[SydPhil] HPS Research Seminar 2nd September
debbie.castle at sydney.edu.au
Wed Aug 28 10:14:30 AEST 2013
Next in the HPS Research Seminar Series 2013
Paul Oslington (Australian Catholic College)
The Religious Background of Adam Smith's Economics"
Adam Smith (the historical Smith - not the imagined Smith of certain apologists for the contemporary American economic order) is a crucial figure in the history of economics, and the history of the larger scientific enterprise. Like his 18th century Scottish Enlightenment friends Smith was shaped by the Calvinism of the dominant Presbyterian Kirk. Newton and the British tradition of scientific natural theology provided the framework for his economic investigations. Continental natural law ethics influenced his moral philosophy, far more than utilitarianism. Aristotle was always in the background. Whether or not Smith was an orthodox Christian is an unanswerable and ultimately irrelevant question, but the presumption of significant influence of theology on his system of thought is strengthened by his student notes of his (now lost) Glasgow lectures on natural theology, the prevalence of the language and thought forms of natural theology in his works, and the almost universal theological reading of his economics by his contemporaries. I will test a theological reading of Smith's works through the invisible hand passages. There are only three passages and each expresses an ambivalence about the harmonious functioning of the new market order, and the need for special providential divine action (or something of the sort) to maintain rough equality and thus the stability of the market order. This reading of the passages against their Calvinist and Newtonian natural theological background is directly opposed to the traditional economists reading of the passages as celebrating the co-coordinating and stabilizing properties of markets -the "magic of markets". Smith did believe that a competitive market order generates good outcomes (applying the doctrine general providence to the economy) but the somewhat wistful invisible hand passages express something quite different. The argument about Smith applies to some of the other major figures such as Paley, Malthus, Whately and Whewell who shaped the emergence of political economy as a discipline in the early 19th century.
WHERE: SCIENCE MEETING ROOM 450, 4TH FLOOR CARSLAW BUILDING, CAMPERDOWN CAMPUS
WHEN: MONDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER 2013 FROM 6PM
All are very welcome
Unit for History and Philosophy of Science
Room 441, Carslaw Building F07| THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY NSW 2006
T: + 61 2 9351 4226 E: debbie.castle at sydney.edu.au
OFFICE HOURS: MONDAY, TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY 9AM TO 4.30PM
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