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Unformatted text preview: 1Will Roper HIST 210 Ed Mathieu The Scottish Enlightenment The Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century produced some of the great writers and thinkers of the time. But there was something different about this group of geniuses. They were refined and yet coarse at the same time. Lord Kames, for example, is considered to have done more to promote philosophy in Scotland that all the men of law had done for the century before, yet he never claimed to be well read, and his favorite term of affection and reproach to both men and women was the word "bitch." My favorite quote in particular was his when he said goodbye to his legal colleagues with the exclamation, "Fare ye all well, ye bitches!" (Daiches). As I said, Scotland produced a wide variety of thinkers, both men and women. While, philosophy and thought soared throughout Edinburgh and Scotland, it still seemed to come as a secondary priority. Very few of the thinkers and writers in Edinburgh actually wrote to provide for themselves. Robert Louis Stevenson's father made it clear to his son that writing was fine as an elegant recreation but a man must have a solid and respectable profession as well (Bryant). Law was the popular choice of the day, and many used this as a springboard into the art of philosophical writing. The brave, and some might interpret more successful, thinkers did not let this social construct prohibit them from following their passion. Adam Smith was educated at Glasgow University, but he spent much time in Edinburgh. The poet Robert Burns also rose from poverty and hardship through his writings. Sir Walter Scott first attended classes at Edinburgh University in 1783 where he originally focused on Latin and Greek, but returned after a short hiatus to study historical and legal subjects because of his interest in "the changes which took place and the causes which led to them" (Diaches) which would explain his interest behind his historical novels. The University of Edinburgh had a wide variety of classes and lectures, but history entered deeply into university studies in Edinburgh throughout the eighteenth century. This caused Scots to ponder on the nature of their past and its relation to their present. Philosophy was taught at the University in the second half of the eighteenth century by those who were referred to as "gifted amateurs" (Carter). History and law still reigned and were taught by internationally famous professionals. While history might have been the dominate field of expertise in Edinburgh at the time, their where many other experts born out of Edinburgh's education system. A geologist, James Hutton, wrote a book in 1785 named "Theory of the Earth" which has been regarded as the foundation work of modern geology and the chemist Joseph Black's Edinburgh M.D. thesis in 1754 laid the foundations of quantitative analysis. One could also add the architect Robert Adam, the portrait painters Sir Henry Raeburn and Allan Ramsay, and all of the medical professors of eighteenth century Edinburgh who made the University's medical school internationally famous (Diaches). I find this subject to be very fascinating because, while I have been to Scotland and Edinburgh several times, I was never aware of its profound impact on the world of philosophy, law, and education. While I recognized many of the names and achievements in this paper, I was never aware of Adam Smith's connection with Edinburgh or Walter Scott's primary career in law. One can only wonder what the world would be like without the influence of the powerful, yet rarely acknowledged, Scottish Enlightenment. Bibliography Daiches, David. Edinburgh. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1978. Bryant, Kelly A. "Who Was Robert Burns?" The World Burns Club. 19 Sept. 2007 <http://www.worldburnsclub.com/begin/robert_burns.htm>. Carter, Scott. "The Scottish Enlightenment." The History of Economic Thought. 19 Sept. 2007 <http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/schools/scottish.htm>. ...
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This document was uploaded on 04/20/2008.
- Fall '07