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Introduction to Scottish Philosophy

Course Times & Enrolment

(Code PY029-402) Mon, 16 July - Wed,18 July, 10.00am – 3.00pm G37 Paterson's Land & external • Tutor: John Gordon BA PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

A historical overview of Scottish philosophy, from the 13th century to the present day, covering medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and 19th and 20th-century Scottish thought. This course will include a walking tour of sites of philosophical significance in central Edinburgh.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge of either philosophy or Scottish history will be assumed. The walking tour will be conducted at a leisurely pace and is expected to last two hours.

Content of Course

  • Medieval Scottish Philosophy - Michael Scot and the Toledo connection; Duns Scotus on the employment of philosophy in a theological context.
  • The Scottish Renaissance and Reformation - John Ireland's Mirror of Wisdom; the importance of John Mair.
  • The Enlightenment (1) - The origins of the Scottish Enlightenment, and David Hume's science of man.
  • The Enlightenment (2) - Enlightenment social theory; Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiment.
  • Philosophical Walking Tour - A walking tour of some of the key sights in central Edinburgh related to 18th and 19th-century Scottish thought.
  • Scottish Philosophy in the 19th and 20th centuries - The importance of James Ferrier; Davie's Democratic Intellect.

Teaching method(s)

Extracts will be posted to the tutor’s website. Classes will consist of tutor-led discussion of these extracts and their broader significance.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Outline the arguments of representative thinkers such as Duns Scotus, Ireland, Hume, Ferrier and Davie;
  • Distinguish between medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and 19th/20th-century philosophy;
  • Explain the wider social and cultural significance of Scottish philosophy.


Core Readings

  • Scotus, John Duns, 1987. Philosophical Writings. Translated from Latin by Allan Wolter, O.F.M. Indianapolis: Hackett.
  • Irlandia, Johannes de. 1965. The Meroure of Wysdome. Edinburgh: Blackwood.
  • Broadie, Alexander. ed., 1997. The Scottish Enlightenment – An Anthology. Edinburgh: Canongate.
  • Davie, George. 1961. The Democratic Intellect – Scotland and her Universities in the Nineteenth Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Class Handouts

Handouts/ summaries will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.