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Hume Studies Volume 30, Number 2, November 2004, pp. 416-418 ALEXANDER BROADIE, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xvi + 366. ISBN 0-521-80273-3, cloth, £47.50/$65.00; ISBN 0-521-00323 7, paper, £16.99 / $22.99. This book is explicitly about ideas canvassed during the Scottish Enlightenment, albeit with some preliminary attempt to anchor them in their original historical and social contexts. The editor insists on a distinctively Scottish dimension to the ideas discussed, and claims that the book tackles central issues from three viewpoints: the first emphasizes the social sciences, the second the natural sciences, and the third is more loosely inclusive, aiming to be more holistic and arguably describable as "cultural." There is nothing on technological ideas nor, in most cases, on how ideas were excited or modified by the ideas and practices in operation at the time. At times the intended reader of the book is hard to identify, but since half of the contributions are very good, the book will provide a beginner with useful guides to many lines of enquiry. In most chapters the bibliographies are helpful , although the final "select bibliography" verges on the absurd—a reader of this journal who is recommended to three efforts by George Davie and three by Nicholas Phillipson, but reference to almost no former or current major scholars in the field must register surprise. Two of the chapters are very poor and are presumably last minute makeweights in the absence of a competent author: one is on "historiography," in which serious scholars are becoming more interested, and the other, by the editor himself, is on aesthetics and Hume's essay on the standard of taste. By completely ignoring the precise context in which Hume was writing—his essay is one of a group by five or six friends who discussed the topic among themselves—Hume's own knowledge of or interest in the arts, as well as the larger Scottish setting, he fails to explain both the point and the subtlety of Hume's essay. An essay on Scottish philosophy in America is slightly out of date in the light of recent work by, for example, Mark Spencer, among others, and restricts itself too narrowly to "philosophical" writings. Gordon Graham's very brief final piece on Scottish nineteenth-century reactions confines itself primarily to Ferner , with reference to Bain and Hamilton, but again does not explore any wider "philosophical" context, or any of the scientific and technological ideas that can be linked to the Scottish Enlightenment itself. Excellent opening chapters by Roger Emerson and M. A. Stewart set the overall social, political, and religious contexts of the time. Emerson suggests that, because of his extraordinary influence, and wealth, the third Duke of Argyll deserves the title of "father" of the Scottish Enlightenment. Stewart surmises that few of Hume's liberal clerical friends would have understood the force and implications of his arguments, that he seems to have secured little popular following and that he was Hume Studies Book Reviews 417 by no means the central figure in religious contexts. Discussion of evidence and testimony was entirely familiar to Reid, George Campbell, and Alexander Gerard and, of course, the topics had been prominent in logic courses in France and Britain since the mid-seventeenth century: in those contexts the burden of proof was assigned to those who challenge rather than accept testimony. Broadie offers a brief chapter on '"The human mind and its powers," comparing the views of Hume and Reid, but with no comparative reference to relevant contemporary medical thinking and experimental work, nor to ways in which their philosophical views mirrored or conflicted with ideas canvassed on the continent . By contrast, Aaron Garrett's chapter on "Anthropology" refers to French writers such as Montesquieu, Lafitau, and Buffon, but makes no mention of the fierce debate about taxonomy which dominated many debates, and of which the Scottish philosophers themselves were not ignorant. His description of efforts to provide empirical analysis of the human passions signals the wide range of their interests and procedures but not, perhaps, its relative lack of rigour. Paul Wood, aligning himself...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 416-418
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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