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Abstract

The paper will discuss some aspects of the context in which Smith wrote and its relevance for understanding Smith's fundamental assumptions. By fundamental assumptions, I mean Smith's views on teleology, final causes and divine design. These have been described as the "secret" foundations to Smith's writings. Teleology, final causes and divine design were initially seen as central to understanding Smith's writings. Over time, this view fell out of fashion. In the period after World War II, with the rise of positivism, commentators tended to overlook or downplay the significance of these fundamental assumptions. In the last decade, or so, teleology has started to be restored to its former position as an essential element in understanding Smith. The change in orientation in intellectual history towards historical context may have been instrumental in the revival of the theological and teleological interpretation of Smith.

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