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Adam Smith and a life well-lived

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Over at Law & Liberty I had the pleasure of reviewing Ryan Patrick Hanley’s new book, Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life.

I highly recommend it:

Ryan Patrick Hanley’s latest book offers an accessible, erudite, and concise introduction to Adam Smith in full, the moral philosopher of wisdom and prudence. In Our Great Purpose, Hanley eschews the extensive reference apparatus and jargon that is so characteristic of contemporary scholarship. Instead, Hanley has taken an approach that is more faithful to Smith’s own purposes. Our Great Purpose functions as a guidebook to Smith’s thought, taking its point of departure in Smith’s own words, working through the ideas and texts to arrive at a comprehensive, nuanced, and coherent picture of the Scottish philosopher.

One of the more fraught questions related to Smith has to do with his religious belief and more specifically the role of religion and theology in his thought. For his part, Hanley acknowledges the worldly-mindedness of the great Scottish philosopher. But Hanley also concludes that Smith is not so earthly-minded to be of no heavenly good.

One of the key questions for Hanley thus arises in the final chapter: “What sort of relationship is fitting between a wise and virtuous person and a wise and good God?”

To find out the answer Hanley gives, you’ll have to check out the bookAnd you should.

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Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

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