The Scottish writing of the civility of the “Englishman”

The Scottish Writing of the Civility of the “Englishman”

English constitutional practices had, as discussed, acquired, by European standards of the late seventeenth century, some unusual characteristics. Not only was there, by those standards, a high degree of national self-consciousness,1 but its monarchy was chosen and constrained. It had combined the qualities of a war machine like the Absolutisms of mainland Europe, but much more efficiently, with commercial acuity and a liberty of personal freedom and the protection of property comparable with the United Provinces. England had two attractions for the Scots. Lowland Scots were, naturally, convinced of the superiority of their law, their educational organization and their Kirk. But they saw a country to their south many times larger, flourishing commercially in a way that Scotland was not. There was also, I believe, a Presbyterian perspective. Presbyterian teaching, since Buchanan, James VI/I’s sometime tutor, was, for the time, remarkably egalitarian, politically, despite its authoritarian theological dimension. All men and women should be literate and all tyrants should be resisted. England had, Scots thought, stumbled on the practice of liberty, but may not, through their obsession with commerce’s more philistine dimensions, have the wit to avoid stumbling into something less savory than education, literacy and civility.

This may have been an unjustifiable fear. Perhaps the Church of England was too languid for the Scottish intellectuals in the fairly homogeneous triangle of Glasgow, Saint Andrews, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, although there is little evidence of Calvinist evangelism in their writing. The men – and they were all men – were conscious of the Highlanders to their north and west in a way that was different from the English awareness. For the English, the Highlands nourished a threat, a bewilderingly, largely non English-speaking population which, Roman Catholic like most of the Irish, offered a French invasion route. For the Scots – and the Irish Presbyterian Hutcheson, whose academic life was in Glasgow – it may be that we can see at work something like Said’s “Orientalism”.2 Life in the Borders had been, and remained for many years after the 1707 Union with England, much like the Highlands.3 Urbane Scots identified themselves against the societies whose, to them, chaotic orders prevailed through Cumberland and Dumfriesshire in the west, Northumberland and the Tweedside counties of Eastern Scotland.

But if proselytizing Presbyterianism is absent in Scottish enlightenment writing, David Hume, as we shall see, emphasized the wisdom and continuing need for toleration in England, if Great Britain were to survive, a latitudinarian balance between superstition (i.e. Roman Catholicism) and enthusiasm (i.e. evangelical Protestantism). The Scots, in the triangle I have described, are rescued from the backwardness they witness or remember. But this rescue, and the enlightenment made possible by it, relied on the solidity of England and the Union.

In this chapter, then, I look principally at the role of the Scots in the creation and maintenance of the figure of the sociable Englishman, the character for whom the capacity for agreeable disagreement in culture would permit constitutional politics, liberty and security of property.

Scotland and the Invention of England by the Scots

Smith observed that, whereas in France and England, talented scholars and writers were frequently drawn to the church, in Scotland and the other countries of Reformed Europe “the most eminent men of letters … have not all, indeed, but the far greater part of them been professors in universities.”. The authority of professors extended beyond the ranks of students formally enrolled in classes.4

At risk of overloading the text with quotations, it is worth noting two other remarks. From a Scottish perspective:

Since the “natural condition” of humans is life in society, the premise from which norms are generated must also be social. It is therefore illicit to generate those norms from some extra-social or extra-temporal perspective. We cannot meaningfully assess the legitimacy of a government by invoking such a perspective, by, so to speak, stepping outside our social selves.5

From an Enlightenment perspective more generally:

If reflection has meaning only within a particular tradition, there will be limits on its ability to call this tradition into question. To suppose that it is possible to place ourselves in a position where we could reflect on the validity of that tradition is on a par with the assumption that we could somehow step outside of our language and certify that it does indeed give us a true account of the world.6

The third quotation takes us in a sense back to Wittgenstein and his differences from JL Austin. Austin wants us to instantiate certain amiable usages, which are not those of “us” all, whilst the later Wittgenstein invites a more heterogeneous us to question them all. As Moore makes clear, not only that, as we shall see, writing, debate and innovation through academic controversy made Scotland a vigorous and intellectual environment – the most vigorous in Europe at the time, perhaps – but that the reformed universities in Scotland were required from 1690 to engage in scholarly practice in previously forbidden spaces. Let us not forget that Locke’s books were among the last to be burned in public in England as late as the 1670s, which makes the Scottish practice very few decades later a rapid change from the previous doctrines of Absolutist monarchy and the duties of passive obedience to established authority. And also, of course, consistent with the more constitutionally liberal principles established in England by the Revolution.7 This intellectual and political commitment enhanced by the Act of Union of 1707 and cemented by the commercial motivations that led the Scots to abandon their Parliament, though not their Kirk and their law, determined the Scots to ensure that the English kept and improved their Englishness. The form of the Scottish conviction that this was where their future lay was shaped by, not only by, their, as it turned out, possibly greater commercial acumen, a thorn in the English side because it was before long so successful, but also by their combined empirical curiosity about the nature of social order and about the moral principles which ought to shape it.

In Chapter 2, I suggested that patrimonial regimes in their European manifestation of absolute monarchy seemed to serve the cause of enlightenment in two ways. Optimists, such as, perhaps Kant, and certainly Bentham, saw the enlightened despots as providing encouragement and the only stable framework within which social and intellectual innovation could be pursued. If Kant’s injunction, sapere aude is, as James Schmidt suggests, to be read as daring to think for oneself, rather than daring to think by oneself, then perhaps the realms of the Bourbons, Catherine of Russia, Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa did provide the peaceful conditions of sociability within the state that made the culture of reason possible. Whilst not a supporter of absolute monarchy, Burke understood its traditions as having had, until the cataclysm of 1789, the ability to contain the corrosive potential of abstract reason and therefore, presumably, of preserving certain beneficial aspects of enlightenment.

I attempt here to contrast with absolutist practices, the conditions of sociability that made enlightenment possible in eighteenth century Britain. The British elites and a considerable proportion of other subjects8 evoked a suspicion of authoritarian government by phrases such as liberty and property and the free-born Englishman. Protestant manliness ensured a vigorous commercial spirit. Since “property is the foundation of power”, it followed, for Daniel Defoe, for example, that freeholders should have the right to govern themselves and the other inhabitants of the country through representatives chosen freely as the most likely to benefit the common purpose, as well. Although Defoe does not mention it, the Revolution settlement indicated the awareness by the propertied of the need for an independent judiciary to uphold the code of property, the common law.9 This had been secured “in an act for the further limitation of the crown, and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject”, providing that “judges’ commissions be made quamdiu se bene gesserint and their salaries ascertained and established; but upon the address of both houses of parliament it may be lawful to remove them”.10

The Scottish experience had in the past been, in some ways, the opposite of England’s, yet the best way forward for Scotland in the new union, formed in 1707, was expressed by a number of writers in remarkably similar terms to those expressed by English writers. We can summarize the similarities and notice some differences, and finally make a brief return to Edmund Burke, one of the Rockingham Whigs who opposed the American war; and a first generation Protestant who was neither English nor Scottish, but Irish, who sums up a widespread position on social order as it had developed since the Revolution and the Union, and before that position changed its hue and became more authoritarian. Social order in England and Scotland (excepting the Highlands) was seen as resting on a series of concordances – conventions, agreements, similarities of outlook and a commitment to a sociable civility that would permit the negotiation of dis-similarities. To this social view, discussed in Chapter 2, some of the Scots were concerned, as we shall see, to investigate the histories, economies and typologies of social order so as to explain why relationships among people varied across time and geographical space. This concern was not new, as Montesquieu’s writings indicate but took on a greater prominence and systematicity among some of the Scots.

The elements of order in a sense condense into a constitution which expresses itself in government and laws. Popular order (although not in the modern quasidemocratic sense), the constitution, government and law were seen as interacting in complex ways that differed from the conceptions of Thomas Paine and the men of the American revolution. Locke and the men of the English revolution condemned the constitution as they found it prior to the revolution, as a threat to Protestantism, property and liberty, and justified its popular overthrow and replacement on that ground. Triennial Parliaments were widely seen as a part of the constitutional settlement. In 1716, the year after the first major Jacobite rebellion, Parliament, whose legitimacy stemmed from the constitution generated by the revolutionary settlement, found three-yearly elections to be a threat to the constitution, “very grievous and burthensome”, because frequent elections were expensive and a cause of “violent and lasting heats and animosities” among subjects “at this juncture when a restless and popish faction are designing … to renew rebellion within this kingdom and an invasion from abroad … destructive to the peace and security of the government”.11 So, Parliament altered the constitution.

Finally, in the era framed by Locke and Burke, we find Burke himself telling the House of Commons in 1775, anent the conduct of American affairs that:

Whilst manners remain entire, they will correct the vices of the law, and so soften it at length to their own temper. But we have to lament that in most of the late proceedings we see very few traces of that generosity, humanity and dignity of mind which formerly characterized this nation.12

Manners are, then, to correct the laws. As for the constitution, according to Burke, its exercise must be subjected to the customs and limitations of time and place if it is to survive. Thus, in relation to, in his examples, the prerogative of the Crown to veto legislation, and of the Westminster Parliament to legislate for the Americans, the “propriety” may be (in 1775) insisted upon, but “the exercise itself is wisely forborne”.13 The “apparent omnipotence” of the king in Parliament, he observes to his fellow parliamentarians, would not allow it to “alter the established religion of this country”. The reason is that it is the purpose of the legislature “to follow, not to force the public inclination, to give a direction, a form, a technical dress and a specific sanction to the general sense of the community …”.14

Although they differed considerably as to when such a power might be exercised, most of the writers of the period between Locke and Burke believed that if sufficiently ill-served, a community might resist its government and substitute another. In Burke’s writings this at first sight is the least clear, since, as Womersley remarks, his principal concern was with trying to render the changing constitution, particularly the position of the House of Commons in relation to the Crown, consistent with its traditions. He would not have supported the Americans had he not seen them as asserting concrete and traditionally-inspired rights; but it is difficult to interpret his remarks of 1775 as anything other than advocating a power to return, not to a stasis, but to an interrupted and definite trajectory of constitutionally progressing freedoms. Equally difficult, if one wanted to rule out entirely his view of resistance, would be his polemics on the corruption of the parliamentary process. If the House of Commons were to allow itself to become a rubber stamp for executive policies, would this not justify the intervention of the commons itself?15

The English monarchy of the seventeenth century had been too strong for the men of property to feel secure about their property. The strength of the Crown had to be opposed, and then that opposition prevented from turning into hostility toward all authority and hence into anarchy. Scottish government was for long too weak. In both cases, the solution was seen as civility, a self-policing requirement fundamental to peace and commerce, and neither before nor after Union capable of arbitration through religious consensus.

The English solution, we have seen, recognizing that, as Hume was to put it, government is based on opinion,16 was to seek some means of coordinating that opinion, ensuring that, among the most influential at least, disagreement across a range of matters, whilst inevitable, indeed to be encouraged, could be moderate. A number of historians, I suggested in Chapter 2, find evidence that the “polite” solution to conflict extended well below the official “political nation”, those who voted or held office. In a reversal of what came gradually to be believed during the Victorian era, it was etiquette, civility, sociability and politeness in the theatrical performance of public life, or life in public at many levels, which underpinned, made possible, the constitution and the laws consequent upon it, not the other way round. The script for this performance, I suggested, was provided by writers like Locke and Shaftesbury and later the pages of The Tatler and Mr Spectator, and aspired to and replayed in a thousand variants at many social levels. Until the 1760s, whilst not a politically tranquil, or internationally affable, society, England, Great Britain as it had become by the Act of Union with Scotland, and the Atlantic communities, avoided the earlier chaos of the civil wars and managed internal differences with considerable success. This process is at the same time the reinvention of England, to a significant degree, as we shall see, by the Scots; and until later in the eighteenth century, Americans, too, understood themselves as “free-born Englishmen”, and there was considerable regret in radical circles that the secession of the Americans likely meant a blow to the progressive direction that Englishness might take.

With the exception of its brief rule by Cromwellian England, Scotland had remained the only member of the four nations of the British Isles to have retained independence from England, although, since Elizabeth’s death in 1603, sharing a monarch with England, first the Stuarts and then the joint monarchy of William III and Mary II. Economically depressed, in 1707, in return for the abolition of border tariffs and access to English commerce and empire, Scotland dissolved its independent Parliament and formed a union with England, to form Great Britain. It was an unusual step17 – countries do not standardly abandon their political independence voluntarily – and it was not entirely compensated by the quite small representation of Scotland in the Westminster Parliament. On the other hand, the Act of Union contained, as we have seen, guarantees of independence for the two most significant Scottish institutions, education, Scots law and the Presbyterian Kirk.

Eventual commercial prosperity as a product of union was entirely foreseeable, particularly for ports and trades able to profit both from a bigger market and from the Atlantic traffic, increasingly, of course, in slave plantation products. Cultural efflorescence in Scotland might, when union was mooted, have seemed less likely. Scotland had traditionally been a decentralized polity, the Lowlands sharing more of the local and kin-dependent structures of government with the Highlands than they were later to do, or later like to remember. In both Highlands and Lowlands until the seventeenth century, the resolution of disputes to the possession and ownership of land, or disputes resulting from injuries, was typically some form of arbitration at the behest of the victim or the kindred of the victim or deceased person, preceded in some cases by a feud between the kin involved. Even when royal justice may have been available from the Crown in Edinburgh, speed and effectiveness made recourse to a local laird or settlement among the heads of the relevant kin the preferred option for many disputants.18

Jenny Wormold notices two consequences of this: the poor, or those whose families lacked the means or power to bargain or compel reparation for wrongs done, remained unsatisfied; and a considerable amount of disorder characterized government. Unlike the English gentleman, the literati of eighteenth century Scotland did not, to repeat, look back at the extravagantly strong claims to authority of a putative absolute monarchy, necessarily contested by violent and “enthusiastic” means, but with a resulting period of social chaos. Instead, the Scots both looked back at the unrest and violence occasioned by a weak monarchy dependent on the quasi-ordered instability of the feud; and they looked north and west at the same time, to the, to their minds, uncivilized and unprogressive conduct of the feud, as it persisted among the Highland clans. Later distaste from within the cultured triangle, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, for the Highlanders, perpetuating an earlier form of society until the mid-eighteenth century may, however, conceal an embarrassment about practices shared only too recently.19

The Scottish Reformation, three decades after the English, largely a Lowlands affair, did eventually offer a solution to the disorder identified by Wormold, but at a cost. Looking at the English Reformation from his vantage point in the mid-eighteenth century David Hume remarked on the fragile basis of rational stability. In the English seventeenth century the road to stability had led through the confrontation of what he saw as Roman Catholic superstition by evangelical, “enthusiastic” Protestantisms. Only when society was able to become neither superstitious nor enthusiastic and accept a latitudinarianism not universally shared, but from which all benefited, could the state, liberty and property enjoy security. Hume could not have said the same about Scotland where – the monarchy still weak – under John Knox, a form of theocracy attempted to displace the governing practices permitted under the Roman Catholic monarchies and did so with great Calvinist vigor until a Moderate hegemony began to prevail a century and a half later, under the influence of the likes of Francis Hutcheson and his fellow, mostly academic, literati.

The Scottish Reformation was more ideologically driven than the English Henrician reforms of the earlier sixteenth century had been, where the nascent Church of England retained many of the Roman forms of worship, even preserving for itself the designation, “Catholic” church. The change from Roman Catholicism in Scotland to a Calvinist form of Protestantism was greater and therefore more contentious than the English Reformation had been. The regent, Mary of Guise and her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, were both Catholic, frustrating the universality of reformation for a time20 and while eventually “to a large extent” Knox’s “mission to create the New Jerusalem in Scotland succeeded”21 it did so as a form of harsh proto-state in conditions of political turmoil, an authoritarian theocracy that punished moral offenses with a zeal unparalleled in England. In her studies of witchcraft persecutions in Scotland, Larner compares the inability of the weak Scottish secular state to mitigate the rigors of theocratic order to the earlier situation in Germany, where witch-hunts and witch-burnings had also been frequent.22

Not all the victims of religious zeal unqualified by tolerance were women, although most were. In Scotland, as late as 1696, Thomas Aikenhead, a theology student at Edinburgh was convicted of blasphemy, having allegedly decried Christian doctrines as, collectively, “a rapsodie of feigned and ill-invented nonsense”.23 He was executed in early 1697, a sign of the fragility of academic freedom, and certainly amid controversy but, nonetheless, this was not a sign of the toleration Locke had appealed for in England in 1689.24 In light of this case, the failure of the case against Francis Hutcheson in Glasgow, a little over forty years later, in 1738, for his Moderate rejection of some of the grimmer aspects of Presbyterian doctrines on the utter depravity of humans, of the Elect, and the sole source of virtue in religious faith, is a sign of progress toward a more moderate Presbyterianism.25

And the Presbyterian legacy did, as I suggested earlier, after all, have a culturally positive dimension. George Buchanan, who has already been mentioned as one of James VI/I’s tutors, and an early Moderator of the General Assembly of the Kirk, had published a treatise on government in 1579, The Law of Government Among the Scots, advocating a form of popular sovereignty, albeit within the framework of the Kirk’s intrusive and inflexible refusal to recognize anything but its theological and moral doctrines. Buchanan asserted the duty of “the lowest and meanest of men” to resist tyranny to the point of killing the tyrant and conferring authority on a source capable of managing the affairs of government in the people’s interests26 – something abhorred by James, it was suggested. If this sentiment sits uneasily with the Kirk’s authoritarianism in other spheres, and never, in any event, formed a serious program of political action, it gestured toward a notion of order founded, not in rules, but in informed collective opinion, one embodied in the idea of the early presbytery, which selected its own minister. Moreover, in raising the issue of informed choice on the part of the “lowest and meanest”, it reflected what would be for centuries a tradition of concern by the Kirk for education. After all, in order to comply with the Kirk’s doctrines about religious and moral behavior, one had to be able to discover what they were. This approach to education did produce some material results as early as the mid-seventeenth century.

Ironically, in the year of Aikenhead’s conviction, 1696, the Scottish Parliament passed the Schools Act, authorizing the establishment in every parish of an elementary school, the master’s or “dominie’s” stipend to be met by the taxation of land. Girls as well as boys were included.27 A century later, Herman writes, Scotland would be the world’s most literate society, and publishing for the consumption of its readers would become one of the major forms of national economic activity.28 The long-established superiority of Scottish education, conceded by Macaulay in his advocacy of a more modest provision in England in 1847, is not uncontested – Colley’s “Scottophobia” continues into the present among the English – but it is otherwise difficult to see how Scots not only emigrated as desperately poor hopefuls from the Highlands, but came from the Lowlands, educated in the schools and universities, disproportionately to be represented as merchants in America and India, and as military officers and administrators in the East India Company and its successor, the Raj.29

The work of Miller and Camic30 suggests that from the late seventeenth century, parish and other schools, although varied in quality and the nature of the education they provided, were, in European terms – because of the Act of 1696 – unusually accessible, and included a wide social spectrum of the male and some of the female population of children. If Burns (1759–96), the plowman-philosopher-poet from Ayrshire, and James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd (1770–1835), from Selkirkshire, should not be taken as typical, parish school students did make their way to university, and the universities flourished, professors increasing their incomes from the fees they could charge for adding new courses to the curriculum – fees usually modest enough to attract students also from a variety of economic backgrounds; Masters students from the English dissenting academies and students from Europe, attracted by the universities’ growing international reputations. Americans, it has been suggested, found more that was useful to them in Scottish than in English universities, of which there were only two semi-serious Protestant institutions. A number of Scottish academics, such as John Witherspoon, signatory to the Declaration of Independence, were attracted to work in colonial and postcolonial America. But not only was scholarship taken seriously as an institutional practice in Scotland, but the experience of mixing with a socially varied student body in both provincial town schools and in universities helped, according to Camic, to create an intellectual climate in which a tolerant form of universalism could flourish. If the Scots were, in the modern sense, less democratic than the revolutionary Americans, both embraced considerable elements of egalitarianism in their thought.

Arendt on the Metaphysics of Sovereignty, the Impossibility of Certainty

One can conclude – as indeed our whole tradition of thought has concluded – that the essence of politics is rulership, and that the dominant political passion is the passion to rule or govern. This, I propose, is profoundly untrue. The fact that political elites have always determined the political destinies of the many and have, in most cases, exercised domination over them indicates, on the one hand, the bitter need of the few to protect themselves from the many; or rather, to protect the island of freedom against the surrounding sea of necessity, and it indicates on the other, the responsibility that falls automatically upon those who care for the fate of those who do not.31

The thought that the description of political discourse in twelfth century France, metaphysics in nineteenth century Germany and painting in fifteenth century Urbino might some day flow together to create a seamless tapestry which would be our ideal Intellectual History of Europe is an elevating one. But it is the idea of a book written by no human hand.32

The first quotation above reflects the concern we have seen Arendt expressing in her work about the threat posed to political freedom by the strong notion of sovereignty that was to inform legal positivist thinking in the nineteenth century – the sovereign as sole authority for government and unique and certain source of valid law. She contrasts the American and French Revolutions, arguing that the latter, by substituting popular for Absolutist political sovereignty, missed the opportunity taken by the Americans for liberating themselves from the single sovereignty the British were belatedly trying to impose on them from Westminster.

The sovereignty of the Absolutist French monarch was not to be resisted, since he was the deputy of the Divine. The General Will was substituted by the revolution for Absolutism, but in practical terms, she remarks, it is always a person or an official who speaks for the popular and who, therefore, like the Bourbons, is not to be resisted. The Americans, in Arendt’s view, had the advantage of not confronting either this legacy of political absolutism or the French “sea of necessity”, the poverty of a large population faced with the inability to mobilize the resources to ameliorate that necessity. For both the French legacy of politics and the prevailing poverty, certainty of knowledge and leadership were necessary, but at the same time unattainable, like the history to which Rorty et al refer us in the above quotation. In a large land with apparently unlimited resources, Americans recognized the role of the compacts, negotiations and compromise in forming the basis of cultural and social order among white men. Here is Jefferson’s “agreement of the people”, a political phenomenon different from that of the Convention Parliament mainly in its inclusion of a larger proportion of the population.

Arendt’s argument is too complex to be followed any further here, addressing as it does, not merely the question of how the apparent legitimacies of different kinds of political order are established, but a conviction that haunted her work, that social and liberal democracy, dictatorship and totalitarianism exist on a continuum such that one can slide from the first to the last category all too easily. Arriving in the United States as a wartime refugee, for example, she recognized the possibly corrosive effects in the post-World War II era of one of the reasons for the republic’s early success – its affluence compared with 1789 France. Affluence in 1776 was by 1950 in danger of becoming obsessive consumerism, material goods and private display displacing citizenship and public service.33

She escaped totalitarianism to a liberal democracy that within a few years of her arrival survived the McCarthyist era in the United States, even if worse things were to come. We seem increasingly in “the west” to be moving from the social/liberal democracy that characterized the immediate aftermath of World War II to a crackpot authoritarianism that, confronted by timorous intellectual opposition, justifies itself in terms of economic development and the need to counter with warlike measures ever-substitutable “enemies” – communism, drug traffickers and other kinds of mafia; and now Islam and terrorism. These are wars, which conveniently cannot be won, especially since the later ones were initially financed and then provoked by the very powers that condemn them.34 It is all part of what Furedi and others have termed “the politics of fear”, the justification for increased state control of populations.35

Re-Scripting the Great Chain of Being

For the moment, whilst not abandoning the issue of political legitimacy and its implication with legality with which the chapter began, and which no reference to Arendt’s work can ignore, I want to turn to the continuities with an earlier tradition of thought represented by aspects of the Scottish Enlightenment, but also some divergences and relations between epistemological and political challenges to authority. I can do this by juxtaposing two unlikely candidates: the great chain of being and some tendencies of the work of Immanuel Kant.

Berry’s remarks, quoted earlier,36 trace the questioning by the subject of its own subjection. As the subject gains power, as the inquiring agent through whom the regularities of the universe are known, its political power over its own regulation becomes an issue. The implication of Chapter 2, and the argument I shall develop here is that in an important sense the early modern and eighteenth century thought with which I am concerned here had not abandoned, but merely re-oriented or recharacterized the aspect of a theme apparently commonplace, if losing its credibility in its original form, in Elizabethan cosmology, one that has been termed the great chain of being.37

Conventionally, in the divine gaze, every particle of the universe is connected in some way with every other. The unnatural upsetting of authority represented by the murder of King Duncan by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in the tragedy of that name, for example, is famously accompanied in the play by stories among the servants of equally unnatural events in the heavens and by the revolt of beasts against their masters. When Shakespeare’s King Lear unnaturally relinquishes his power and divides his realm among his daughters, two of them respond with an equally unnatural withdrawal of their love and care for the dignity and even personhood of their father, who at one point stands on a storm-blasted heath accompanied only by a perceptive fool and the Earl of Kent, blinded by Lear’s daughter.38

In the intellectual reorganization that accompanied, as both cause and effect, the political upheavals of the seventeenth century, the discerning gaze became primarily a human one – obviously, in the case of the drama, the members of the audience – hence the aptness of Edmund’s expression of skepticism before the audience at the court in 1605.39 Intellectual emphasis had by the middle seventeenth and eighteenth centuries changed to questions about human judgment, understanding and the form of their organization.40

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