“Presbyterianism and Enlightenment”
Min Tae Cha *23, University of Southern California
Wed, 1/31 · 4:30 pm—6:00 pm · 211 Dickinson Hall or Zoom
Center for Collaborative History
This seminar will be offered in hybrid, both in-person and online via Zoom. Registration is only required for those who attend virtually.
The “Scottish Enlightenment” is a key component of the narrative of modernity. Many of the problems discussed by such thinkers as David Hume and Adam Smith are still with us in one form or another, in many sub-disciplines of philosophy and social science.
Because of the key thinkers associated with it, the Scottish Enlightenment has often been associated with a form of liberal Protestantism, or outright atheism. This has left the majority religious group within Scotland—the Presbyterians—in a curious position. It would almost seem as if the innovative wave of ideas simply passed by most of the residents of the locale wherein they originated. There has been occasional efforts made to connect the two phenomena—Presbyterianism and Enlightenment—but they hardly amount to a full treatment.
In this presentation, Cha examines the many intersections between Presbyterianism and Enlightenment over the “long” eighteenth century, c.1680-c.1840. He will situate the Scottish Enlightenment within the broader context of religious and intellectual trends in England, continental Europe, and America over the same period. Cha will stress the importance of thinking about precursors as well as afterlives, continuity as well as change, in conceptualizing the “Scottish Enlightenment(s).”
Min Tae Cha is Nova Forum Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Religion, University of Southern California. He earned a Ph.D. in History (2023) with the dissertation “Constitutional Religion: Presbyterians between the British and American Empires.” He is interested in the intersections of religious and legal-constitutional history, transnational ethno-religious networks, secularization, and the social history of ideas.