Scottish Enlightenment


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Scottish Enlightenment

a general flowering of intellectual activity in Scotland at the end of the 18th century, including the work of some thinkers who are usually regarded as important precursors of modern sociological thought. Among the thinkers seen as falling into this category are Adam SMITH, Adam FERGUSON and John MILLAR. Among the wider group of intellectuals and scientists active in Scotland at this time was the philosopher David HUME. An important contribution to the Scottish Enlightenment was made by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, which unlike their English equivalents Oxford and Cambridge, were centres of innovation. Strong links also existed with the ENLIGHTENMENT in France. Orientations shared by most Scottish Enlightenment thinkers were:
  1. the importance attached to the necessity for empirical study of social institutions;
  2. a rejection of merely individualistic accounts of the nature and origins of social order;
  3. an assumption that society must be analysed as a natural and a moral order;
  4. an assumption that an underlying pattern of causation would eventually be uncovered (general principles or laws) explaining social reality As was also true of the French Enlightenment, Scottish Enlightenment thinkers were optimistic that human societies would PROGRESS.
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