The purpose of this thesis is to consider fully the life
and thought of George Campbell (1719-1796). He is a man of
some considerable stature among the Scottish thinkers of the
eighteenth century, yet little is known of his work aside from
that represented by his reply in the Dissertation on Miracles
to the scepticism concerning the miraculous set forth by David
Hume in his celebrated Essay on Miracles.
Indeed, my own interest in Campbell arose out of a prior
interest in the philosophy of Hume. In seeking to ascertain
what reaction had been stimulated among Scottish churchmen by
the philosopher's work, my attention was led to the controversy
between Hume and Campbell. From this my attention was directed
towards the lesser-known writings of this Moderate churchman,
and this thesis embodies the results of my research.
In the first chapter, I have attempted to set forth something of the spirit of the age in which Campbell lived, in order to provide a background for his life and thought. It was,
of course, necessary to pass over many of the rich facets of
eighteenth century thought and life, else the chapter would
have turned into a book. But I have discussed the rise of the
Moderate party within the Church, the rich cultural achieve¬
ments of Scottish genius, and the progress of the patronage controversy — all matters directly related to George Campbell's
life and thought.
The second chapter is a brief sketch of the life of George
Campbell. No such account exists, except for the one "written by
his friend, the Rev. George Skene Keith, in 1800, which is pre¬
fixed to the edition of Campbell's Lectures on Ecclesiastical
History published in the same year. I have relied on Keith's
account for much of my information concerning the character and
personal habits of the man, and have tried to add to its rather
meagre details such information as might be found by a thorough
investigation of the records available at Banchory and in Aberdeen, especially at the University Library. Thus, although the
life is brief, I believe it as full an account as can be given.
From the third through the sixth chapters of the thesis, I
have tried to give an accurate and systematic account of Campbell's thought as it is set forth in his various sermons and in
the lectures he delivered to his classes at Marischal College.
My method has been largely expository. I have dealt with all of
Campbell's writings, both published and unpublished, and, in
each case, allowed Campbell to speak for himself. To the exposition I have added and inserted my own critical comments to point
up both the strengths and the weaknesses which seem apparent to
me in his thought.
The seventh chapter is perhaps the real "meat" of the thesis.
It deals extensively with the controversy between Campbell and
Hume on the subject of miracles. It has seemed necessary to me
to treat Hume's thought rather fully, and I have devoted almost
half the chapter to a discussion of his thought in which I try
tc show that his Essay on Miracles embodies a type of reasoning
which follows naturally from his whole philosophical position.
This is followed by an examination of the thesis put forward by
Campbell, and the chapter concludes with some observations of my
own on the strengths and weaknesses of Campbell's apologetic
The last chapter is an appraisal of George Campbell, the
Moderate, based upon the preceding analysis of his life and
thought. Its tone is dominantly critical, yet I did not wish
it to be only so. Campbell was a man of rare gentility, great
humility, and true piety, whose works will still repay any who
study them carefully.