He was the son of Matthew Stewart (1715–1785), professor of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh (1747–1772), and was born in Edinburgh. He was educated at the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh, where he read mathematics and moral philosophy under Adam Ferguson. In 1771, in the hope of gaining a Snell Exhibition and proceeding to Oxford to study for the English Church, he went to the University of Glasgow to attend the classes of Thomas Reid. To Reid he later owed his theory of morality. In Glasgow, Stewart boarded in the same house as Archibald Alison, author of the Essay on Taste, and a lasting friendship sprang up between them.
After a single session in Glasgow, at the age of nineteen, Dugald was asked by his father, whose health was beginning to fail, to give his mathematical classes in the University of Edinburgh. After three years there Dugald was elected professor of mathematics in conjunction with his father in 1775. Three years later Ferguson was appointed secretary to the commissioners sent out to the American colonies, and at his request Stewart lectured as his substitute during the session 1778–1779, delivering an original course of lectures on morals. In his early years he was influenced by Lord Monboddo, with whom he corresponded.
Professor at Edinburgh
In 1785 Stewart succeeded Ferguson in the chair of moral philosophy, which he filled for twenty-five years, making it a centre of intellectual and moral influence. Young men were attracted by his reputation from England, Europe and America. Stewart's course on moral philosophy embraced, besides ethics proper, lectures on political philosophy or the theory of government.
Stewart spent the summers of 1788 and 1789 in France, where he met Suard, Degérando, and Raynal, and came to sympathize with the revolutionary movement. His political teaching, after the French Revolution, drew suspicion on him.
In 1806 Stewart received in lieu of a pension the nominal office of the writership of the Edinburgh Gazette, with a salary of £300. When he ceased lecturing during the session of 1809–1810, his place was taken, at his own request, by Thomas Brown, who in 1810 was appointed conjoint professor. On the death of Brown in 1820 Stewart retired altogether from the professorship. His successor was John Wilson, known as "Christopher North".
In 1822 he was struck with paralysis, but recovered a fair degree of health, sufficient to enable him to resume his studies. He died in Edinburgh, where he was buried in Canongate Churchyard. Additionally, and of greater public note, a monument to his memory was erected on Calton Hill. His memory is also honoured by the newly constructed Dugald Stewart Building at the University of Edinburgh, on Charles Street.
Stewart as a student in Glasgow wrote an essay on Dreaming. In 1792 he published the first volume of the Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind; the second volume appeared in 1814, the third not till 1827. In 1793 he printed a textbook, Outlines of Moral Philosophy, which went through many editions; and in the same year he read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh his account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith. Similar memoirs of Robertson the historian and of Reid were afterwards read before the same body and appear in his published works.
In 1805 Stewart published pamphlets defending John Leslie against the charges of unorthodoxy made by the presbytery of Edinburgh. In 1810 appeared the Philosophical Essays, in 1814 the second volume of the Elements, in 1811 the first part and in 1821 the second part of the "Dissertation" written for the Encyclopædia Britannica Supplement, entitled "A General View of the Progress of Metaphysical, Ethical, and Political Philosophy since the Revival of Letters." In 1827 he published the third volume of the Elements, and in 1828, a few weeks before his death, The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers.
Among Stewart's pupils were Lord Palmerston, Sir Walter Scott, Francis Jeffrey, Henry Thomas Cockburn, Francis Horner, Sydney Smith, John William Ward, Lord Brougham, Dr. Thomas Brown, James Mill, Sir James Mackintosh and Sir Archibald Alison.
His reputation rested as much on his eloquence, populism, and style as on original work. He was principally responsible for making the "Scottish philosophy" predominant in early 19th-century Europe. In the second half of the century, Stewart's reputation fell to that of a follower of the work of Thomas Reid.
Stewart upheld Reid's psychological method and expounded the Scottish Common Sense Realism, which was attacked by James Mill and John Stuart Mill. Part of his originality lay in his incorporation of elements of moderate empiricism and the French ideologists Laromiguière, Cabanis and Destutt de Tracy. He opposed the argument of ontology, and Condillac's sensationalism. Immanuel Kant he said he could not understand.
In 1783 Stewart married Helen Bannatyne, who died in 1787, leaving an only son, Colonel Matthew Stewart. In 1790 he married Helen D'Arcy Cranstoun, sister of George Cranstoun. His second wife was well-born and accomplished, and he was in the habit of submitting to her criticism whatever he wrote. They had a son and a daughter. The son's death in 1809 brought about his retirement from the active duties of his chair.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Stewart, Dugald". Encyclopædia Britannica 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- The early years at University of Edinburgh School of Economics's official website. Accessed February 24, 2013.
- "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Jonathan Friday (2005): Dugald Stewart on Reid, Kant and the Refutation of Idealism, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 13:2, 263–286
- Matthew Stewart, his eldest son, wrote a life in Annual Biography and Obituary (1829), republished privately in 1838.
- James McCosh, Scottish Philosophy (1875), pp. 162–173;
- Alexander Bain, Mental Science, pp. 208, 313 and app. 29, 65, 88, 89; Moral Science, pp. 639 seq.;
- Leslie Stephen, English Thought in the XVIII Century.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Dugald Stewart", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- Dugald Stewart at The Online Library of Liberty