Francis Hutcheson

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Hutcheson, Francis (1694–1746). Scots-Irish philosopher. Educated for the kirk at Glasgow University, he returned to Ireland, taught at a dissenting academy in Dublin, and became the most prominent member of Viscount Molesworth's radical Whig circle. He made his reputation by publishing three metaphysical treatises between 1725 and 1728 attacking Mandeville's sceptical The Fable of the Bees, and attempting to prove that the roots of human sociability lay in a moral sense which would make men and women sociable and virtuous. Professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow from 1729 to 1746, he revolutionized the university's moral philosophy curriculum and attempted to justify toleration and a radical interpretation of the British constitution in terms of the principles of human nature. Distrusted by orthodox presbyterians, he was regarded by Hume and Adam Smith as an inspirational if misguided student of human nature. His political thought was much admired in colonial America.

Nicholas Phillipson

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Francis Hutcheson (hŭch´əsən), 1694–1746, British philosopher, b. Co. Down, Ireland. He was a professor at the Univ. of Glasgow from 1729 until his death. His reputation rests on four essays published anonymously while he was living in Dublin, prior to his college teaching. Two of them were included in An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725) and two in An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense (1728). Although one of the first to write on the subject of aesthetics, he was primarily known in the field of ethics. According to Hutcheson, man has many senses, the most important of which is the moral sense. This "benevolent theory of morals," in which man has a desire to do good, was a development of Shaftesbury's natural affection to benevolent action and was in opposition to Hobbes's theories. The criterion of moral action was the "greatest happiness for the greatest numbers," an anticipation of the utilitarian philosophers in word as well as spirit.

See his System of Moral Philosophy (with memoir by Rev. W. Leechman, 1755). See studies by W. L. Taylor (1965), P. Kivy (1976), and V. Hope (1989).