Scottish School

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Scottish School


(also philosophy of common sense), a school of philosophy that developed and flourished from the 1760’s to 1780’s in the universities of Scotland. The Scottish school was founded by T. Reid, and its leading representatives were J. Oswald, J. Beattie, and D. Stewart. It was formed in response to the skepticism of D. Hume, and it rejected the philosophy of G. Berkeley.

According to the Scottish school, truths incontrovertible by common sense are founded on direct intuitive certainty, which is inherent in the very nature of human beings and is of divine origin. In essence, the philosophy of common sense reinforced generally accepted convictions and prejudices, making them the foundation of science, ethics, and religion. Asserting that faith constituted the foundation of philosophy, the Scottish school advanced arguments, based on direct knowledge, in favor of the existence of god, the soul, and the purposefulness of all that existed.

Using similar arguments, the school defended the material world from attack by subjective idealism, skepticism, and agnosticism and refuted the phenomenalistic theory of perceptions (ideas). According to the Scottish school, a fundamental law of cognition is the certainty that the material world exists independently of consciousness. Of basic importance for the members of the school, however, was the recognition that religious truths are self-evident and the acceptance of irrefutable moral laws rooted in “moral feeling.” Proceeding from these beliefs, the members of the school fought against the sensualism of J. Locke and the materialism of D. Hartley, J. Priestley, and, subsequently, D. Diderot. For their part the materialists, especially Priestley, sharply criticized the Scottish school. The most active proponent of the philosophy of common sense in the USA was J. McCosh; in France the Scottish school influenced the thought of P. Royer-Collard.


Istoriia filosofii, vol. 2. Moscow, 1941. Pages 269–73.
McCosh, J. The Scottish Philosophy, Biographical Expository. London, 1875.
Pringle-Pattison, A. S. Scottish Philosophy. Edinburgh, 1884.
Laurie, H. Scottish Philosophy in Its National Development. Glasgow, 1902.
Harrison, F. The Philosophy of Common Sense. London, 1907.
Grave, S. A. The Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense. Oxford, 1960.
The Story of Scottish Philosophy. Edited by D. S. Robinson. [New York] 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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