Scots challenge question

Written by chris on August 31st, 2009

Benjamin Rush, one of the American founders and signatory of the Declaration of Independence, studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh from 1766 to 1768 and was heavily influenced by the great philosophers and thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. Page 389 of the reading lists Rush as a founder of the American Philosophical Society (APS) and cites the motto of the APS (based on the Select Society?) as “Knowledge is of little use, when confined to mere speculation.” How does this motto “capture the practical side of the Scottish Enlightenment,” and what does it suggest as a context for how effective collective decision making processes are constrained and empowered through the acquisition and application of knowledge?


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Holly Anderson says:

    Scotland was perhaps one of the world’s premiere countries in the pursuit of freedom. The freedom that they obtained in a literary sense created the concrete necessary for change in a collective decision making process. While England was a country that was filled with high society and wealth, Scotland continually strove to beat the odds in order to simply survive. In the book it mentions that Destitution comes with Ignorance, and Ignorance comes with Destitution. This simple statement was well known to the Scots, and it is precisely why they strove so very hard to not be ignorant. Universities popped up everywhere and began to fill great minds with fantastic ideas of freedom. Examples of such people are Fletcher and Castares, who both led the forces that enabled Scotland to come to grips with England’s entrepreneurship in the Union. After the Union was the rebellion, and it created a proactiveness not seen in Scotland before. In the context of the Scottish Enlightenment, we observe that the desire to be free from destitution creates a desire for knowledge, and a desire to be free from oppression creates action necessary to act collectively from that knowledge. As Dugald Stewart notes, “The constant influx of information and of liberality from abroad, which was thus kept up in Scotland in consequence of the ancient habits and manners of the people, may help to account for the sudden burst of genius, which to a foreigner must seem have sprung up in this country by a sort of enchantment, soon after the Rebellion of 1745”.

    ~Holly Anderson

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