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“A Hard Battle to Fight”: Natural Theology and the Dismal Science, 1820–50


  • Harro Maas


William Whewell's and Richard Jones's criticism of Jeremy Bentham's and David Ricardo's “dismal” views on the relation of theory and evidence in political economy was motivated by the former's views on the structuring role of natural theology for questions of method and evidence in the sciences, including political economy. In comparison, natural theology was for Richard Whately as structuring on these issues as it was for the Cambridge men. Whately's view on natural theology, however, conformed with the Ricardian predilection for theory over facts. The differences between the Cambridge men and Whately became manifest after (or better: during) the publication of Jones's book on rent in 1831 and led to a somewhat acerbic exchange of views on the role of definitions in science and the use of history for establishing scientific evidence. As far as political economy was concerned, Whately's stance carried the day in Victorian England.

Suggested Citation

  • Harro Maas, 2008. "“A Hard Battle to Fight”: Natural Theology and the Dismal Science, 1820–50," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 40(5), pages 143-167, Supplemen.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:40:y:2008:i:5:p:143-167

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    theology; Richard Whately;


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