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Balfour, James, of Pilrig (1705–1795), moral philosopher, was born at Pilrig, near Edinburgh, the eldest child of James Balfour (1681–1737), businessman, and his wife, Louisa, née Hamilton (1686–1750), of Airdrie. His brother John Balfour (1715–1795) became a prominent Edinburgh bookseller and papermaker. James...

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Butler, Joseph (1692–1752), moral philosopher and theologian, was born on 18 May 1692 in Wantage, Berkshire. He was the youngest among the eight children of Thomas Butler (d. 1731), variously described as a prominent cloth merchant or linen draper in the town and as 'gentleman' in the records of ...

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Joseph Butler (1692–1752) by Mr Taylor of Durham, 1750–52 by kind permission of the Lord Bishop of Durham and the Church Commissioners of England. Photograph: Photographic Survey, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

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Cleghorn, William (1718–1754), moral philosopher and university teacher, was probably born in Edinburgh, the son of Hugh Cleghorn (d. 1734), a brewer and burgess of Edinburgh, and his wife, Jean Hamilton. He entered Edinburgh University in 1731 and graduated MA in 1739. He was probably intended for the ministry, and must have also studied divinity. It appears that he was licensed to preach, but never held charge of a parish. In 1739 and 1740 he was tutor to ...

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Hutcheson, Francis (1694–1746), moral philosopher, was born in Ulster, in the township of Drumalig, near Saintfield, co. Down, on 8 August 1694. His father was John Hutcheson (d. 1729), minister of the Presbyterian church in Downpatrick (1690–97) and Armagh (1697–1729). His mother was the daughter of ...

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Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) by Allan Ramsay, c. 1745 © Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

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Reid, Thomas (1710–1796), natural and moral philosopher, was born on 26 April 1710 in Strachan, Kincardineshire, the son of the Revd Lewis Reid (1676–1762) and his first wife, Margaret, née Gregory (1673–1732). After attending the parish school in Kincardine O'Neil for two years, ...

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Thomas Reid (1710–1796) by Sir Henry Raeburn, c. 1796 photograph by kind permission of The National Trust for Scotland

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Adam Smith (bap. 1723, d. 1790) by James Tassie, 1787 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Smith, Adam (bap. 1723, d. 1790), moral philosopher and political economist, was baptized on 5 June 1723 at Kirkcaldy, a small port on the Forth. His father, also Adam Smith (1679–1723), was private secretary to the third earl of Loudoun, later becoming writer to the signet and a local ...