Humanism and After
In this chapter I shall consider the developments in philosophy in Scotland after the heyday of the circle of John Mair and pay particular attention to the contrasts between that earlier period and its aftermath. In considering the contrasts we should bear in mind that all members of Mair’s circle had been logicians and that even those of their works that are neither logic textbooks nor commentaries on books of logic are suffused with the terms, logical categories and logical principles of distinction that are expounded in the logic textbooks. Deploying the extensive vocabulary of formal logic, they argued every point, analysing criticisms of their theses, and criticising the criticisms, and so on, until their defence of these theses was as strong as they could make it. Inevitably most of their works were long. However, that could not be a criticism in the eyes of those authors, for their purpose was to reach the truth however many pages it took. In this respect the members of Mair’s circle inherited the scholastic way of philosophising. As well as having their own intrinsic interest, the main positions that were established were seen as contributing to an understanding and appreciation of the saving truths of Christianity. For a Christian, those truths were the most important thing, and if brevity had to be sacrificed in the interests of getting at the truth it was a small price to pay. The logic and philosophy developed by the medieval logicians were theologians’ tools. That the logic and philosophy had to be as right as possible was indisputable, but the sheer length of the textbooks in due course came to be seen as a serious drawback. In short, change was on the way as Scotland started belatedly to be active in the cultural revolution that brought renaissance humanism to the fore. Comment on this cultural revolution is therefore necessary.
Humanists were committed to the study of the great works of classical antiquity, particularly those of Greece and Rome, but also the