Kames’s judicial career and writings on Scottish law have earned him a place in the annals of eighteenth-century legal history;5 the rest of his work has secured his position as the quintessential Enlightenment figure in Scotland, a practical man of affairs with significant achievements as a man of letters.
In addition to a busy legal career, Kames sat on the boards of two governmental agencies, belonged to a number of the important clubs and societies, and served as patron to the generation of literati who are the high point of the Enlightenment in Scotland.
Introduction, annotations © 2005 Liberty Fund, Inc. (Natural law and enlightenment classics) Includes bibliographical references and index.
All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Frontispiece (by Martin): copyright © National Galleries of Scotland and reprinted with permission 09 08 07 06 05 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kames, Henry Home, Lord, 1696–1782. is at once a typical example of and an original contribution to the Scottish Enlightenment’s distinctive attempt to construct a moral science based on the principles of natural law.
Among those who benefited from his patronage were Adam Smith, whose public lectures at Edinburgh in 1748–1751 were sponsored by Kames,6 and Smith’s student John Millar, who lived at the Kames household for two years while qualifying as an advocate and who owed his chair in civil law at the University of Glasgow to Kames and Smith.
An avid reader with broad tastes, Kames relied on his Edinburgh publishers to keep him supplied with new material: “Can Lord Kames find no books either of Instruction or amusement to entertain him in the country?While Kames addressed a remarkably wide variety of topics, from flax-husbandry to education (including female education),8 his publications are characterized by several recurrent themes.Not surprisingly, many are juridical in nature and are concerned with systematizing the principles and tracing the origins and development of law. to its highest improvements in civilized society.”10 “Improvement” was both a practical goal for law, education, agriculture, and other institutions, and a theoretical principle explaining the progress of man and society.Essays on the principles of morality and natural religion: several essays added concerning the proof of a deity / Henry Home, Lord Kames; edited and with an introduction by Mary Catherine Moran. To this natural law framework of rights and duties ordained by providence but knowable through reason, the Scottish thinkers typically applied a new moral psychology which emphasized the role of the passions and sentiments.The attempt to synthesize an objectively grounded law with a subjectivist account of moral and social exchange had an enormous influence on the Enlightenment’s science of man and society.While his has received comparatively little attention.3 Yet it deserves to be read alongside Kames’s better-known works as an important contribution to the Enlightenment’s science of human nature.First published anonymously in 1751 and significantly revised in 17, the represents an important contribution to eighteenth-century debate over the foundations of justice and morality and the challenges posed by the skepticism of David Hume.More specifically, the chapters all give what the first chapter in the volume calls “structural” as against “foundational” analyses of moral views.Eschewing the grander ambition of grounding our ideas about, for example, virtue or desert in claims that use different concepts and concern some other, allegedly more fundamental topic, the chapters examine these ideas in their own right and with close attention to their details.Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo and as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” ( in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.