Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment: Two Cultures



Dow S (2009) Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment: Two Cultures. Revista de Economia, 35 (3), pp. 7-20.

David Hume’s philosophy and economics are central to any account of the Scottish Enlightenment. It is now well-established that this enlightenment is characterised by a particular epistemological approach which distinguishes it from other, particularly rationalist, enlightenments. While a variety of explanations has been offered for this distinctive approach, little attention has been paid to the presence in Scotland of two quite different cultures: Highland (specifically, Gaelic) and Lowland. Most Enlightenment figures were, like Hume, lowland (the main exception being Ferguson). But it seems implausible that the proximity to a very different culture had no impact on enlightenment thought. Hume himself addressed issues of Gaelic culture in terms of the controversial Ossian poems, for example, and issues of economic development of the Highlands. The purpose of this paper is to conduct an initial exploration into how far it is possible to identify any Gaelic influences on Hume in particular, and Scottish Enlightenment thought in general. This requires in turn a characterisation of Gaelic epistemology, for which purpose we will draw on Foucault’s structuring of thought into epistemes. If we can understand Highland and Lowland thought in terms of different epistemes, then some further reflection is required on Foucault’s framework of sequential epistemes.

David Hume; Scottish culture; Hume, David, 1711-1776 Influence; Enlightenment Scotland; Culture Scotland

Revista de Economia: Volume 35, Issue 3

Publication date31/12/2009
PublisherUniversidade Federal do Paraná
Publisher URL…ticle/view/16948

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Professor Sheila Dow

Professor Sheila Dow

Emeritus Professor, Economics