23 Facts About Scottish Enlightenment


Scottish Enlightenment was the period in 18th- and early-19th-century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments.

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The Scottish Enlightenment culture was based on close readings of new books, and intense discussions took place daily at such intellectual gathering places in Edinburgh as The Select Society and, later, The Poker Club, as well as within Scotland's ancient universities .

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In Scotland, the Scottish Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief values were improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for the individual and society as a whole.

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Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held outside Scotland, but because its ideas and attitudes were carried all over Great Britain and across the Western world as part of the Scottish diaspora, and by foreign students who studied in Scotland.

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Scottish Enlightenment law remained entirely separate from English law, so the civil law courts, lawyers and jurists remained in Edinburgh.

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Scottish Enlightenment'storians are now divided over whether the ability of boys who pursued this route to social advancement was any different than that in other comparable nations, because the education in some parish schools was basic and short, and attendance was not compulsory.

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Regardless of what the literacy rate actually was, it is clear that many Scottish Enlightenment students learned a useful form of visual literacy that allowed them to organise and remember information in a superior fashion.

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In France, the Scottish Enlightenment was based in the salons and culminated in the great Encyclopedie edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert with contributions by hundreds of leading intellectuals such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu .

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The Scottish network was "predominantly liberal Calvinist, Newtonian, and 'design' oriented in character which played a major role in the further development of the transatlantic Enlightenment".

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Scottish Enlightenment owed much to the highly literate culture of Scottish Presbyterianism.

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The eighteenth century saw divisions and dispute between hard-line traditional Calvinists, Scottish Enlightenment influenced Moderates, and increasingly popular Evangelicals.

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Some leading intellectual lights of the Scottish Enlightenment were Presbyterian ministers, such as William Robertson, historian and principal of the University of Edinburgh.

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Scottish Enlightenment was an important link between the ideas of Shaftesbury and the later school of Scottish Common Sense Realism, developing Utilitarianism and Consequentialist thinking.

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Scottish Enlightenment would be a major influence on later Enlightenment figures including Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham.

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Scottish Enlightenment produced an edition of the works of Shakespeare and is best known for Sermons, a five-volume endorsement of practical Christian morality, and Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres .

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Scottish Enlightenment thinkers developed what leading thinkers such as James Burnett, Lord Monboddo and Lord Kames called a science of man, which was expressed historically in the work of thinkers such as James Burnett, Adam Ferguson, John Millar, William Robertson and John Walker, all of whom merged a scientific study of how humans behave in ancient and primitive cultures, with an awareness of the determining forces of modernity.

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Scottish Enlightenment was the first major figure to argue that mankind had evolved language skills in response to his changing environment and social structures.

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Scottish Enlightenment was one of a number of scholars involved in the development of early concepts of evolution and has been credited with anticipating in principle the idea of natural selection that was developed into a scientific theory by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.

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Scottish Enlightenment's ideas were popularised by the scientist and mathematician John Playfair .

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Representative of the far-reaching impact of the Scottish Enlightenment was the new Encyclopædia Britannica, which was designed in Edinburgh by Colin Macfarquhar, Andrew Bell and others.

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Scottish Enlightenment had numerous dimensions, influencing the culture of the nation in several areas including architecture, art and music.

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The leading Scottish artist of the late eighteenth century, Allan Ramsay, studied in Sweden, London and Italy before basing himself in Edinburgh, where he established himself as a leading portrait painter to the Scottish nobility and he undertook portraits of many of the major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, including his friend the philosopher David Hume and the visiting Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

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Oswald's Curious Collection of Scottish Enlightenment Songs was one of the first to include Gaelic tunes alongside Lowland ones, setting a fashion common by the middle of the century and helping to create a unified Scottish Enlightenment musical identity.

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