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COL at the National Library of Scotland: Philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

18th-century Edinburgh has been described as ‘a hotbed of genius’. This course will introduce some of the greatest Scottish philosophers of that period, and will coincide with a major exhibition about the Scottish Enlightenment at the National Library of Scotland. Students will meet the exhibition curator and take part in a philosophical walking tour.

Please note, this course includes field trips (a walking tour of sights in central Edinburgh and a visit to the National Library of Scotland).

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge is required. Participants need a basic level of fitness and mobility to take part in the walking tour, which will be approximately 2 miles long.

Content of Course

1. Introductory lecture on philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment.

2. Guided visit to the exhibition with one of the curators.

3. Walking tour of sights in central Edinburgh related to 18th-century Scottish philosophy (via High Street, Ramsay Garden, New College, Princes Street, Calton Cemetery to the top of Calton Hill).

4. Discussion of David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, a key philosophical work of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Teaching method(s)

Illustrated lecture, class discussion, guided visit to the exhibition and walking tour.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify key themes in Scottish Enlightenment philosophy;

  • Explain the wider social and cultural significance of 18th-century Scottish philosophy;

  • Read and analyse extracts from a philosophical work.


Core Readings

Extracts from Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding will be provided by the tutor.

The recommended titles below may be of interest in following up the themes discussed in the course:

  • Broadie, A., 2007. The Scottish Enlightenment. Edinburgh: Birlinn.

  • Broadie, A. ed., 1997. The Scottish Enlightenment: An Anthology. Edinburgh: Canongate.

Web Sources

NLS website about the Scottish Enlightenment


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.