Famous Scottish Philosophers

Find out more about the greatest Scottish Philosophers, including Adam Smith, William Wallace, David Hume, John Major and Thomas Carlyle.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite Scottish Philosophers

 1 Adam Smith

Adam Smith
12
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 5, 1723
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Died: July 17, 1790

Widely considered The Father of Economics, Adam Smith was a Scottish philosopher and economist. A pioneer of political economy, Adam Smith played a major role during the Scottish Enlightenment. His book The Wealth of Nations is regarded as the first modern work of economics and a forerunner of today's academic discipline of economics.

 2 David Hume

David Hume
7
Famous As: Philosopher & Historian
Birthdate: April 26, 1711
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 25, 1776

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, and economist, David Hume, is considered one of the most important philosophers to write in English. His book, A Treatise of Human Nature, is counted among the most influential works in the history of philosophy. His works have influenced numerous thinkers, including German philosopher Immanuel Kant and Christian philosopher Joseph Butler.

 3 Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 4, 1795
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died: February 5, 1881
Initially a math teacher, Thomas Carlyle later abandoned the profession when a sudden spiritual awakening led him to writing. His parents wanted him to become a clergy, but he ended up becoming one of the greatest Victorian essayists and authors ever, known for works such as Sartor Resartus.
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 4 Duns Scotus

Duns Scotus
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Priest
Birthdate: 1265 AD
Birthplace: Duns, Scotland
Died: December 8, 1308

Duns Scotus was a Scottish Franciscan friar, philosopher, theologian, and university professor. Widely regarded as one of the most prominent philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages, Scotus had a major influence on both secular and Catholic thought. In 1993, Duns Scotus was beatified by the Catholic Church. His life and work inspired a 2012 Italian film titled Blessed Duns Scotus.

 5 James Mill

James Mill
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: April 6, 1773
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angus, Scotland
Died: June 23, 1836

James Mill was a Scottish economist, historian, philosopher, and political theorist. Mill is credited with co-founding the Ricardian school of economics. He is also credited with writing The History of British India, which classifies Indian history into three parts: British, Muslim, and Hindu. The classification has played an influential role in the field of Indian historical studies.

 6 Abdalqadir as-Sufi

Abdalqadir as-Sufi
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Famous As: theologian, philosopher, actor
Birthdate: 1930 AD
Birthplace: Ayr

Abdalqadir as-Sufi was a Scottish playwright and actor who dedicated his life to popularize Islam after converting to the religion in 1967. He helped establish the Jumu'a Mosque of Cape Town, the Great Mosque of Granada, and the Ihsan Mosque in England. Abdalqadir as-Sufi is also credited with founding the Murabitun World Movement, which aims at restoring several Islam practices.

 7 Thomas Reid

Thomas Reid
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 7, 1710
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Strachan, Scotland, Great Britain
Died: October 7, 1796

Thomas Reid was a Scottish philosopher best remembered for founding the Scottish School of Common Sense. Reid, who played an important part in the Scottish Enlightenment, advocated common sense realism as opposed to his contemporary David Hume who advocated metaphysical naturalism. Thomas Reid is also credited with co-founding the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783.

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 8 A.S. Neill

A.S. Neill
2
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: October 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Forfar, Scotland
Died: September 23, 1973

A. S. Neill was a Scottish author and educator best remembered for founding Summerhill School, which was established in 1921. The independent boarding school, which serves education in a democratic fashion, is one of the finest examples of both alternative and democratic education. A. S. Neill is widely regarded as one of the most influential educationists of all time.

 9 W. D. Ross

W. D. Ross
2
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 15, 1877
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thurso, Scotland
Died: May 5, 1971

W. D. Ross was a Scottish philosopher best remembered for his work in ethics. He is credited with developing a deontological form of intuitionism in response to his contemporary George Edward Moore's consequentialist form of intuitionist ethics. Ross is also credited with editing and translating several works of the popular Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle.

 10 Michael Scot

Michael Scot
2
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: 1175 AD
Birthplace: Scotland
Died: 1232 AD

Michael Scot was a Scottish scholar and mathematician. Widely regarded as the greatest intellectual of the Middle Ages, Scot served as a court astrologer and science adviser to Emperor Frederick II. Michael Scot's life and work have inspired several literary works, including the 2019 novel A Matter of Interpretation by Elizabeth Mac Donald.

 11 Alexander Bain - Philosopher

Alexander Bain - Philosopher
2
Famous As: Scottish philosopher
Birthdate: June 11, 1818
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aberdeen
Died: September 18, 1903

Alexander Bain was a Scottish philosopher. He was a prominent educationalist in the British school of empiricism. A respected figure in the fields of psychology, logic, linguistics, moral philosophy, and education reform, he founded Mind, the first-ever journal of psychology and analytical philosophy. He had an illustrious academic career at the University of Aberdeen. 

 12 Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane

Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane
2
Famous As: Statesman
Birthdate: July 30, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 19, 1928

Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane was a British philosopher, lawyer, and politician. Between 1905 and 1912, he served as the Secretary of State for War and was instrumental in implementing a series of reforms of the British Army called The Haldane Reforms. He also served as the Lord Chancellor twice during his illustrious career. Richard was also an influential writer.

 13 Dugald Stewart

Dugald Stewart
2
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 22, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh,Scotland
Died: June 11, 1828

Dugald Stewart was a Scottish mathematician and philosopher best remembered for his efforts to popularize the works of Adam Smith and Francis Hutcheson. Considered one of the most prominent personalities of the Scottish Enlightenment, Stewart played a major role in explaining the Scottish Common Sense Realism. Among his students were Sir Walter Scott, Sir Archibald Alison, and Sir James Mackintosh. 

 14 Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet
2
Famous As: Metaphysician
Birthdate: March 8, 1788
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: May 6, 1856

Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet, was a Scottish metaphysician and educator best remembered for his work in the field of logic. Hamilton, who made attempts to combine the views held by German philosopher Immanuel Kant with the Scottish philosophy of common sense, is credited with popularizing the works of Kant in the United Kingdom.

 15 James Burnett, Lord Monboddo

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo
2
Famous As: Judge
Birthdate: October 25, 1714
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Monboddo, Scotland
Died: May 26, 1799

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo was a Scottish philosopher, judge, deist, and scholar of linguistic evolution. Best remembered for contributing to the development of the concepts of biological evolution, James Burnett is often credited with theorizing the idea of natural selection. His theories were read and acknowledged by Erasmus Darwin, whose works were in turn read by his grandson Charles Darwin.

 16 John Henry Mackay

John Henry Mackay
2
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 6, 1864
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Greenock, Scotland
Died: May 16, 1933

John Henry Mackay was a writer, thinker, and egoist anarchist. Mackay, who spent most of his life in Germany, is best remembered for his work Die Anarchisten which was published in 1891. He is also remembered for his friendship with American anarchist Benjamin Tucker, who published his works in Liberty magazine in the United States of America.

 17 James Frederick Ferrier

James Frederick Ferrier
1
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 16, 1808
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: June 11, 1864

James Frederick Ferrier was a Scottish metaphysical philosopher, writer, and professor. He is best remembered for authoring a series of articles titled An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness, which were published in Blackwood's Magazine. As an educator, James Frederick Ferrier taught at several prestigious institutions like Edinburgh University and the University of St Andrews.

 18 Hugh Blair

Hugh Blair
1
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 7, 1718
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 27, 1800

Hugh Blair was a Scottish writer, rhetorician, and minister of religion. As a minister of religion, Blair had a major impact in both the secular and the spiritual realms. He also played an important role in the Scottish Enlightenment and is credited with co-founding the Royal Society of Edinburgh. From 1789 to 1796, he served as the academy's Literary President.

 19 Henry Home, Lord Kames

Henry Home, Lord Kames
1
Famous As: Advocate
Birthdate: 1696 AD
Birthplace: Kames, Scotland
Died: December 27, 1782

Henry Home, Lord Kames was a Scottish philosopher, writer, agricultural improver, advocate, and judge. One of the most influential personalities in the Scottish Enlightenment, Home took an active part in an intellectual society of the 18th-century known as the Select Society. A founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Home acted as a patron to personalities like David Hume.

 20 Hector Boece

Hector Boece
1
Famous As: Scottish philosopher
Birthdate: 1465 AD
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: 1536 AD

Hector Boece was a Scottish historian and philosopher best remembered for his role as the first principal of King's College, a precursor of the University of Aberdeen, where he often delivered lectures on divinity and on medicine. He is also remembered for his books, History of the Scottish People and Lives of the Bishops of Murthlack and Aberdeen. 

 21 Richard of Saint-Victor

Richard of Saint-Victor
1
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1110 AD
Birthplace: Scotland, England
Died: March 16, 1173

Richard of Saint-Victor was a Medieval Scottish theologian and philosopher. One of the most influential and prominent religious thinkers of his generation, Richard served as a prior of the Augustinian Abbey of Saint-Victor from 1162 to 1173. A prolific writer, Richard of Saint-Victor published several important books, including The Book of the Twelve Patriarchs.

 22 Thomas Brown

Thomas Brown
1
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 9, 1778
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland
Died: April 2, 1820

Thomas Brown was a Scottish poet and philosopher best remembered for his contribution to the development of the Scottish school of common sense. Among his most important work is a critique of the theory of transmutation by Erasmus Darwin. Titled Observations on the zoonomia of Erasmus Darwin, his critique was praised as a mature work by several scholars and critics.

 23 James Beattie

James Beattie
1
Famous As: Linguist, Poet, Translator, Philosopher, Writer
Birthdate: October 25, 1735
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Laurencekirk, United Kingdom
Died: August 18, 1803

James Beattie was a Scottish philosopher, moralist, educator, and poet. His philosophical writings and poetry, which opposed slavery, are widely viewed as the primary source of Immanuel Kant's knowledge of David Hume. James Beattie, who was among the members that established the Royal Society of Edinburgh, is one of the 16 personalities depicted on the famous Scott Monument.

 24 Edward Caird

Edward Caird
0
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 23, 1835
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Greenock, Scotland
Died: November 1, 1908

Edward Caird was a Scottish philosopher best remembered as one of the founders of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women's Suffrage. Also an educator, Caird taught at the University of Glasgow where John Watson was one of his students. Edward Caird also wrote several influential books, such as The Evolution of Religion.

 25 Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane

Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane
0
Famous As: Social reformer
Birthdate: May 27, 1862
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 24, 1937

Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane was a Scottish philosopher, biographer, author, nursing administrator, suffragist, and social welfare worker. In 1920, Haldane became the first woman to serve as a Justice of the Peace in Scotland. A popular figure, Elizabeth Haldane is also remembered for her friendship with famous personalities like Queen Alexandra, George Meredith, and Matthew Arnold. 

 26 John Macquarrie

John Macquarrie
1
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 27, 1919
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Renfrew, Scotland
Died: May 28, 2007

John Macquarrie was a Scottish-born philosopher, theologian, and Anglican priest. One of the most celebrated systematic theologians of the 20th century, Macquarrie was presented with several prestigious honors during his illustrious career that spanned more than six decades. John Macquarrie is also remembered for his works, such as An Existentialist Theology, The Scope of Demythologizing, and Principles of Christian Theology.

 27 Robert Balfour

Robert Balfour
0
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1553 AD
Birthplace: Angus Council, Scotland
Died: 1621 AD

Robert Balfour was a Scottish philosopher best remembered for his association with the College of Guienne, where he served as the principal for many years. He is credited with popularizing the praefervidum ingenium Scotorum throughout Europe. A copy of his best known work Commentarii in Organum Logicum Aristotelis is preserved in the British Museum.