology, final causes, and divine design were initially seen as central to understanding Smiths writings. Over time, this view fell out of fashion. In the period after World War II, with the rise of positivism, commentators tended to overlook or downplay this interpretation. In the last decade or so, a new theistic view of Smith has emerged; in at least these interpretations, teleology has been restored to its former position as an essential element in understanding Smith. After sketching Smiths teleology and his view of final causes, divine design, and the ends of nature, we explain the Panglossian nature of some of the new-view interpretations of Smith. While our view differs somewhat, we agree with the essence of the new-view claim: A theological view exists in Smith and this underpins his moral and economic theories.

James E. Alvey, "The Secret, Natural, Theological Foundation of Adam Smith's Work," Journal of Markets & Morality 7, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 335-361

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