The Rise of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment

By Tatsuya Sakamoto; Hideo Tanaka | Go to book overview

9

The main themes and structure of moral philosophy and the formation of political economy in Adam Smith

Shoji Tanaka

Adam Smith, known as the founder of political economy was, together with David Hume and Henry Home, Lord Kames, one of the second generation of the Scottish Enlightenment whose aim was to realize the purpose of the enlightenment as the central theme of their moral philosophy. In brief, this was to build up a free, civilized society by way of increasing the wealth of nations through the commercialization of society and through the formation of independent subjects free from feudal relations and religious delusions. An outcome of this aim was that one of their main themes was criticism of the remaining feudal aspects of modern society, and the mercantile system. Individual studies of these thinkers has already amounted to a fair number of volumes, even in Japan. However, as far as I know there has not yet been any major study that grappled with the theoretical relations between Hutcheson, Hume, Kames and Adam Smith, especially concerning the relationship between the formation of secular and empirical theories and the theological presuppositions of the Scottish Enlightenment. In particular, this chapter will focus on the theoretical lineage between Kames's essay on 'Liberty & Necessity' in his Essays on the Principles of Morality & Natural Religion (1751) and Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759, TMS hereafter), which previously have only been the subject of some shorter fragmentary comments or reviews. 1 Spotlighting their dynamic successive relationship is, I believe, an indispensable key to understanding the essence of Smithian liberalism.

As is well known, Francis Hutcheson intended to destroy the religious obscurities that had accompanied the blind belief in the doctrine of revelation of Presbyterian Calvinism by means of an empirical demonstration of the design of God. But Hutcheson's argument from design, along with the influence of Enlightenment thinking generally that was under way in the church at that time, was epistemologically severely criticized by David Hume, who rejected the need for empirical demonstration of the relation between cause and effect. This Humean scepticism opened the way for the science of man to emancipate individuals from the rationalized view of nature that flowed from the logic of the Stoic Natural Theology, upon which Hutcheson's argument from design had rested. By contrast, Humean negation of design or reason in nature tended to

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