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Enlightenment, Scottish

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DB026-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2016
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Rooted in the intellectual revolution of the seventeenth century, the Scottish Enlightenment was a branch of the Moderate Enlightenment that dominated the Atlantic world in the eighteenth century. Enlightenment in Scotland crystallized c.1690 and was the creation of three groups: the virtuosi led by Sir Robert Sibbald, clergymen in the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches who promoted religious moderation and modern learning, and the first generation of Scottish Newtonians. All three helped to remodel Scotland’s five universities and, by the 1720s, Scottish academics were in the vanguard of Enlightenment across Europe In the 1730s Francis Hutcheson's work on moral theory and aesthetics gave a new impetus to Scottish philosophy. Later, during the heyday of the Scottish Enlightenment c.1745-c.1783, David Hume transformed the study of the science of man through his writings on the anatomy of the mind, politics, economics, history and religion. But because Hume’s work was regarded as irreligious, he was denied an academic post in 1745 and attempts to have him excommunicated from the Church of Scotland in the mid-1750s gained broad support.Hume’s irreligious scepticism provided the stimulus for the rise of Thomas Reid’s school of common sense philosophy, which to some extent revivified Scottish intellectual life from the 1760s onwards. Nevertheless, the Scottish Enlightenment went into decline c.1783 and, by the time of Dugald Stewart’s death in 1828, had largely faded from view.

Citing this article:
Wood, Paul. Enlightenment, Scottish, 2016, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DB026-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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