Enlightenment, Scottish

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DB026-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

This term refers to the intellectual movement in Scotland in roughly the second half of the eighteenth century. As a movement it included many theorists – the best known of whom are David Hume, Adam Smith and Thomas Reid – who maintained both institutional and personal links with each other. It was not narrowly philosophical, although in the Common Sense School it did develop its own distinctive body of argument. Its most characteristic feature was the development of a wide-ranging social theory that included pioneering ‘sociological’ works by Adam Ferguson and John Millar, socio-cultural history by Henry Home (Lord Kames) and William Robertson as well as Hume’s Essays (1777) and Smith’s classic ‘economics’ text The Wealth of Nations (1776). All these works shared a commitment to ‘scientific’ causal explanation and sought, from the premise of the uniformity of human nature, to establish a history of social institutions in which the notion of a mode of subsistence played a key organising role. Typically of the Enlightenment as a whole this explanatory endeavour was not divorced from explicit evaluation. Though not uncritical of their own commercial society, the Scots were in no doubt as to the superiority of their own age compared to what had gone before.

    Citing this article:
    Berry, Christopher J.. Enlightenment, Scottish, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DB026-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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