Monday, September 20, 2010

A Debate Continues

I have had to wait to acquire a copy of ‘Elgar’s Companion to Adam Smith’, edited by Jeffrey T. Young, 2009, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK. The delay was largely caused by the price, £115.

A correspondent friend replied to one of my letters and mentioned that I would be interested in reading Jeffrey Young’s edited volume because it contained an article by Brendon Long, ‘Adam Smith’s Theism’ (pp 73-99), in the light of my paper, ‘The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology’ (2009). He knew that I am researching/writing on ‘Adam Smith and Religion’ for the forthcoming volume, ‘The Adam Smith Handbook’, edited by Chris Berry (Oxford University Press, 2011) and considered Brendon Long’s chapter covered similar ground from the contrary view. Well, this prompted me to search Abe Books (Amazon) and I found a new copy for £24, which arrived this morning.

I have met with and debated on the subject of Adam Smith’s alleged Christianity with Brendon Long. In February this year, I visited Australia on a 70th birthday trip to Sydney arranged by my family – the scene of my youthful residence there in the 1950s – and an academic colleague, Professor Paul Oslington, of the Australian Catholic University, arranged for me to address a seminar at his institution and an evening seminar at the secular Centre for Independent Studies.

One of the three speakers was Dr. Brendon Long, a most engaging intellectual authority on theology and the author of the chapter in Jeffrey Young’s ‘Companion’. His chapter, ‘Adam Smith’s theism, is a finely argued rebuttal of the content of my paper (though, be clear, Brendon had not read my paper before composing his own).

We both cover much the same ground, biographically and doctrinally, and come to quite different conclusions! Now, that is one of the merits of scholarship. Ideas are tested against each other, without rancour or baseless charges of personal motives. Where somebody in debate neglects an important fact, the other debater may point to the missing fact for the benefit of those listening or reading. The arbiters of the merits of a case are sovereign.

In this spirit, I am grateful for Brendon Long’s erudite chapter; it sets a standard against which I shall deploy my chapter’s arguments.

[An Early Draft of my 'The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology' can be accessed HERE:



Blogger entech said...

Prudence was a regarded as a virtue by Smith. Viewed in the context of the period the ambiguity of his words on religion are more than prudent.
His friend David Hume had made himself unemployable in both Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities. He had been charged with heresy and the church wanted him charged with infidelity. He did not acknowledge much of his religious writing until close to the end of his life and some was published afterwards.
Hume was born in 1711 and Smith in 1723. As a young man he would have known people who remembered the hanging of Thomas Aikenhead in 1697 for blasphemy. Aikenhead was hanged on a first offence even though the death penalty did not apply in law until a third offence.
In the prevailing political and religious climate he wrote very prudently. If he had been a religious man he would have announced it rather than disguising it.
Smith is rarely interpreted in a historical context. His economic writings are quoted in the modern world, whereas in his world Stevenson’s Rocket was still 50 years in the future, the first commercial train service between Liverpool and Manchester was arguably the beginning of the modern world.
Too much early writing is read “as if” it was recent, and far too much as justification for beliefs already held.

12:12 am  
Blogger El caballer que diu kek said...

I completely agree with entech, I assume I've read much less than both of you, just finishing TMS and as I said, I've to absolutely agree with you. I don't get with the article which is the position of though in relation to Adam's either by the blogger or the referred book. Anyway to point something else if entech hasn't already said pretty much everything is that beyond the believing or not, and disguising or not I've been thinking, as I was ending TMS, that as I did my self a transformation from somekind of "Idk-Atheism" to "Idk-Something", as I think Adam does.
My explanation would be based on the call of Jupiter as the God or Superpower being, maybe is someway to call the unknown, the power beyond. Is like stoics with their "Happinnes-Conformity" with the life since they are doing it right, or as they seem so, and leaving fate to rule the rest without blaming or stressing themselfs for it. So, someway Jupiter would be that stoic god that may be or not be there but since you can't ignore it, at the same time that there's nothing to do about it, is like the being without be, so the unknown, Jupiter.

As I said is just a modest opinion without too much base from. And sadly some language mistakes, hope you can excuse me. Nice to have found this place!

11:27 pm  

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