The Scottish Enlightenment

Neil McArthur

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Scottish Enlightenment

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Scotland made a significant contribution to the intellectual and artistic life of Enlightenment Europe despite having a small population. In philosophy, the Scottish Enlightenment can be seen as beginning in 1725 with the publication of a series of treatises by Francis Hutcheson. David Hume published the first volumes of his Treatise of Human Nature in 1739, Adam Ferguson's Essay on the History of Civil Society appeared in 1769 while Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations in 1759 and 1776, respectively. These extraordinary masterpieces are only the most enduring testaments to the vitality of an intellectual community whose members were deeply engaged with the politics of the time, and the problems of political philosophy were of central concern to them. This article discusses the Scottish Enlightenment, focusing on justice, allegiance, and the moral sentiments; liberty, equality, and forms of government; the development of political economy; skepticism, conservatism, and reform; and philosophical history.

Keywords: Scotland; Enlightenment; political philosophy; justice; allegiance; moral sentiments; political economy; David Hume; Francis Hutcheson; Adam Smith

Article.  5346 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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