Chapter 1 includes a biography of Adam Ferguson and examines the various critical interpretations of his thought. It concludes that each of these, stoic, civic republican, natural jurisprudence, Marxist sociological, Highlander, and conservative, are partial accounts that miss important features of his thought. The introduction makes the case for downplaying the importance of the Essay on the History of Civil Society and for moving beyond the idea of Ferguson as an outlier to the mainstream of the Scottish Enlightenment. It argues that the proper context for understanding Ferguson is to be found in his intellectual project of building a moral pedagogy upon secure empirical and philosophical foundations.
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