George Turnbull

Observations upon Liberal Education

Originally published in 1742 and presented here in its
first modern edition, Observations upon
Liberal Education
is a significant contribution to the
Scottish Enlightenment and the moral-sense school of
Scottish philosophy. George Turnbull embodied these
movements of ideas as much as his more famous
contemporary Francis Hutcheson.

In Observations, Turnbull applied these ideas to the education of youth. He showed how a liberal
education fosters true “inward liberty” and moral
strength and thus prepares for responsible and happy
lives in a free society. He drew upon an impressive
number of authors, both ancient and modern, including
John Locke. Indeed, there is probably no richer treasure
trove of sources for the educational debates of the
eighteenth century.

Terrence Moore, who wrote the introduction, notes
that “Observations upon Liberal Education
provides an extensive and illuminating treatment of education, sensitive to the means of inculcating the personal responsibility necessary for living in a free

Turnbull was the mentor of Thomas Reid, but his
influence was not confined to Scotland. Benjamin
Franklin, in drafting his Proposals Relating to the
Education of Youth in Pensilvania,
drew generously
from Observations.

George Turnbull (1698–1748) belongs to the founding figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. Finding their
native Calvinism repressive, they sought a rational religion closely associated with their new
science of human nature, supportive of tolerance, and compatible with classical ideals.

Terrence O. Moore, Jr., is Principal of Ridgeview Classical
Schools in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.
675 printed pages
Original publication


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