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  • "The Fittest Man in the Kingdom":Thomas Reid and the Glasgow Chair of Moral Philosophy
  • Paul Wood (bio)
Paul Wood

Paul Wood is at the Department of History, University of Victoria, PO Box 3045, MS 7381, Victoria BC V8W 3P4 Canada. email:

Received August 1996
Revised January 1997


. An earlier version of this paper was delivered at a plenary session of the 23rd International Hume Conference held at the University of Nottingham. For comments and/or references, the author wishes to thank Roger Emerson, Carol Gibson-Wood, Knud Haakonssen, Ian Simpson Ross, Stephen Snobelen, M. A. Stewart, and the anonymous Hume Studies referees. For permission to cite and quote from manuscripts, he is grateful to the Keeper of the Manuscripts of Scotland as well as to the Librarians of Aberdeen University Library, Edinburgh University Library, Glasgow University Archives and Business Records Centre, Glasgow University Library (Department of Special Collections), the Mitchell Library Glasgow, and Dr. Williams' Library.

1. Although little information survives regarding Law's teaching, we do know that he discussed Pufendorf in his classes; see Christine Mary King [Shepherd], "Philosophy and Science in the Arts Curriculum of the Scottish Universities in the Seventeenth Century," (Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1974), 177. Carmichael's edition of Pufendorf first appeared in Glasgow in 1718, and a second edition was published in Edinburgh in 1724 while Hume was still a student there.

2. The surviving correspondence between the two men from this period is to be found in The Letters of David Hume, ed. J.Y.T. Greig, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), I 32-35; 36-40; 45-48 (hereafter abbreviated as HL).

3. The first detailed discussion of the 1745 election appeared in the introduction to David Hume, A Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh, edited by Ernest C. Mossner and John V. Price (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1967). This account has recently been challenged in Roger L. Emerson, "The 'Affair' at Edinburgh and the 'Project' at Glasgow: The Politics of Hume's Attempts to become a Professor," in Hume and Hume's Connexions, edited by M. A. Stewart and John P. Wright (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994), 1-22; and M. A. Stewart, The Kirk and the Infidel (Lancaster: Lancaster University Publications Office, 1995). For historically sensitive contextual analysis of Hume's philosophical relations with Hutcheson, see inter alia James Moore, "Hume and Hutcheson," in Stewart and Wright, 23-57, and M. A. Stewart, Warmth in the Cause of Virtue (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming).

4. In January 1752, "Mr. Smith read an Account of some of Mr. David Hume's Essays on Commerce" to the Society, and Hume was elected a member in 1753; see Notices and Documents Illustrative of the Literary History of Glasgow, During the Greater Part of Last Century, edited by W. J. Duncan (Glasgow: T. D. Morison, 1886), 132-133. Hume's failed candidacy is discussed in Emerson, "The 'Affair' at Edinburgh," 14-16, and Ian Simpson Ross, The Life of Adam Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 112-113. Smith's Glasgow colleague from 1751 to 1755, William Cullen, was also sympathetic to Hume's philosophy, as was John Millar, who was elected Professor of Law in 1761. On Cullen and Hume see J.R.R. Christie, "Ether and the Science of Chemistry: 1740-1790," in Conceptions of Ether: Studies in the History of Ether Theories 1740-1900, edited by G. N. Cantor and M.J.S. Hodge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 90-96.

5. David Hume to William Strahan, 26 October 1775, HL II 301.

6. See, for example, The Works of Thomas Reid, D.D., edited by Sir William Hamilton, 4th ed. (Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1854), 30n; James McCosh, The Scottish Philosophy, Biographical, Expository, Critical, from Hutcheson to Hamilton (London: Macmillan, 1875), 36; James Veitch, "Philosophy in the Scottish Universities," Mind 2 (1877): 207-234 (209).

7. John Rae, Life of Adam Smith (London and New York: Macmillan, 1895); William Robert Scott, Francis Hutcheson: His Life, Teaching and Position in the History of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900); idem., Adam Smith as Student and Professor (Glasgow: Jackson...


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