Scottish Enlightenment

Scottish Enlightenment

The Scottish Enlightenment was the period in 18th century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were amongst the most literate nations of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy. [cite book |last=Herman |first=Arthur |authorlink=Arthur Herman |title=The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots' Invention of the Modern World |publisher=4th Estate, Limited |year=2003 |isbn=1841152765 ]

Sharing the humanist and rationalist outlook of the European Enlightenment of the same time period, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment asserted the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which could not be justified by reason. They held to an optimistic belief in the ability of man to effect changes for the better in society and nature, guided only by reason.

It was this latter feature which gave the Scottish Enlightenment its special flavour, distinguishing it from its continental European counterpart. In Scotland, the Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief virtues were held to be improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for both the individual and society as a whole.

Among the advances of the period were achievements in philosophy, economics, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, law, agriculture, chemistry, and sociology. Among the outstanding Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton.

The Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland itself, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held in Europe and elsewhere, but also because its ideas and attitudes were carried across the Atlantic as part of the Scottish diaspora which had its beginnings in that same era.

After the Act of Union 1707

In the period following the Act of Union 1707 Scotland's place in the world was altered radically. Following the Reformation, many Scottish academics were teaching in great cities of mainland Europe but with the birth and rapid expansion of the new British Empire came a revival of philosophical thought in Scotland and a prodigious diversity of thinkers.

Arguably the poorestcite book |last=Herman |first=Arthur |authorlink=Arthur Herman |title=How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It |year=2001 |location= |publisher=Crown Publishing Group |edition= Hardcover: ISBN 978-0609606353, Paperback: ISBN 978-0609809990 |quote=] country in Western Europe in 1707, Scotland was then able to turn its attentions to the wider world without the opposition of England. Scotland reaped the economic benefits of free trade within the British Empire together with the intellectual benefits of having established Europe's first public education system since classical times. Under these twin stimuli, Scottish thinkers began questioning assumptions previously taken for granted; and with Scotland's traditional connections to France, then in the throes of the Enlightenment, the Scots began developing a uniquely practical branch of humanism to the extent that Voltaire said "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation"cite web |url= |title=The Scottish enlightenment and the challenges for Europe in the 21st century; climate change and energy |author=José Manuel Barroso, 11th President of the European Commission |format=html |work=Enlightenment Lecture Series, Edinburgh University |date=28 November 2006 |quote=I will try to show why Voltaire was right when he said: 'Nous nous tournons vers l’Écosse pour trouver toutes nos idées sur la civilisation' [we look to Scotland for all our ideas on civilisation] . ] cite web |url= |title=Visiting The Royal Society of Edinburgh… |format=html |work=Royal Society of Edinburgh. First published in "The Scotsman" Saturday 4 June 2005 |quote=Scotland has a proud heritage of science, research, invention and innovation, and can lay claim to some of the greatest minds and greatest discoveries since Voltaire wrote those words 250 years ago. ] .

Empiricism and inductive reasoning

The first major philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment was Francis Hutcheson,cite web |url= |title=Northern Lights: How modern life emerged from eighteenth-century Edinburgh |author=David Denby |format=html |work=The New Yorker |publisher=Review of James Buchan's "Crowded With Genius: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind (Capital of the Mind: Edinburgh" in the UK) HarperCollins, 2003. Hardcover: ISBN 0-06-055888-1, ISBN 978-0060558888 |date=11 October 2004 |quote=The fountainhead was Francis Hutcheson, a kind of pan-Enlightenment figure who, from 1729 until his death in 1746, held the chair in moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, where he broke with tradition by lecturing in English in addition to the common lecturing language of the time, Latin. Hutcheson, a frequent visitor to Edinburgh, was Adam Smith’s teacher and he encouraged Hume’s early efforts. He was suspicious of metaphysics or any claims not based on observation or experience. Empiricism and the inductive method was the clarion call of the Scottish Enlightenment. The intellectual break with the past was drastic and seemingly irreversible. In recent years, scholars have traced the rudiments of modern psychology, anthropology, the earth sciences, and theories of civil society and liberal education to eighteenth-century Scotland. ] who held the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Glasgow from 1729 to 1746. A moral philosopher with alternatives to the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, one of his major contributions to world thought was the utilitarian and consequentialist principle that virtue is that which provides, in his words, "the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers".

Much of what is incorporated in the scientific method (the nature of knowledge, evidence, experience, and causation) and some modern attitudes towards the relationship between science and religion were developed by David Hume. "Like many of the learned Scots, he revered the new science of Copernicus, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, and Newton; he believed in the experimental method and loathed superstition". Hume stands out from the mainstream enlightenment due to his deep pessimism which is largely not shared by other humanist thinkersFact|date=August 2008.

Adam Smith developed and published "The Wealth of Nations," the first work in modern economics. This famous study, which had an immediate impact on British economic policy, still frames 21st century discussions on globalisation and tariffscite book |last=Fry |first=Michael |others=Paul Samuelson, Lawrence Klein, Franco Modigliani, James M. Buchanan, Maurice Allais, Theodore Schultz, Richard Stone, James Tobin, Wassily Leontief, Jan Tinbergen |title=Adam Smith's Legacy: His Place in the Development of Modern Economics |year=1992 |location= |publisher=Routledge |isbn=978-0415061643 |quote="Adam Smith's Legacy" brings together ten Nobel Laureates in Economics, the greatest number since the prize was instituted in 1969. They explore themes as diverse as Smith's use of data, his attitude towards human capital, and his views on economic policy. Heirs to Smith and leaders of the discipline, the contributors also reflect upon the current state of economics, assessing the extent to which it measures up to the benchmark established by its founder. ] .

Scottish Enlightenment thinkers developed what Hume called a "science of man"cite web |url= |title=Northern lights |author=Magnus Magnusson |format=html |work=New Statesman |publisher=Review of James Buchan's "Capital of the Mind: Edinburgh (Crowded With Genius: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind" in the U.S.) London: John Murray ISBN 0719554462 |date=10 November 2003 |quote=] which was expressed historically in works by such as James Burnett, Adam Ferguson, John Millar, and William Robertson, all of whom merged a scientific study of how humans behave in ancient and primitive cultures with a strong awareness of the determining forces of modernity. Gathering places in Edinburgh such as The Select Society and, later, The Poker Club, were among the crucibles from which many of the ideas which distinguish the Scottish Enlightenment emerged.

The focus of the Scottish Enlightenment ranged from intellectual and economic matters to the specifically scientific as in the work of William Cullen, physician and chemist, James Anderson, a lawyer and agronomist, Joseph Black, physicist and chemist, and James Hutton, the first modern geologistcite book |last=Repcheck |first=Jack |title=The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth's Antiquity |year=2003 |publisher=Basic Books, [ The Perseus Books Group] |location=Cambridge, Massachusetts |language=English |isbn=0-7382-0692-X |pages=pp. 117-143 |chapter=Chapter 7: The Athens of the North |quote=Onto the list should also be added two men who never lived in Edinburgh but who visited and maintained an active correspondence with the scholars there: Ben Franklin (1706-1790), the statesman and talented polymath who discovered electricity; and Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), Charles Darwin's grandfather and the author of a precursor theory of evolution. ] .

While the Scottish Enlightenment is traditionally considered to have concluded toward the end of the 18th century, it is worth noting that disproportionately large Scottish contributions to British science and letters continued for another fifty years or more, thanks to such figures as James Hutton, James Watt, William Murdoch, James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Kelvin and Sir Walter Scott.

Key figures in the Scottish Enlightenment

* Robert Adam (1728-1792) architect
* James Anderson (1739-1808) agronomist, lawyer, amateur scientist
* Joseph Black (1728-1799) physicist and chemist, first to isolate carbon dioxide
* Hugh Blair (1718-1800) minister, author
* James Boswell (1740-1795) lawyer, author of "Life of Johnson"
* Thomas Brown (1778–1820), Scottish moral philosopher and philosopher of mind; jointly held the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University with Dugald Stewart
* James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799) philosopher, judge, founder of modern comparative historical linguistics
* Robert Burnscite web |url= |title=A Toast To Times Past |author=Phillip Manning |format=html |work=Chapel Hill News |date=28 December 2003 |quote=Burns penned the song [Auld Lang Syne] in 1788 during the intellectual flowering known as the Scottish Enlightenment. Burns was part of a convivial group in Edinburgh whose writing and thinking produced the Enlightenment. One of the most original thinkers in that group, the man whose work would stimulate Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolution, was a well-to-do gentleman farmer named James Hutton. He discovered the immensity of our past, the days gone by that Burns wrote about so eloquently. ] (1759-1796) poet
* Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) founder of the Restoration Movement
* George Campbell (1719-1796) philosopher of language, theology, and rhetoric
* Sir John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812) prolific artist, author of "An Essay on Naval Tactics"; great-uncle of James Clerk Maxwell
* William Cullen (1710-1790) physician, chemist, early medical researcher
* Adam Ferguson (1723-1816) considered the founder of sociology
* Andrew Fletcher (1653-1716) a forerunner of the Scottish Enlightenment,cite web |url= |title=Andrew Fletcher: Political Works |author=Cambridge University Press ] writer, patriot, commissioner of Parliament of Scotland
* James Hall, 4th Baronet (1761-1832) geologist, geophysicist
* Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) philosopher, judge, historian
* David Hume (1711-1776) philosopher, historian, essayist
* Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) philosopher of metaphysics, logic, and ethics
* James Hutton (1726–1797) founder of modern geology
* Sir John Leslie (1766-1832) mathematician, physicist, investigator of heat (thermodynamics)
* James Mill (1773-1836) late in the period - Father of John Stuart Mill.
* John Millar (1735-1801) philosopher, historian, historiographer
* John Playfair (1748-1819) mathematician, author of "Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth"
* Allan Ramsaycite web |url= |title=A Hotbed of Genius: Culture and Society in the Scottish Enlightenment |author=Dr David Allan |format=html |work= University of St Andrews |quote=] (1686 - 1758) poet
* Henry Raeburn (1726-1823) portrait painter
* Thomas Reid (1710-1796) philosopher, founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense
* William Robertson (1721-1793) one of the founders of modern historical research
* Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) lawyer, novelist, poet
* John Sinclair (1754 - 1835) politician, writer, the first person to use the word statistics in the English language
* William Smellie (1740-1795) editor of the first edition of Encyclopædia Britannica
* Adam Smith (1723-1790) whose "The Wealth of Nations" was the first modern treatise on economics
* Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) moral philosopher
* George Turnbull (1698-1748), theologian, philosopher and writer on education
* John Walker (naturalist) (1730-1803) professor of natural history
* James Watt (1736-1819) student of Joseph Black; engineer, inventor (see Watt steam engine)

Plus two who visited and corresponded with Edinburgh scholars:
* Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) physician, botanist, philosopher, grandfather of Charles Darwin
* Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) polymath, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States


Further reading

* "A Hotbed of Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment 1731-1790." David Daiches, Peter Jones, Jean Jones (eds). : · Edinburgh University Press, 1986. Hardcover: ISBN 0 85224 537 8. : · Saltire Society 1996. Paperback: ISBN 0-85411-069-0.

*"Crowded With Genius: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind." James Buchan: · Harper Perennial 2004. Paperback: ISBN 006055889X, ISBN 978-0060558895.

* "The Scottish Nation: A History 1700-2000." Thomas Devine.: · Viking, 1999. Hardcover: ISBN 0670888117, ISBN 978-0670888115.: · Penguin, 2001. Paperback: ISBN 0141002344, ISBN 978-0141002347.

* "The Scottish Enlightenment: The Historical Age of the Historical Nation." Alexander Broadie.: · Birlinn 2002. Paperback: ISBN 1-84158-151-8, ISBN 978-1841581514.

* "America's Founding Secret: What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers." Robert W. Galvin. : · Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. Hardcover: ISBN 0-7425-2280-6, ISBN 978-0742522800.

* "The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment." (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy) Alexander Broadie, ed.: · Cambridge University Press, 2003. Hardcover: ISBN 0521802733, ISBN-13: 9780521802734. Paperback: ISBN 0521003237, ISBN 978-0521003230.

* "The Mark of the Scots: Their Astonishing Contributions to History, Science, Democracy, Literature, and the Arts." Duncan A. Bruce. : · (Publisher?) 1996. Hardcover: ISBN 1559723564, ISBN 978-1559723565.: · Citadel, Kensington Books, 2000. Paperback: ISBN 0-8065-2060-4, ISBN 978-0806520605.

* "How the Scots Made America." Michael Fry. : · Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, 2004. Hardcover: ISBN 0-312-33876-7, ISBN 978-0312338763.

* "Scotland: A New History." Michael Lynch. : · Pimlico, Random House, 1992 (new edition). Paperback: ISBN 0-7126-9893-0, ISBN 978-0712698931.

* "Virtue, Learning and the Scottish Enlightenment: Ideas of Scholarship in Early Modern History". David Allan.: · Edinburgh University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0748604388.

External links

* [ Northern Lights: How modern life emerged from eighteenth-century Edinburgh] .
* [ Scottish Enlightenment] - an introduction.

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