Carlyle and Scottish Thought by Ralph Jessop (auth.)

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By Ralph Jessop (auth.)

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The earlier nineteenth-century notion that Carlyle was in some sense a philosopher had tended to slip away with the detritus of those critics who first saw in his work both a poetic and a philosophic spirit - 'a philosophy of man' and a 'Prospero'. As the construction of Carlyle as a prophet and literary artist came to take precedence, the notion that he was a philosopher lost validity. Categorizing Carlyle - Literature or Philosophy? 25 Carlyle may have been more of an artist than a philosopher or his diversity may elude our attempts to categorize him finally within one discipline or genre.

As this philosophical study uncovers some of the major ideas of Scottish philosophical discourse, some of which were merely glimpsed in Chapter 3, and having by now reached a point where Carlyle's texts can be read as informed by my interpretation of Scottish philosophical discourse, in Chapters 6 to 9 I tum to Carlyle's texts and leave behind, as Introduction 13 background, much of the detail of philosophical argument presented in earlier chapters. In all of these chapters I assume that the reader is already familiar with Carlyle's texts.

Carlyle's brief criticism here strikes at the heart of a serious weakness in this article, namely, the poor understanding of Reid's highly important first principles of the human mind. These principles (as I shall explain in Chapter 5) constitute what Reid meant by the term 'common sense' and stand as unanalysable givens or the necessary prerequisites of human thought, knowledge, argument. The weakness of Lyall's understanding of Reid is evinced in his reduction of Reid's first principles to the status of mere instincts and an apparent A Common Fund of Philosophic Prose 35 failure to notice that, for Carlyle, Stewart's principles were fundamentally Reid's.

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