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Title: Christian stoicism and politeness : the making of the social ethics of the Scottish Enlightenment
Author: Merikoski, Ingrid Ann
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1999
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Exploring the moral theorist that underpinned eighteenth-century Scottish society has become a key component of Scottish Enlightenment historiography. Leading figures of the Enlightenment, including Hugh Blair, William Robertson and Adam Smith, examined human nature, morality and activity in a distinctive manner. In the course of their studies, these literati came to view the ethos of the commercial society that was evolving unique them from a unique perspective. More specifically, numerous historians of the Enlightenment have noted the important role played by the Moderates of the Church of Scotland in shaping the 'moral sciences'. Like Smith, the Moderates emphasised the benefits of commercial activity, not least the refinement of manners, civility and politeness that came with the 'universal opulence' of developed economies. It fell to senior Moderates like Blair and Robertson, and their more junior colleague, John Drysdale, to emphasize Christianity's role in the commercial world order and to safeguard the Church's position as a moral bulwark against corruption or luxury. Historians correctly argue that the Moderates developed a type of 'Christian Stoicism' to reconcile matters of faith and polite secular ethics. Yet the full nature of 'Christian Stoicism' has been under-explored. Some historians suggest that 'Christian Stoicism' was merely a system of practical moralising; others suggest it was essentially a political tool to encourage loyalty to the Hanoverian order. These conclusions belie both the depths to which the Moderates analysed matters of faith and ethics, and the sophistication of their interest in Stoicism. This thesis advances our understanding of Enlightenment thought to examining the role 'Christian Stoicism' played in texts by Blair, Robertson and Drysdale, texts that have until now received comparatively little scholarly attention. After examining Calvinist, seventeenth-century neo-stoic and early eighteenth-century moral philosophy in the first three chapters, the thesis considers the roles played by faith, virtue and order in Blair's Sermons, Robertson's An Historical Disquisition Concerning the Knowledge Which the Ancients Had of India, and Drysdale's Sermons. It then considers Adam Smith's influence on these Moderates. This examination shows how the Moderates blended private and public Christian obligations to define 'Christian Stoicism', a philosophy that embodied the correct principles for a commercial society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available