Natural jurisprudence and the identity of the Scottish Enlightenment

Knud Haakonssen

in Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199227044
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739309 | DOI:
Natural jurisprudence and the identity of the Scottish Enlightenment

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Enlightenment natural jurisprudence in Scotland is commonly seen as a subject that quickly became old-fashioned and was rejected by the high Enlightenment, except as an introduction to university study. This perception derives in part from a teleological notion of Enlightenment as a tally of ‘contributions’ towards modernity. This chapter argues that, at the time, natural jurisprudence was a modern, practically relevant subject right through the Enlightenment, as shown in teaching practice, publications, and the demands of the legal profession. Through an overview of the publications of natural law, it is argued that, while certainly an academic discipline, it was also part of the wider civic culture. This was made possible by the character of natural jurisprudence as not itself a definite philosophy, but a genre, or practical language, that could be employed by a variety of very different religious and philosophical doctrines according to the shifting demands of successive generations.

Keywords: jurisprudence; history; law and rights; university teaching practice (eighteenth-century); book publication; David Hume; Adam Smith; Thomas Reid; Dugald Stewart

Chapter.  11290 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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