Economics and Theology of Salvation in Adam Smith and Hegel

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Copyright: Yang, Yong Sun
This thesis explores relationships between economics and theology through the concept of salvation. Self-interested behaviour is often equated with sin in religious circles including Christian theology, while it is the foundation of modern economic theory. Must there be a deep gulf between theology and economics in this and other areas? This is the question of the thesis. The aim of this thesis is to show that economics and theology are mutually intertwined, and that understanding these links contributes to a better understanding of salvation. By showing that self-interest is not only the main motive of economic behaviour but also the basis of theological faith, the thesis will investigate their mutual interrelationship. It argues that economics has a theological dimension as theology is embedded in economic thought, and that theology has an economic aspect as faith is dependent on the self-interested consciousness similar to economics. Different theology leads to different economics. Theological investigation of human behaviour cannot avoid economic account of human self-conscious desire as a way of salvation. The argument about salvation is developed in relation to the two major philosophers Adam Smith and G.W.F. Hegel. Smith s self-interest is a natural instinct embedded in human nature, while Hegel s self-consciousness is a rational ability to be realized. It will be argued that this bifurcation comes from the differences in their theological foundations regarding grace, original sin, eternality, transcendence, immanence, etc. The illumination of the theological foundations of the economic ideas of two main thinkers helps to enrich our understanding of the issues related to salvation such as: sympathy and recognition, poverty and the state, invisible hand and cunning of reason, evil and scarcity, and eschatology. This thesis concludes that human self-conscious desire is a way of salvation both in economics and theology as they are mutually interrelated in theologies of economics in Adam Smith and Hegel. This interdisciplinary thesis contributes to better understanding of human behaviour not only in the world of economics but also in the ethical and religious world.
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Yang, Yong Sun
Sharpe, Keiran
Oslington, Paul
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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