The Scottish Enlightenment (Scots: Scottis Enlightenment) was the period in 18th century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were among the most literate citizens of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy. The culture was oriented to books, and intense discussions took place daily at such intellectual gathering places in Edinburgh as The Select Society and, later, The Poker Club as well as within Scotland’s ancient universities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Sharing the humanist and rationalist outlook of the European Enlightenment of the same time period, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment asserted the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which could not be justified by reason. They held to an optimistic belief in the ability of humanity to effect changes for the better in society and nature, guided only by reason. It was this latter feature which gave the Scottish Enlightenment its special flavour, distinguishing it from its continental European counterpart. In Scotland, the Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief virtues were held to be improvement, virtue and practical benefit for both the individual and society as a whole.
Among the fields that rapidly advanced were philosophy, political economy, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, law, agriculture, chemistry and sociology. Among the Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Francis Hutcheson, Alexander Campbell, David Hume, Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton.
The Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland itself, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held in Europe and elsewhere, but also because its ideas and attitudes were carried across the Atlantic world as part of the Scottish diaspora, and by American students who studied in Scotland.
 After the Act of Union 1707
In the period following the Act of Union 1707, Scotland's place in the world was altered radically. Following the Reformation, many Scottish academics were teaching in great cities of mainland Europe, then with the birth and rapid expansion of the new British Empire came a revival of philosophical thought in Scotland and a prodigious diversity of thinkers.
Arguably the poorest country in Western Europe in 1707, Scotland was then able to turn its attentions to the wider world without opposition from England. Scotland's benefit from free trade within the Union is occasionally overstated, as little attention was paid to Scotland and the economic issues it had in the first several decades after union. Some reforms of agriculture even worsened the problems. There was a substantial amount of black market trade in avoidance of English trade tariffs. With the intellectual benefits of having established Europe's first public education system since classical antiquity Scottish thinkers began questioning assumptions previously taken for granted; and with Scotland's traditional connections to France, then in the throes of the Enlightenment, the Scots began developing a uniquely practical branch of humanism to the extent that Voltaire said, "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization."
 Empiricism and inductive reasoning
The first major philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment was Francis Hutcheson, who held the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Glasgow from 1729 to 1746. A moral philosopher with alternatives to the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, one of his major contributions to world thought was the utilitarian and consequentialist principle that virtue is that which provides, in his words, "the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers."
Much of what is incorporated in the scientific method