As this book demonstrates, there has been a long tradition of philosophising in Scotland. Though the first great Scottish philosopher, John Duns Scotus, educated in the Scottish Borders until the age of about twelve, pursued his philosophical and theological studies furth of Scotland partly because there was no university here, during the fifteenth century three Scottish universities were founded, at St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and philosophy figured high on the agenda of all of them. By the end of the sixteenth century, with the foundation of Edinburgh University and Marischal College, Aberdeen, the country had brought its tally of universities to five, an impressive number in a country of one million inhabitants.
All five universities had a strong international dimension. At the start their internationalism was a necessity, for in order to have teaching staff the universities had to recruit Scots who had gone abroad for their education. In those earliest centuries the chief source of Scottish recruits was Paris, Scotus’s university, which in due course was attended by Lawrence of Lindores, John Ireland, James Liddell, John Mair, George Lokert, William Manderston, George Buchanan, William Cranston; it is a formidable list. The outcome of the recruitment process was entirely to Scotland’s benefit, since the country’s high culture came to be served by men who had been educated at as high a level as was available anywhere, who had lively, creative imaginations, deep learning, and an awareness of what was taking place at the cutting edge of the various academic disciplines. Many of them indeed were contributing cutting-edge work and were in consequence setting the agenda for the thinking of others, especially of their students.
After the Reformation Scottish philosophers were no less interested than their predecessors had been in the philosophy being done furth of Scotland. Teaching was up to date. The international nature of the western philosophical enterprise was fully appreciated by its Scottish practitioners and so also was the universality of its disciplinary reach;