Religion, scepticism and John Gregory’s therapeutic science of human nature
History of European Ideas
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This article recovers the discussion of the relationship between religion, human nature and happiness in the Scottish Enlightenment physician John Gregory’s (1724–1773) A Comparative View of Human Nature (1765). Through examining Gregory’s best-selling but understudied text, this article explores how the Aberdeen Enlightenment’s own branch of the wider Scottish ‘science of human nature’, centred at the famous Aberdeen Philosophical Society, was as deeply concerned with the study of religion as it was the philosophy of mind. Gregory examined how the purported cultural spread of dogmatic scepticism, associated by the Aberdonians with David Hume, threatened individual happiness and social tranquillity by removing the crutch of religious belief upon which the multitude (though not the philosopher) depended. In doing so, it suggests that the contribution made by physicians to the Scottish Enlightenment’s engagement with religion has been unjustly ignored.
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