The scottish enlightenment essays in reinterpretation

In Scotland, the Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief values were improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for the individual and society as a whole. Among the fields that rapidly advanced were philosophy, political economy, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, botany and zoology, law, agriculture, chemistry and sociology. The Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held outside Scotland, but also because its ideas and attitudes were carried all over Europe and across the Atlantic world as part of the Scottish diaspora , and by European and American students who studied in Scotland.

Union with England in meant the end of the Scottish Parliament. The parliamentarians, politicians, aristocrats, and placemen moved to London. Scottish law, however, remained entirely separate from English law, so the civil law courts, lawyers and jurists remained in Edinburgh. The headquarters and leadership of the Church of Scotland also remained, as did the universities and the medical establishment.

The Scottish Enlightenment: essays in reinterpretation

The lawyers and the divines, together with the professors, intellectuals, medical men, scientists and architects formed a new middle class elite that dominated urban Scotland and facilitated the Scottish Enlightenment. At the union of , England had about five times the population of Scotland and about 36 times as much wealth, but there were four Scottish universities St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh against two English. Scotland experienced the beginnings of economic expansion that allowed it to close this gap. Although some estate holders improved the quality of life of their displaced workers, enclosures led to unemployment and forced migrations to the burghs or abroad.

The merchants dealing in this lucrative business became the wealthy tobacco lords , who dominated the city for most of the eighteenth century.

Prof. Daniel Robinson: The Scottish Enlightenment and the Founding

The Bank of Scotland , founded in was suspected of Jacobite sympathies, and so a rival Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in Local banks began to be established in burghs like Glasgow and Ayr. These made capital available for business, and the improvement of roads and trade. The humanist-inspired emphasis on education in Scotland culminated in the passing of the Education Act , which decreed that all sons of barons and freeholders of substance should attend grammar schools. By the 17th century, Scotland had five universities, compared with England's two. After the disruption of the civil wars , Commonwealth and purges at the Restoration , they recovered with a lecture-based curriculum that was able to embrace economics and science, offering a high quality liberal education to the sons of the nobility and gentry.

Observatories were built at St. Andrews and at King's and Marischal colleges in Aberdeen. Robert Sibbald — was appointed as the first Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh, and he co-founded the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in Attendance was less expensive and the student body more socially representative. Some 25, copies of the volume set were sold, half of them outside France. In Scottish intellectual life the culture was oriented towards books.

Intellectual life revolved around a series of clubs, beginning in Edinburgh in the s. Clubs did not reach Glasgow until the s.

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One of the first and most important in the city was the Political Economy Club, aimed at creating links between academics and merchants, [24] of which noted economist Adam Smith was a prominent early member. Historian Jonathan Israel argues that by Scotland's major cities had created an intellectual infrastructure of mutually supporting institutions, such as universities, reading societies, libraries, periodicals, museums and masonic lodges.

The Scottish network was "predominantly liberal Calvinist, Newtonian, and 'design' oriented in character which played a major role in the further development of the transatlantic Enlightenment". The first major philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment was Francis Hutcheson — , who was professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow from to He was an important link between the ideas of Shaftesbury and the later school of Scottish Common Sense Realism , developing Utilitarianism and Consequentialist thinking.

It can be seen as an attempt to reconcile the new scientific developments of the Enlightenment with religious belief. Major literary figures originating in Scotland in this period included James Boswell —95 , whose An Account of Corsica and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides drew on his extensive travels and whose Life of Samuel Johnson is a major source on one of the English Enlightenment's major men of letters and his circle.

He produced an edition of the works of Shakespeare and is best known for Sermons — , a five-volume endorsement of practical Christian morality, and Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres The former fused the oratorical arts of humanism with a sophisticated theory on the relationship between cognition and the origins of language.

Blair was one of the figures who first drew attention to the Ossian cycle of James Macpherson to public attention. Claiming to have found poetry written by the ancient bard Ossian, he published "translations" that were proclaimed as a Celtic equivalent of the Classical epics. Final , written in , was speedily translated into many European languages, and its appreciation of natural beauty and treatment of the ancient legend has been credited more than any single work with bringing about the Romantic movement in European, and especially in German literature, through its influence on Johann Gottfried von Herder and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Before Robert Burns —96 the most important Scottish language poet was Robert Fergusson —74 , who also worked in English. His work often celebrated his native Edinburgh and Enlightenment conviviality, as in his best known poem "Auld Reekie" As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them.


Adam Smith developed and published The Wealth of Nations , the starting point of modern economics. Smith discussed potential benefits of specialization by division of labour , including increased labour productivity and gains from trade , whether between town and country or across countries. Scottish Enlightenment thinkers developed what leading thinkers such as James Burnett, Lord Monboddo —99 and Lord Kames called a science of man , [57] which was expressed historically in the work of thinkers such as James Burnett, Adam Ferguson, John Millar , William Robertson and John Walker, all of whom merged a scientific study of how humans behave in ancient and primitive cultures, with an awareness of the determining forces of modernity.

Modern notions of visual anthropology permeated the lectures of leading Scottish academics like Hugh Blair, [58] and Alan Swingewood argues that modern sociology largely originated in Scotland. He was the first major figure to argue that mankind had evolved language skills in response to his changing environment and social structures.

One of the central pillars of the Scottish Enlightenment was scientific and medical knowledge. Many of the key thinkers were trained as physicians or had studied science and medicine at university or on their own at some point in their career. Likewise, there was a notable presence of university medically-trained professionals, especially physicians, apothecaries, surgeons and even ministers, who lived in provincial settings.

Colin Maclaurin — was appointed as chair of mathematics by the age of 19 at Marischal College, and was the leading British mathematician of his era. Other major figures in science included William Cullen —90 , physician and chemist, James Anderson — , agronomist. Joseph Black —99 , physicist and chemist, discovered carbon dioxide fixed air and latent heat , [65] and developed what many consider to be the first chemical formulae. James Hutton —97 was the first modern geologist , with his Theory of the Earth challenging existing ideas about the age of the earth.

George Elder Davie, The Scottish Enlightenment - PhilPapers

David Ure then minister to East Kilbride Parish was the first to represent the shells 'entrochi' in illustrations and make accounts of the geology of southern Scotland. The findings of David Ure were influential enough to inspire the Scottish endeavour to the recording and interpretation of natural history and Fossils , a major part of the Scottish Enlightenment. Edinburgh became a major centre of medical teaching and research. It was first published in three volumes between and , with 2, pages and engravings, and quickly became a standard reference work in the English-speaking world.

The fourth edition ran to 16, pages in 20 volumes. The Encyclopaedia continued to be published in Edinburgh until , when it was sold to an American publisher.

The Scottish Enlightenment had numerous dimensions, influencing the culture of the nation in several areas including architecture, art and music. Scotland produced some of the most significant architects of the period who were involved in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment. Robert Adam —92 was an interior designer as well as an architect, with his brothers developing the Adam style , [75] He influenced the development of architecture in Britain, Western Europe, North America and in Russia.

Artists included John Alexander and his younger contemporary William Mossman — Scottish Enlightenment and Other Essays. George Elder Davie - - Polygon.

Roger L. Emerson - - Ashgate. Davie ; with a Foreword by James Kelman. George E. Davie - Stephen Buckle - - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 3 James Moore - - In M. Stewart ed.

Oxford University Press. David Allan - Peter Jones - Anand C. Chitnis - While absolutist rulers did emerge in England and elsewhere beginning in the 16th century, European institutions and manners developed over the preceding millennium served as a natural check to their ambitions. When they became associated with modern forms of commerce, the civilizing effects of property were only enhanced. When Montesquieu registered ambivalence about the moral, political and aesthetic consequences of commercial development, he also struck a chord that was resonant with writers such as Millar, Ferguson, Kames and the poet James Macpherson Moreover, like Montesquieu, historical writers from Ferguson to Smith and Millar all emphasize the operation of the law of unintended consequences.

As society passed from the hunter-gather and the pastoral to the agricultural and finally the commercial stages, manners became milder and government became more moderate. It was widely believed that at the Treaty of Union , Scotland had traded its sovereignty—or at least what remained of it—for the commercial benefits of free trade and in particular admission into the Navigation System of the British overseas trading empire.