Adam Ferguson and the Idea of Civil SocietyMoral Science in the Scottish Enlightenment

Adam Ferguson and the Idea of Civil SocietyMoral Science in the Scottish Enlightenment

Craig Smith

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781474413275

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press

Abstract

Adam Ferguson was a Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and a leading member of the Scottish Enlightenment. A friend of David Hume and Adam Smith, Ferguson was among the leading exponents of the Scottish Enlightenment’s attempts to develop a science of man and was among the first in the English speaking world to make use of the terms civilization, civil society, and political science. This book challenges many of the prevailing assumptions about Ferguson’s thinking. It explores how Ferguson sought to create a methodology for moral science that combined empirically based social theory with normative moralising with a view to supporting the virtuous education of the British elite. The Ferguson that emerges is far from the stereotyped image of a nostalgic republican sceptical about modernity, and instead is one much closer to the mainstream Scottish Enlightenment’s defence of eighteenth century British commercial society.