Hutcheson, Francis

Hutcheson, Francis called by Mackintosh the "father of speculative philosophy in Scotland," was the son of a Presbyterian minister in Ireland, and was born Aug. 8, 1694. He entered the University of Glasgow in 1710, and afterwards became minister of a Presbyterian church in the north of Ireland; but, preferring the study of philosophy to theology, he was induced to open a private academy at Dublin. The publication of some of his works soon procured him the friendship of many distinguished persons, and in 1729 he was called as professor of moral philosophy to the University of Glasgow. He died in 1747. His principal works are, Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiaria, ethices et jurisprudentiae naturalis elementa continens (Glasgow, 1742, 12mo): — A short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, containing the Elements of Ethics and the Law of Nature, translated (Glasgow, 1747, sm. 8vo): — An Essay on the Vature and Conduct of Passions and Affections (3rd ed. Glasgow 1769, sm. 8vo): — Synopsis metaphysicae, Ontologicam et Pneumatologiams complectens (editio sexta, Glasgow 1774, small 8vo): — An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, in two treatises (5th edit. corrected, London, 1753, 8vo): — Letters between the late Mr. Gilbert Burnet and IM. Hutcheson concerning the true Foundation of Virtue or Moral Goodness, etc. (London, 1735, 8vo). After his death, his System of Moral Philosophy was published by his son, Francis Hutcheson, M.D., with a sketch of his life and writings by Dr. William Leechman (Glasgow 1755, 2 vols. 4to). "In his metaphysical system Hutcheson rejected the theory of innate ideas and principles, but insisted upon the admission of certain universal propositions, or, as he terms them, metaphysical axioms, which are self- evident and immutable. These axioms are primary and original, and do not derive their authority from any simpler and antecedent principle.

Consequently, it is idle to seek a criterion of truth, for this is none other than reason itself, or, in the words of Hutcheson, 'menti cogenita intelligendi vis.' Of his ontological axioms two are important: Everything exists really; and no quality, affection, or action is real, except in so far as it exists in some object or thing. From the latter proposition, it follows that all abstract affirmative propositions are hypothetical, that is, they invariably suppose the existence of some object without which they cannot be true. Truth is divided into logical, moral, and metaphysical. Logical truth is the agreement of a proposition with the object it relates to; moral truth is the harmony of the outward act with the inward sentiments; lastly, metaphysical truth is that nature of a thing wherein it is known to God as that which actually it is, or it is its absolute reality. Perfect truth is in the infinite alone. The truth of finite things is imperfect, inasmuch as they are limited. It is, however, from the finite that the mind rises to the idea of absolute truth, and so forms to itself a belief that an absolute and perfect nature exists, which, in regard to duration and space, is infinite and eternal. The soul, as the thinking essence, is spiritual and incorporeal. Of its nature we have, it is true, but little knowledge; nevertheless, its specific difference from body is at once attested by the consciousness. It is simple and a active; body is composite and passive. From the spiritual nature of the soul, however, Hutcheson does not derive its immortality, but makes this to rest upon the goodness and wisdom of God." In moral philosophy he was the first to use the term "moral sense" to denote "the faculty which perceives the morality of actions," and he held it to be an essential part of human nature. "He allows the appellation of good to those actions alone which are disinterested and flow from the principle of benevolence. The last has no reference to expediency nor personal advantages, nor even to the more refined enjoyments of moral sympathy, the obligations of reason and truth, or of the divine will. It is a distinct and peculiar principle, a moral sentiment or instinct of great dignity and authority, and its end is to regulate the passions, and to decide, in favor of virtue, the conflict between the interested and disinterested affections. On this foundation Hutcheson erected all the superstructure of the moral duties." See English Cyclopedia; Mackintosh, History of Ethical Philosophy, p. 126; Tennemann, [Manual History of Philosophy, § 350; Stud. u. Krit. 1866, p. 406; Morell, History of Mod. Philippians p. 179 sq.; M'Cosh, Intuitions of the Mind, p. 92, 248, 411 sq.; Allibone, Dict. of Authors, 1, 926. Hutcheson, George, an English Biblical scholar, of' whose early life but little is known, flourished about the middle of the 17th century. He was a minister first at Colomonell, and later at Edinburgh, but was ejected for nonconformity about 1660. In 1669 he preached at Irvine, though he continued steadfastly to oppose the use of the Episcopal liturgy. He died hi 1678. He wrote, Exposition of the twelve Minor Prophets (Lond. 1655, sm. 8vo): — Exposit. of John (1657, fol.): — Exposition of Job (1669, fol.): — Forty-five Sermons on the 130th Psalm (Edinb. 1691, 8vo). — Kitto, Bibl. Cyclop. 2, 345; Allibone, Dict. of Authors, 1, 927. (J. H. W.)

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