History of Political Economy 34 (2):505-508 (2002)

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We reply to Philippe Depoortère’s paper “On Ricardo’s method: The Unitarian influence examined. Some comments on Cremaschi and Dascal’s article ‘Malthus and Ricardo on Economic Methodology’”. Depoortère asks two questions: (1) was Ricardo’s ‘conversion’ to Unitarianism sincere? (2) did Ricardo follow the methodologies of Priestley and Belsham? His answers are that he was a ‘religious skeptic’ and he was not an ‘empiricist’ like Priestley and Belsham. We reply that the sincerity of Ricardo’s religious beliefs is irrelevant since we start with the evidence that he was exposed for a long time to the intellectual influence of Belsham, primarily in matters of philosophy, and to deny this would imply a negative answer to a different question, namely, did Ricardo attend Unitarian meetings for 15 years? Then we reply that Ricardo inherited Belsham’s version of Newtonian methodology which omitted the fourth rule, that is the most anti-Cartesian and anti-systematic rule, and this has little to do with empiricism but instead with apriorism.
Keywords Unitarianism  David Hartley  Isaac Newton  political economy  method  empiricism  apriorism
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