Abstract：Conjectural history is one important part of Scottish Enlightenment historiography. This term is closely linked to Adam Smith. It first appeared in The Life and Writings of Adam Smith by Dugald Stewart. When Smith discussed the origin of languages, he conjectured the first formation and the development of words because there were no direct evidences. This species of philosophical investigation is called ″conjectural history″. Smith wrote different conjectural histories when he demonstrated the principles of social and natural sciences. He never finished a complete historical writing, but applied the conjectural history to explain the principles of political economy and the revolutions in the history of astronomy, which enlarged the views of social and natural sciences, and in turn promoted the writings of Scottish Enlightenment historiography. This paper is divided into three parts, based on a close reading of Smith's works: Wealth of Nations, History of Astronomy, and Lectures on Rhetoric and Belle Lettres. Section One is conjectural history and the principles of political economy in a diachronic dimension; Section Two, the imagination and the revolutions in the history of astronomy, and Section Three, the criticism of traditional historiography and conjectural history of the Scots in the Eighteenth Century. Smith explained the human principles of political economy from a diachronic point of view. In his Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote ″the progress of opulence″ as a chapter of conjectural history in Book III, and claimed there was a natural order of the economic growth, that is, firstly agriculture, secondly manufacture and lastly commerce. The real economic history of Europe, however, was contorted, and the end of European history was a commercial society. In this real history, Smith recited the foundation of human nature of political economy: the inclination of exchange and the enlarged market, the desires of market body in economic behaviors, and the protection of market order by laws. ″The invisible hand″ was always operating there. Smith demonstrated the ″perfect system of natural liberty″ in the tradition of natural law. And the conjectural history and European genuine history were the endorsement of his political economy. By interpreting the history of astronomy, Smith believed that imagination, which was the foundation of conjectural history, was the important motive of the revolutions of the ideas in the astronomical history. The history of astronomy is a good example of the history of passions and ideas. Smith claimed that the revolutions of ideas of astronomy were based on the transfer of these passions, such as surprise, wonder and admiration. Imagination bridges the gaps among the connections of things. By arguing the rationality of different astronomical doctrines, Smith revealed the changes of ideas and knowledge behind the history of natural sciences. This study chimes in with the new history of sciences in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. To some extent, Smith's history of astronomy is a kind of history of ideas. Smith emphasized that the boundary of history should be enlarged to the whole society when he criticized the traditional historiography. He thought that the beginning of historiography, as well as philosophy, began from human passions. Authenticity is the first principle of writing history and education is its purpose. Historians should be impartial when they narrate the facts. Smith's historical criticism is a part of his system of moral philosophy. Conjectural history depends on the principles of human nature and the external circumstances to fill in the blanks of historical progress. The conjectural historians cannot write all the things and they should conjecture the ″history″ on the basis of the opinions of unfolded human nature and the different circumstances. Smith explained deeply and comprehensively the principles of political economy from a diachronic point of view. Smith's history of natural sciences is not the accumulation of knowledge, but a history of cognitive analysis of the human ideas. Thus, in this sense, the contributions of Adam Smith to the Scottish Enlightenment historiography are unique and distinctive in the Eighteenth Century.
张正萍. “推测史”与亚当·斯密的史学贡献[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2018, 48(4): 227-241.
Zhang Zhengping. Conjectural History and Contributions of Adam Smith to Historiography. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2018, 48(4): 227-241.