- Adam Smith, natural movement and physics
- Cambridge Journal of Economics
- Volume | Issue number
- 42 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This paper argues that often when Adam Smith used the word ‘natural’, it was not in contradistinction to supernatural, social or artificial; but to ‘violent.’ Furthermore, Smith models, in part, his distinction between natural and violent on Aristotle’s use. Smith explains the distinction in his study of the history of physics and astronomy. In those fields there is, at least going back to Aristotle, an idealized view of ‘natural’ motion or movement versus interfered or violent motion or movement, which has changed over time, particularly from ancient to classical physics and astronomy. Smith used this sense of ‘natural’ particularly when dealing with movement in The Wealth of Nations: especially the movement of goods, capital and labour. In Smith’s system, the natural non-violent movement of humans, or actions generated by humans, will lead to so-called natural prices, natural rates of profit and natural wage rates around which market prices, profit and wage rates will ‘gravitate’.
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