Stewart, Dugald

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Stewart, Dugald (1753-1828): Scottish, Philosopher.

Dugald Stewart was a hugely influential philosophy teacher, who codified and popularized the common sense philosophical views of his teacher and friend Reid, Thomas.

Stewart was born 22 November, 1753 in Edinburgh, where his father was professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. He began studies there in 1765, and was introduced to the work of Thomas Reid by Ferguson, Adam, who taught Moral Philosophy. In 1771 Stewart visited Glasgow to attend Reid’s lectures, and the two became friends. The next year, the nineteen year-old Stewart began teaching Mathematics at Edinburgh, replacing his sick father.

Stewart became co-professor of Mathematics in 1775, then in 1785 assumed the chair in Moral Philosophy from Ferguson. Stewart was a remarkably eloquent lecturer, widely considered the chief philosophical authority in Britain after Reid’s death. Despite his popularity, his support for the French Revolution and the Whig party were controversial. Stewart withdrew from teaching in 1808, resigned his professorship in 1820, and died 1828.

Dugald Stewart’s published works include: Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (three volumes, 1792, 1814, 1827), Outlines of Moral Philosophy (1793), Philosophical Essays (1810) and The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man (1828). All showed significant debt to Reid, emphasizing the empirical study of psychology and epistemology and the search for universal principles of human thought. Stewart developed and spread Scottish philosophy, influencing many of his contemporaries, particularly in the United States.

Further Reading:

J. Tannock-Bland, “Dugald Stewart on Intellectual Character,” British Journal for the History of Science 30 (1997).

Nicholas Hunt-Bull

Southern New Hampshire University