Scottish Enlightenment  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Scottish Enlightenment was a remarkable period in 18th century Scotland characterized by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were amongst the most literate nations of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy.

It was this latter feature which gave the Scottish Enlightenment its special flavour, distinguishing it from its continental European counterpart. In Scotland, the Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief virtues were held to be improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for both the individual and society as a whole.

Among the advances of the period were achievements in philosophy, political economy, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, law, agriculture, chemistry, and sociology. Among the outstanding Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Francis Hutcheson, Alexander Campbell, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton.

The Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland itself, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held in Europe and elsewhere, but also because its ideas and attitudes were carried across the Atlantic as part of the Scottish diaspora which had its beginnings in that same era. As a result, a significant proportion of technological and social development in the United States and Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries were accomplished through Scots-Americans.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Scottish Enlightenment" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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