Adam Smith’s Theodicy
DOI link for Adam Smith’s Theodicy
Adam Smith’s Theodicy book
The question of Smith’s theism is complex. There are three views in the debate: that Smith was an atheist, that he started life as a theist but lapsed into a semi-stoic natural religion and, third, that he consistently held a theistic perspective. Joseph Cropsey states clearly the former view, seeing Smith as a convicted atheist and hater of religion1. He believes Smith values only life in this world. The middle view of a lapsed theism emerged with Eckstein’s introduction to his German edition of TMS and seems to be partially endorsed by Raphael and Macfi e in theirs. Eckstein believed that T6 reveals a decline in Smith’s religious views2. Raphael and Macfi e conclude that Smith gradually tended toward a natural religion, as shown by his expanded discussion of Stoicism in T63. The view that Smith held a consistent theistic position is the traditional account shown by Leslie, Veblen, Bitterman and Viner and supported in the work of this author4. In 1870, Leslie described Smith’s theory of nature as being given form by “theology, political history and the acts of his own mind”5, fusing Christian notions of Divine benevolence with classical attention to order and harmony. For Veblen (1899) Smith’s philosophical and theological inclinations are expressions of his devout optimism showing a “gently optimistic spirit of submission” as an economist who went “to his work with the fear of God before his eyes”6. Jacob Viner was more direct in his description of Smith’s Christian faith, stating that “Smith defi nitely commits himself to the theism of his time”7. Viner concludes that to deny Smith his faith is to put on mental blinkers and is poor scholarship8.