The Problem of Natural Religion in Smith’s Moral Thought


A number of recent interpretations defend the description of Adam Smith as "a strong supporter of natural theology" and claim that his moral philosophy depends, in some way, on God and God’s providence. This paper argues against that claim using novel evidence. What I demonstrate is that Smith took positions at odds with a conventional commitment to natural religion’s importance for morality. In particular, I show that it is hard to square Smith’s alleged support of natural religion with his account of conscience, his natural rights theory, and his omission of piety from his catalog of virtues.