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From Gershom Carmichael in the s to Thomas Reid and Adam Ferguson in the s, the teaching and writing of moral philosophy in eighteenth-century Scotland drew upon a tradition of natural jurisprudence derived from Grotius, Pufendorf, and Locke.
To this natural law framework of rights and duties ordained by providence but knowable through reason, the Scottish thinkers typically applied a new moral psychology which emphasized the role of the passions and sentiments. First published anonymously in and significantly revised in andthe Essays represents an important contribution to eighteenth-century debate over the foundations of justice and morality and the challenges posed by the skepticism of David Hume.
More broadly, in its concern to vindicate the veracity of our common moral intuitions and sense perceptions that are rooted in our very nature, the Essays helped found the Scottish Common Sense school.
At the same time, the book raises issues of continuing importance—the foundations of morality, free will versus determinism, the nature of self and identity. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in In addition to a busy legal career, Kames sat on the boards of two governmental agencies, belonged to a number of the important clubs and societies, and served as patron to the generation of literati who are the high point of the Enlightenment in Scotland.
An avid reader with broad tastes, Kames relied on his Edinburgh publishers to keep him supplied with new material: While Kames addressed a remarkably wide variety of topics, from flax-husbandry to education including female education8 his publications are characterized by several recurrent themes.
Not surprisingly, many are juridical in nature and are concerned with systematizing the principles and tracing the origins and development of law.
In a series of legal digests beginning with Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session from to9 Kames devised a system of classification according to the application of specific rules of law, while Historical Law-Tracts was organized around the basic principle of philosophical history: Most notably, improvement was the organizing theme of Sketches of the History of Manwhich aimed at nothing less than a history of the human species, that is, of the gradual unfolding and improvement of the human faculties that he had accounted for in his Essays.
Indeed, though there are significant differences between the historicism of Sketches and the natural law of Essays, Kames viewed both within the broader framework of a unified account of human nature based on the general laws and underlying principles governing the human no less than the natural world.
To this end, the Essays is an attack on skepticism in both morality and epistemology. Part I concerns the principles and foundations of morality and justice, while Part II centers on questions of metaphysics and epistemology.
No narrow specialist, Kames critically engaged theological rationalists, Lockean epistemology, Humean skepticism, and moral-sense theory and drew upon fields as diverse as medicine, theology, philosophy, aesthetics, and epistemology. In so doing, he addressed a number of interrelated themes, including moral sense, justice, selfhood and identity, the veracity of the senses, and the existence of the Deity.
The result is to answer skepticism with a deistic defense of commonsense notions of morality and epistemology. But while accepting a natural, perceptual moral faculty, he believed that something more than an instinctive orientation toward the good was required to make morality law-like.
Not only is justice a primary virtue, the sense of justice and of injustice is one of the strongest inclinations in human nature. For Kames, one of the most troubling aspects of Humean skepticism is its denial of justice as a natural principle.
In the Treatise of Human NatureHume had undermined a basic premise of natural law by arguing that justice is an artificial, not a natural, virtue. To Kames, this made justice too historically contingent to serve as an objective and authoritative arbiter of human conduct.
In the important Scottish divide between historicist and objectivist ideas of justice, this was forceful advocacy for the latter. I am informed from several hands that no subject at present employs more the thoughts and pens of the learned than that of Liberty and Necessity, which Dr.Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion Title page from Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.
Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion Title page from Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.
Source: Introduction to Home's Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, Corrected and Improved, in a Third Edition. Several Essays Added Concerning the Proof of a Deity, Edited and with an Introduction by .
Lord Kames’s Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion is at once a typical example of and an original contribution to the Scottish Enlightenment’s distinctive attempt to construct a moral science based on the principles of natural law.
Essays on the principles of morality and natural religion: In two parts. Kames, Henry Home, Lord, Advertisement. part.
ESSAY I. Of our ATTACHMENT to OBJECTS of DISTRESS. ESSAY II. Of the FOUNDATION and PRINCIPLES of the LAW of NATURE. INTRODUCTION. CHAP. I.
Of the FOUNDATION of the LAW of . Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (Natural Law and Enlightenment Classics) - Kindle edition by Lord Kames (Henry Home), Mary Catherine Moran.
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