ABSTRACT

Augustine’s “Two Cities” and Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” are two of the most infl uential-and contested-metaphors in Western culture1. Scholars debate their original meanings in the various texts of these authors, generating a vast secondary literature across many disciplines. Given the salience of each metaphor for identifying signifi cant intellectual and social developments in the 5th and 18th centuries, their interpretation often refl ects broad issues in the heated historiographies of “Christendom” and “Enlightenment”. At the same time, the metaphors often are employed as tropes for social criticism: either to celebrate aspects of liberal institutions and practices which seem to take their inspiration from them, or perhaps more frequently, accuse them of causes of sadness in modern life. Still others distinguish them in telling their big stories of declension or progress by contrasting the sacred theology of Augustinian piety and charity to the profane economics of Smithian practicality and benevolence2.