TERRA ECONOMICUS, , Vol. 17 (no. 3),

Joseph Schumpeter said that Adam Smith was sincere and very influential, but Schumpeter also said that Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” nevertheless was neither original nor brilliant. As for moral philosophy, Schumpeter hardly read “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. Smith was an Aristotelian and a scholastic, Schumpeter said. These interpretations of Smith became standard, but were they correct? This paper argues instead that Smith was brilliant and original because his moral philosophy provided a capstone or crowning argument for seventeenth-century political economy. This connection of Smith to seventeenth-century sources is not entirely new of course. Karl Marx already said that “Wealth of Nations” depended largely on seventeenth-century writers such as Sir William Petty. Yet Marx saw only part of the picture because he, like Schumpeter later, undervalued Smith’s moral philosophy. Predecessors in seventeenth-century political economy deeply influenced Smith, true, but he was not a passive recipient of this seventeenth-century influence. Instead, this paper argues, Smith labored to free political economy from its seventeenth-century reputation for atheism and immorality. Petty and his friend Thomas Hobbes and many other seventeenth-century practitioners of political economy had an infamous reputation as being empiricists who were hostile to moral philosophy in general and to Christian theories of right action in particular. Smith freed empirical political economy from its reputation for atheism.
Citation: Taylor, J. A. (2019). Adam Smith’s seventeenth-century sources. Terra Economicus, 17(3), 78–88. DOI: 10.23683/2073-6606-2019-17-3-78-88

Keywords: Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments”; Joseph Schumpeter; Karl Marx; Sir William Petty

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Publisher: Southern Federal University
Founder: Southern Federal University
ISSN: 2073-6606