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Method and Historiography

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Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives internationales d’histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 191)

Keywords

Civil Society Human Nature Eighteenth Century Social Contract Moral Philosophy 
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References

  1. 328.
    See, for example, P.I., p. 198.Google Scholar
  2. 329.
    Essay, pp. 8–9. See also ‘Of the Different Aspects of Moral Science’, Collection of Essays, No. 29, p. 251.Google Scholar
  3. 330.
    Institutes, p. 11. See also P.I., p. 5 and Barnes,’ sociology Before Comte’, p. 234.Google Scholar
  4. 331.
    P.I., p. 3.Google Scholar
  5. 332.
    P.I., p. 179. This was precisely Hutcheson’s approach. Francis Hutcheson, A System of Moral Philosophy, in Two Volumes, London: 1755, I: 1.Google Scholar
  6. 333.
    Essay, pp. 14–16. ‘To know human nature...we must avail ourselves not only of the consciousness...of a single mind, but, more at large also, of the varieties that are presented in the history of mankind’. P.I., p. 49.Google Scholar
  7. 334.
    ‘The physical laws of nature may be collected from a sufficient number of particulars, which, though differing in circumstances, and diversified in their appearances, suggest a general fact common to many bodies’. P.I., p. 115. Or ‘[a] physical law of nature is a general state of what is uniform or common in the order of things, and is addressed to the powers of perception and sagacity’. P.I., pp. 159–60.Google Scholar
  8. 335.
    Institutes pp. 78–9. The same strict distinction is made elsewhere: ‘We are not now inquiring what men ought to do, but what is the ordinary tract in which they proceed’. P.I., p. 263.Google Scholar
  9. 336.
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  10. 337.
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  11. 338.
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    Dugald Stewart agreed that the foundation of theoretical history is the study of the progress of the human mind. Mary Fearnley-Sander, ‘Philosophical History and the Scottish Reformation: William Robertson and the Knoxian Tradition’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 33(2), 1990, pp. 323–38, p. 325. For further discussion see Chapter Five.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Institutes, pp. 8–9. The existence of a ‘moral sense’ is, for example, an ‘ultimate fact in the constitution of our nature’. It is a ‘law’ because ‘uniform’ in its ‘operations’ and ‘nature’ but is, at the same time, in ‘no way susceptible of explanation or proof’. In the same way, the ‘laws of gravitation, cohesion, magnetism, electricity, fluidity [and] elasticity’ are also ultimate facts.. P.II., p. 128.Google Scholar
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    Ferguson does admit that’ scepticism’ is useful for ‘restraining credulity’ which is ‘one species of error’. Nevertheless, ‘carried to extreme [it] would discourage the search of truth, suspend the progress of knowledge, and become a species of palsy of all the mental powers’. P.I., p. 91.Google Scholar
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  46. 373.
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  48. 375.
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  49. 377.
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  62. 391.
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    Essay, p. 21. For John Brewer, Ferguson’s use of conjectural historiography represents a constraint on ‘his anticipation of nineteenth century sociology’ because ‘it led to a concern with the prospects of civil society which easily encouraged the use of civic humanist discourse’. Although I would argue that Ferguson’s concern with corruption inspired his most profoundly sociological observations, there is also merit in Brewer’s suggestion that ‘this alternative discourse pulls Ferguson back from expanding and developing’ them to their fullest potential. Brewer, ‘Adam Ferguson and the Division of Labour’, pp. 22–3.Google Scholar
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    Whether there was to be a fourth stage is an open question. David Kettler’s assertion (Social and Political Thought of Adam Ferguson, p. 229) that Ferguson conceives ‘despotism’ as the fourth stage of history is questioned. Taxonomically speaking, despotism is not a developmental social stage, but a type of political constitution. Analysis, pp. 54–5. Ferguson outlines no fourth stage of history but this does not mean that he expected none, only that he avoided ‘vain conjecture.’ This misunderstanding may have arisen from the fact that Montesquieu (a key Fergusonian source) identified despotic rule as both a type of constitution and a developmental stage.Google Scholar
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    D. MacRae, ‘Adam Ferguson: Sociologist’, New Society, Vol. 24, 1966, pp. 792–4. For a further discussion of the stadial thesis see H. Hellenbrand, ‘Not to Destroy But to Fulfil: Jefferson, Indians and Republican Dispensation’, Seventeenth Century Studies, Vol. 18 (4), 1985, pp. 523–48; Meek, Social Science and the Ignoble Savage, p.154 and by the same author; ‘The Scottish Contribution to Marxist Sociology’, pp. 34–45 and K.G. Ballestrem,’ sources of the Materialist Conception of History in the History of Ideas, Studies in Soviet Thought, Vol. 26 (1), 1983, pp. 3–9.Google Scholar
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    ‘The evolutionary assumption is explicit in the works of other Scottish colleagues of Ferguson — such as James Dunbar’s Essays on the History of Mankind in Rude and Cultivated Ages (1780) and John Logan’s Elements of the Philosophy of History (1781) — who treat of violence as the antithesis of civil society and assume, optimistically, that it is on the wane in modern civil societies’. Keane, Civil Society. Old Images, p. 119.Google Scholar
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    Essay, pp. 63–4. See also Forbes, Introduction to Essay, p. xxv. William Robertson also took the view that ‘there can be no Society, where there is no Subordination’. Cited in Daniele Francesconi, ‘William Robertson on Historical Causation and Unintended Consequences’, Cromohs, Vol. 4, 1999, pp. 1–18, p. 8. Note, incidentally, how Ferguson disagrees with Smith that people are born with equal talents. For Smith’s views here see An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, R.H. Campbell, and A.S. Skinner, (eds), Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979 (hereafter cited as WN), I.ii.4., p. 28.Google Scholar
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    Ferguson adds that it is only in the ‘Vices’ of sellers and hirers of labour that he finds cause for criticism. These vices are: ‘Envy and Rapacity on the part of the Poor, Arrogance and Licentiousness on the part of the rich’. ‘Of the Separation of Departments’, Collection of Essays, No. 15, p. 165.Google Scholar
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