William Whewell (1794–1866) exerted a huge influence over nineteenth-century British intellectual life. This paper places Whewell’s writings on political economy within this context, emphasizing the theological basis of his interest in the subject, and his struggle with the problem of theodicy which shaped his later view of political economy. Particular attention is paid to his earliest writing on the subject, an unpublished 1827 sermon in which he attacked the deductive and atheist political economy of Ricardo, and to a lesser extent Malthus’s principle of population. Whewell’s failure to develop a satisfactory economic theodicy (following similar lack of success by Malthus, Sumner, Whately, and Chalmers) contributed to the collapse of the British tradition of scientific natural theology and the subsequent separation of theology from political economy in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.
Paul Oslington; Natural Theology, Theodicy, and Political Economy in Nineteenth-Century Britain: William Whewell’s Struggle. History of Political Economy 1 December 2017; 49 (4): 575–606. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-4296317
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