Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Rebirth of the SacredScience, Religion, and the New Environmental Ethos$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Robert Nadeau

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199942367

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199942367.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

The Old Story: Metaphysics, Newtonian Physics, and Classical Economics

The Old Story: Metaphysics, Newtonian Physics, and Classical Economics

Chapter:
Chapter 6 (p.92) The Old Story: Metaphysics, Newtonian Physics, and Classical Economics
Source:
Rebirth of the Sacred
Author(s):

Robert L. Nadeau

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199942367.003.0009

The causes of the environmental crisis may be staggeringly complex, but the most effective way to deal with it in economic terms seems rather obvious. We must begin very soon to implement scientifically viable economic solutions for what is now a large number of very menacing environmental problems. If this could be accomplished within the framework of the theory that now serves as the basis for coordinating global economic activities, neoclassical economics, political leaders, economic planners, and environmental scientists could work together in harmony to implement these solutions. Unfortunately, this cannot happen because neoclassical economic theory is predicated on unscientific assumptions about the dynamics of market systems that effectively preclude the prospect of implementing scientifically viable economic solutions for environmental problems. These assumptions were articulated in their original form by eighteenth century moral philosophers Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo who were members of and greatly influenced by a widespread philosophical and religious movement known as deism. The fundamental impulse in this movement was to make belief in the existence of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition consistent with the implications of the mechanistic worldview of Newtonian physics. Because physical laws in this physics completely determine the future state of physical systems, the deists concluded that the universe does not require, or even permit, active intervention by God after the first moment of creation. They then imaged God as a clockmaker and the universe as a clock regulated and maintained after its creation by physical laws. The moral philosophers we now call classical economists assumed that this deistic god created two sets of laws to govern the workings of the clockwork universe—the laws of Newtonian physics and the natural laws of economics. Based on this assumption, they argued that the forces associated with the natural laws of economics determine the movement and interactions of economic actors in much the same way that forces associated with Newton’s laws of gravity determine the movements and interactions of material objects.

Keywords:   Newtonian physics, classical economics, clockwork universe, invisible hand, machines, mind and nature, moral philosophers, deism, natural liberty, system, supply and demand, laws

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .