The Emergence of Philosophical Inquiry in 18th Century Scotland

Sinclair, Alistair John (1998) The Emergence of Philosophical Inquiry in 18th Century Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Scottish Enlightenment in the eighteenth century came about because of the intensity of debate and discussion in the clubs and societies in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in the early part of the century. In a highly disciplined and regulated club atmosphere, they posed questions and prepared papers which were thoroughly discussed and criticised. It is argued in this thesis that this intellectual activity amounted to philosophical inquiry as conducted today in the Centre of Philosophical Inquiry at Glasgow University by Dr. C. McCall. Briefly, philosophical inquiry consists of philosophising conducted In a group structure. Specific questions are inquired into by members of the group who state their agreements and disagreements with each other. In so doing, they form a community of inquiry to arrive at a deeper understanding of the questions posed but without necessarily reaching conclusive agreement about anything at the end of the inquiry. It is argued in this thesis: (1) That philosophical inquiry, in the broad sense of dialogue and debate within groups of individuals, was conducted in the clubs and societies of early 18th century Scotland. (2) That the period 1710 to 1740 saw an increasing intensity of dialogue and debate among educated young people in clubs and societies in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and this intensity brought about a change from a literary to a philosophical preoccupation in the most influential of the clubs and societies: for example, the Rankenian Club, the Glasgow Literary Society, and the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. (3) That this change to a philosophical preoccupation was enough to lay the foundations for the later philosophical, scientific, and literary achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment. (4) That the Enlightenment movement began to lose its momentum towards the end of the century because philosophical inquiry ceased to be a motive power when individualism and solitary literary pursuits gradually replaced the camaraderie of the early clubs and societies. Thus, the subject matter of this thesis examines the conditions which are necessary and sufficient for the production of works of genius such as the men of the Scottish Enlightenment produced later in the 18th century: men such as Lord Kames, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson, Robert Burns, James Hutton (the founder of modern geology), and all the Scottish doctors, writers, artists, architects, engineers etc., who achieved world-wide eminence for their work at the time.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philosophy
Date of Award: 1998
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1998-75417
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 20:10
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 20:10

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