Mind and Knowledge in the Scottish Enlightenment PHIL4018

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The course is concerned with theories of mind and knowledge in the Scottish Enlightenment. Key philosophers from the era will be considered, where these will include David Hume and Thomas Reid. The course will focus on core epistemological and metaphysical issues such as knowledge, scepticism, causation, the self, free will, and the idea of a science of human nature.


16x1hr lectures; 4x1hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in Philosophy and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours Philosophy, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes.

Excluded Courses





Exam (1 hour duration) - 30%

Essay (2500 words) - 50%

Short written pieces (2x500 words) - 20%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The course aims to:


■ Introduce students to key epistemological and metaphysical theories of the Scottish Enlightenment, including those of David Hume and Thomas Reid.

■ Introduce students to Hume's empiricism through a study of his contribution to key areas of human thought as expounded in the Treatise of Human Nature.

■ Introduce students to the competing theories of mind and knowledge found in the common sense philosophy of Thomas Reid.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will be able to:


■ Expound and critically evaluate key theories of mind and knowledge from the Scottish Enlightenment;

■ Expound and critically assess elements of Hume's empiricism, such as his theory of ideas, his account of causation, his account of the nature of the self, his account of belief in the external world, and his claim that human action is causally determined;

■ Compare and contrast competing sceptical and naturalist readings of Hume's philosophy;

■ Expound and critically assess Reid's common sense philosophy, including his attack on the way of ideas and his response to scepticism;

■ Compare and contrast the respective methodologies of the philosophers discussed with particular reference to the idea of a science of human nature.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.