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Hutcheson, Francis (* 1694.08.08 † 1746.08.08)

Basic Overview Data

Born
1694.08.08, Saintfield[Drumalig is near Saintfield, County Down, Ireland]
Died
1746.08.08, Dublin[Hutcheson died during a visit to Dublin]
Confession
Calvinist, moderate Presbyterian
Institutional Affiliation
University of Glasgow
Keyword Filters
moral sense, natural rights, natural law, common good
VIAF:
Important Family Relations:
Father, John Hutcheson (? - 1729.xx.xx), Presbyterian minister
Son, Francis Hutcheson (1721.08.13 - 1780.xx.xx), Physician(Francis Hutcheson was the nominal editor of his father's posthumous A System of Moral Philosophy. He composed songs under the pseudonym Francis Ireland)
Kanonische URL:

Biography:

Francis Hutcheson was born into a family of Presbyterian clergy in Drumalig, co. Down, Northern Ireland, and he himself was destined for the Dissenting ministry. Schooled locally at Saintfield and at a Dissenting academy run by the Rev. James McAlpine in Killyleagh, he went to the University of Glasgow in 1710 or 11. As was common, the academy had prepared him so that he could skip the first years at the University, and in fact he followed only the final year (logic) and then proceeded to divinity, graduating in 1718. Hutcheson returned to Ulster in 1718 and became a probationer at a Presbyterian congregation but never took up the ministry. Instead he set up his own academy in Dublin for Presbyterian and other non-conformist students from the circles in Ireland that objected to the obligation of ministers to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith. In Dublin he cultivated several connections with Anglican clergy, and his association with the aestheticising moral ideas of Shaftesbury and neo-republican ideas was reinforced by acquaintance with Robert, Viscount Molesworth. In this situation Hutcheson published the works in moral philosophy that made him famous. In 1730 he became professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow in succession to Gershom Carmichael. In this position he attracted a significant body of students, some of whom in turn became very influential, not least Adam Smith. In Glasgow Hutcheson became controversial because of his liberal theology that offended orthodox Calvinists in the community and in the student body. Also the faculty was fractious. Always an operator in the service of what he considered the cause of moral decency and public good, he spent much time and energy on these conflicts and had some success in securing the careers of his associates. He was also directly instrumental in the creation of a university press by two of his former students and allies, the brothers Foulis.

Comment on main natural law works:

Hutcheson formulated the idea that morality is perceived by a distinct sense that at the same time enables us to cultivate disinterested passions and thus to become virtuous. On this basis he rejected a wide variety of self-interest theories of morals, including what he saw as the leading natural law theories of Pufendorf and Cumberland. Nevertheless, he sought ways of combining moral sense theory with natural law and this became a dominant concern in his academic textbook, Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiaria, and especially in the posthumously published major synthesis of his ideas, the System of Moral Philosophy. The connecting link was that natural law functioned as a guide to the moral sense to avoid distortions away from the common good of humanity and thus towards the moral perfection that was the realisation of our moral potential as evidenced by the happiness arising from this effort. It has been suggested that Hutcheson in the early Inquiry saw natural rights as based purely on the indications by the moral sense of what could rightfully be done. This is controversial but if this was the intention in the Inquiry, the later two works offered a significant revision, for there the prima facie perceptions of the moral sense are subject to validation by the law of nature.

Comment on profile’s conception of natural law:

Hutcheson attempted to combine two different modes of moral philosophy, on the one hand a theory of virtue as perceived by a special moral sense, and on the other hand the idea of morals as a matter of duties and rights governed by a law and subject to sanctions. The former became fundamental in the concern with moral psychology that is characteristic of eighteenth-century moral theory and the best remembered aspect of it. The juridical mode has been less well remembered, but it was the combination of the two modes that was the basis for the practical social and political moralising of the period. What is more, it was the virtue theory that facilitated Hutcheson and others in combining a third practical language with natural law, namely neo-republican political ideas.

Academic Data

Studies

1707 - ../1711.03.03, Philosophy at the Dissenting Academy Killyleagh [James McAlpine]
1711.03.03 - 1712, Philosophy at the University of Glasgow [John Louden] (The date on which a student was registered was not necessarily at the beginning of his studies. This was probably the case with Hutcheson.)
1712 - 1718, Theology at the University of Glasgow [John Simson]

Academic Degree

1712.11.14, Magister artium at the University of Glasgow
1718, at the University of Glasgow
1746, Doctor juris at the University of St. Andrews

Academic Teaching

1720\..: General Arts at Dissenting Academy
1730: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1731: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1732: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1733: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1734: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1735: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1736: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1737: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1738: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1739: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1740: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1741: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1742: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1743: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1744: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1745: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy
1746: Moral philosophy, Lectures at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy

Professional Data

Career

172x - 1730, Leader of the academy at the Dissenting Academy (Very little is known about the academy that Hutcheson ran in Dublin. These institutions were generally small and quite informal compared with universities)
1730 - 1746, Professor of moral philosophy at University of Glasgow, Faculty of Philosophy

Titles, Memberships and Other Relevant Roles

1720\.., Founder, the Dissenting Academy, https://www.geonames.org/2964574/dublin.html

Printed Sources

Books:

An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue in Two Treatises, (Dublin: William and John Smith, 1725)
     2nd edition 1726, (London: J. Darby et al.)
     3rd edition 1729, (London: J. and J. Knapton et al.)
     4th edition 1738, (London: D. Midwinter et al.)
     The several variant versions of both the 1st and 4th editions are recorded in the re-edition by Wolfgang Leidhold, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, 2nd ed. 2008

An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense, (Dublin: John Smith and William Bruce, 1728)
     2nd edition 1730, (London: James and John Knapton et al.)
     3rd edition 1742, with Additions, (London: A. Ward et al.)
     Re-edition by Aaron Garrett, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, 2002

De naturali hominum socialitate oratio inauguralis, (Glasgow [printed for the University], 1730)
     Re-issue 1756
     English trans. in Logic, Metaphysics and the Natural Sociability of Man, pp. 189-216

Considerations on Patronages. Addressed to the Gentlemen of Scotland, (London: J. Roberts, 1735)

Metaphysicae synopsis: ontologiam, et pneumatologiam complectens, (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1742)
     2nd edition 1744, (Glasgow)
          Re-issues 1749, 1756, 1762, 1774, 1780.
          English trans. in Logic, Metaphysics and the Natural Sociability of Man, pp. 57-187

Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiaria. Ethices et jurisprudentiae naturalis elementa continens, (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1742)
     2nd edition 1745, (Glasgow)
          Re-issue 1755.
     English translation as, A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, in three Books; Containing the Elements of Ethicks and the Law of Nature, trans. anon., (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1747)
     Re-issues 1753, 1764, 1772.
     The Latin and English text together re-edited by Luigi Turco, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, 2007

[with James Moor], The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus new translated from the Greek with Notes; and and Account of His Life, (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1742)
     2nd edition 1749
          Re-issues, 1752, 1764.
     Re-edition by James Moore and Michael Silverthorne, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, 2008

A System of Moral Philosophy, in three Books, Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1755.
     Re-edition by Knud Haakonssen and Christian Maurer, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming

Logicae compendium. Praefixa est dissertatio de philosophiae origine, ejusque inventoribus aut excultoribus praecipuis, (Glasgow: Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1756)
      Reissues 1759, 1764, 1772, 1778, 1787.
      English trans., in: Logic, Metaphysics and the Natural Sociability of Man, pp. 1-56

Collected Works, facsimile editions prepared by Bernhard Fabian, 7 vols., Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1969-71

Logic, Metaphysics and the Natural Sociability of Mankind, ed. James Moore and Michael Silverthorne, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, 2006

Correspondence and Occasional Writings, ed. James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming


Dissertations:

Please contribute if possible


Periodica and Compiled Works:

Letters between the Late Mr. Gilbert Burnet, and Mr. Hutchinson, concerning the True Foundation of Virtue or Moral Goodness (London: P. Wilkins, 1735), containing correspondence in the London Journal in 1725-26.
     Now in Correspondence and Occasional Writings, ed. James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming

Reflections upon Laughter, Dublin Weekly Journal, June 1725.
     Now in Correspondence and Occasional Writings, ed. James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming

Remarks on the Fable of the Bees, Dublin Weekly Journal, February 1725/26.
     Now in Correspondence and Occasional Writings, ed. James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming


Ego-Documents and Biographical Materials:

Private Correspondence, in Correspondence and Occasional Writings, ed. James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming

Manuscript Sources

Manuscripts:

For Hutcheson's private correspondence, see Correspondence and Occasional Writings, ed. James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming

The manuscript of A System of Moral Philosophy: Glasgow University Library, GB 247 MS Gen. 110


Correspondence:

The Correspondence and Occasional Writings of Francis Hutcheson, edited by James Moore and M. A. Stewart, Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund, forthcoming


Ego-Documents and Biographical Materials:

Please contribute if possible

Direct Personal Connections:

Gershom Carmichael, [Carmichael was Hutcheson's predecessor as professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow. There is no record of direct contact between the two while Hutcheson was a student in Glasgow]
Adam Smith, Glasgow [Student of Hutcheson, 1737-1740]
Mikkel Munthe Jensen, Last Update:  17.03.2021