Dugald Stewart, or Professor Stewart as Carlyle refers to him, was a Scottish philosopher (1753-1823) and the son of a mathematics professor at the University of Edinburgh. As a boy he studied mathematics as had his father and philosophy under Adam Ferguson, "the father of modern sociology." Stewart's education continued at Oxford and Glasgow, where both he and Thomas Reid proposed theories on morality based upon the moral imagination.

Stewart succeeded Ferguson in the philosophy chair at Edinburgh. In this position of authority, his "affinity for the scientific approach to philosophical problems," "analogies between the axioms of mathematics and the laws that govern human thinking" (O'Connor) inspired a sort of empirical, common sense movement (a distinct departure from the earlier Scottish tradition). His teachings were most apparent in his essays on moral philosophers and his memoirs of Robertson and Thomas Reid. The philosopher has a stroke in 1822 and died the following year. Soon after his death, a monument was constructed on Carlton Hill in Edinburgh in memory of his great work.

In "Signs of the Times," Carlyle criticizes the lack of philosophy robustness in the nineteenth century by comparing its growth to that of stunted infant. He describes man's knowledge of moral philosophy as decaying and dying out with the death of Professor Stewart. Despite Stewart's being criticized by some for reproducing Reid's thoughts and theories, Carlyle praised him for his original, dynamic mind and for teachings that created links between the worlds of science and those of philosophy and psychology.


O'Connor, John J. and Edmund F. Robertson. "Dugald Stewart", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive

Cumming, Mark. The Carlyle Encyclopedia. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ P, 2004

"Dugald Stewart." Wikipedia. 2009. March 26, 2009

Last modified 29 March 2009