Monday, March 13, 2006

Smith and Friends Helped Change the World

“Flowering of ideas that built path to modern society: The Scottish Enlightenment”, by James Naughtie, (BBC Presenter on Radio 4) , writing in The Scotsman, Edinburgh, UK, 13 March:

“Hume's empirical dissection of how we reason and how we feel - and his understanding of how an individual is shaped by the world around - was a feat of sheer brilliance. Ferguson foresaw the battle between liberty and tyranny that would come with social "advancement". Adam Smith, that much-abused thinker who has been hijacked so often for passing purposes, looked into the future of the merchants' world that was expanding around him.

The idea of progress itself, the engine of Victorian prosperity and self-confidence, came from the Scottish Enlightenment. The ideas that flowered in Edinburgh in the six or seven decades when the city was at its greatest were exported to the rest of the world and embedded in the new notions of democracy that would start to take root. The intensity of the philosophical debates that embraced Hume, Ferguson, Smith and the scientists such as Joseph Black and James Hutton would be felt for two centuries.”

James Naughtie
is absolutely correct on Adam Smith (‘a much abused thinker’), a close friend of David Hume (the philosopher), Joseph Black (chemist and discoverer of latent heat), James Hutton (geologist and early analyst of how much older the Earth was compared to the prevailing religious mythology, and withJoseph Black a co-Executor of Adam Smith’s literary papers), and Adam Ferguson, who occasionally quarrelled with Smith, but was with him when he died in 1790.

Read James Naughtie’s article in The Scotsman at:


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