Enlightenment and Scottish Common Sense Philosophy

Robin Grey

in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195331035
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Enlightenment and Scottish Common Sense Philosophy

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This article exhibits the situations that led the Transcendentalists to turn to Scottish Common Sense philosophy and the reasons behind this turn. In contrast to eighteenth-century British Enlightenment philosophy, the Transcendentalists tended to define their metaphysics and their epistemology and rejected the neoclassical literary authors on their college curriculum. It was in defiance of those philosophies that the young Emerson at Harvard adopted the Scottish Common Sense philosophies of Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart. The article explains that the turn signaled the Transcendentalists' desire not only for a less skeptical philosophy of human knowledge but also for an unequivocal explanation of moral conduct. The article also examines the indebtedness of Transcendentalists towards the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. Though they explicitly rejected it in the area of epistemology and metaphysics, it had a much less acknowledged adoption in the field of moral philosophy.

Keywords: Scottish Common Sense philosophy; epistemology; skeptical; Scottish Enlightenment theory

Article.  9046 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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