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Introduction: The Origins of the Scottish Enlightenment

  • Jane Rendall
Part of the History in Depth book series (HD)

Abstract

During the eighteenth century, and particularly from 1740 on, Scottish writers won international recognition for the range of their learning, for the originality and penetration of their writings on philosophy, history, law and science, and for their centres of enlightened civilisation in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The achievement was a considerable one, especially in view of the problems of poverty, disunity and disorder which Scotland had faced at the beginning of the century. It was an achievement which was not rivalled in England, where there were no similar centres of intellectual activity, where the universities failed to respond to the challenge of new ways of thinking. David Hume and Adam Smith were not isolated figures, chance sparks of genius; they were surrounded by men of lesser but still substantial quality, by Francis Hutcheson, Adam Ferguson, Lord Kames, Thomas Reid, William Robertson, and John Millar. (See the Biographical Notes, for brief summaries of the careers of these men, and others indicated in the text.) The interest of Hume and Smith in the study of all aspects of man and society was shared by these men. These writers were united, too, by a common commitment to teaching and education, and to the creation of a social community of scholars, in which constant contact and friendship coexisted with often fierce critical discussion and debate.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Moral Philosophy Early Eighteenth Century Professional Class Religious Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    For a general discussion of the Church of Scotland in this period, see Andrew L. Drummond and James Bulloch, The Scottish Church, 1688–1843 (Edinburgh, 1973)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    for an account of its structure see Dugald Stewart, ‘Account of the Life and Writings of William Robertson, D. D.’, in The Works of William Robertson D. D., 12 vols (London, 1817) I, pp. 109–116.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See T. B. Smith, British Justice, The Scottish Contribution (Edinburgh, 1961) Chapters 1 and 2; the Stair Society, An Introduction to Scottish Legal History (Edinburgh, 1958).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    H. Trevor-Roper, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment’, in Studies in Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 58, 1967, 1635–58.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Quoted in Ian S. Ross, Lord Kames and the Scotland of his Day (Oxford, 1972) p. 317.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    The Works of Allan Ramsay, III, edited by Alexander M. Kinghorn and Alexander Law. The Scottish Text Society, Series 3, 29 (1961) pp. 171–2.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Generally, see H. Hamilton, An Economic History of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1963) and for a recent assessment of the economic importance of the Union, R. Campbell, ‘The Union and Economic Growth’, in Rae (ed.), The Union of 1707 (op. cit.).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Alexander Carlyle, Anecdotes and Characters of the Times, edited with an introduction by James Kinsley (London, 1973) pp. 213–4.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    See J. Cater ‘The making of Principal Robertson in 1762’, Scottish Historical Review, 49 (1970) pp. 60–84.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Quoted in A. J. Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1966) p. 4.Google Scholar
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  12. 21.
    G. Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge (Fontana edition, edited and introduced by G. J. Warnock, 1962) p. 112.Google Scholar
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  14. 25.
    Francis Hutcheson, A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy in three books, containing the elements of ethicks and the law of nature., Translated from the Latin (Glasgow, 1747) p. 2.Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    See L. Krieger, The Politics of Discretion (Chicago, 1965) on Pufendorf, and the discussion in D. Forbes, Hume’s Philosophical Politics (Cambridge, 1975) Chapters 1 and 2; and as an introduction, A. P. D’Entrèves, Natural Law (London, 1951).Google Scholar

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© Jane Rendall 1978

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  • Jane Rendall

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