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Abstract

In a recent article in the History of Economics Review, Richard Kleer discussed the role of teleology in Adam Smith’s economic work. Kleer has been at the forefront in promoting the ‘new teleological and theological view’ of Smith. In this view, Smith is portrayed as a theorist whose system of thought is fundamentally shaped by a belief in divine design and Providence. This revisionist account is in sharp contrast to the mainstream view of Smith as a secular follower of David Hume. As the title of his article indicates, Kleer focuses on the Wealth of Nations. In fact, Kleer’s focus is on economic growth, which is probably the central theme of that book. He shows that the mechanisms underlying economic growth are human instincts (rather than human foresight); teleology enters when Kleer claims that instincts are part of the divine design. In this reply, I wish to draw attention to some gaps in Kleer’s account and some difficulties with his interpretation. I will also suggest some possible extensions to Kleer’s work.

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