Hutcheson, Dr. Francis

, a philosopher of the Shaftesbury school, was the son of a dissenting; minister in Ireland, and was born Aug. 8, 1694. He, discovered early a superior capacity, and ardent thirst after knowledge; and when he had gone through his school-education, was sent to an academy to begin his course of philosophy. In 1710 he removed from the academy, and entered a student in the university of Glasgow in Scotland. Here he renewed his study of the Latin and Greek languages, and applied himself to all parts of literature, in which he made a progress suitable to his uncommon abilities. Afterwards h.e turned his thoughts to divinity, which he proposed to make the peculiar study and profession of his life, and for the prosecution of this he continued several years longer at Glasgow.

He then returned to Ireland; and, entering into the ministry, was just about to be settled in a small congregation of dissenters in the north of Ireland, when some gentlemen about Dublin, who knew his great abilities and virtues, invited him to set up a private academy in that city, with which he complied, and met with much success. He had been fixed but a short time in Dublin, when his singular merits and accomplishments made him generally known; and his acquaintance was sought by men of all ranks, who had any taste for literature, or any regard for learned men. Lord Molesworth is said to have taken great pleasure in his conversation, and to have assisted him with his criticisms and observations upon his “Enquiry intp the Ideas of Beauty and Virtue,” before it came abroad. He received the same favour from Dr. Synge, bishop of Elphin, with whom he also lived in great friendship. The first edition of this performance came abroad without the author’s name, but the merit of it would npt suffer him to be Long concealed. Such was the reputation of the work, and the ideas it had raised of the author, that lord Granville, who was then lord-lieutenant of Ireland, sent his private secretary to inquire at the bookseller’s for the author; and when he could not learn his name, he left a letter to be cpnveyed to him: in consequence of which Mr. Hutcheson soon became acquainted with his excellency, and was treated by him, all the time he continued in his government, with distinguished marks of familiarity and esteem.

From this time he began to be still more courted by men of distinction, either for rank or literature, in, Ireland. | Abp. King held him in great esteem; and the friendship of that prelate was of great use to him in screening him from two attempts made to prosecute him, for taking upon him the education of youth, without having qualified himself by subscribing the ecclesiastical canons, and obtaining a license from the bishop. He had also a large share in the esteem of the primate Boulter, who, through his influence, made a donation to the university of Glasgow of a yearly fund for an exhibitioner, to be bred to any of the learned professions. A few years after his Inquiry into the Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, his “Treatise on the Passions” was published: these works have been often reprinted, and always admired both for the sentiment and language, even by those who have not assented to the philosophy of them, nor allowed it to have any foundation in nature. About this time he wrote some philosophical papers, accounting for laughter in a different way from Hobbes, and more honourable to human nature, which were published in the collection called “Hibernicus’s Letters.” Some letters in the “London Journal,1728, subscribed Philaretus, containing objections to some parts of the doctrine in “The Enquiry,” &c. occasioned his giving answers to them in those public papers. Both the letters and answers were afterwards published in a separate pamphlet.

After he had taught in a private academy at Dublin for seven or eight years with great reputation and success, he was called in 1729 to Scotland, to be professor of philosophy at Glasgow. Several young gentlemen came along with him from the academy, and his high reputation drew many more thither both from England and Ireland. After his settlement in the college, the profession of moral philosophy was the province assigned to him; so that now -he had full leisure to turn all his attention to his favourite study, human nature. Here he spent the remainder of his life in a manner highly honourable to himself, and ornamental to the university of which he was a member. His whole time was divided between his studies and the duties of his office; except what he allotted to friendship and society. A firm constitution, and a pretty uniform state of good health, except some few slight attacks of the gout, seemed to promise a longer life; yet he did not exceed his 53d year, dying in 1747. He was married soon after his settlement in Dublin, to Mrs. Mary Wilson, a gentleman’s daughter in the county of Longford; by whom he | left behind him one son, Francis Hutcheson, M. D. By this gentleman was published, from the original ms. of hi* father, “A System of Moral Philosophy,” in three books, Glasgow, 1755, 2 vols. 4to. To which is prefixed, “Some account of the Life, Writings, and Character of the Author,” by Dr. Leechman, professor of divinity in the same university. Dr. Hutcheson’s system of morals is, in its foundation, very nearly the same with that of lord Shaftesbury. He agrees with the noble author in asserting a distinct class of the human affections, which, while they have no relation to our own interest, propose for their end the welfare of others; but he makes out his position rather more clearly than Shaftesbury, who cannot exclude somewhat of the selfish as the spring of our benevolent emotions. Hutcheson maintains, that the pleasure arising from the performance of a benevolent action, is not the ruling principle in prompting to such actions; but that, independently of the selfish enjoyment, which is allowed in part to exist, there is in the human mind a calm desire of the happiness of all rational beings, which is not only consistent with, but of superior influence in regulating our conduct, to the desire of our own happiness; insomuch that, whenever these principles come into opposition, the moral sense decides in favour of the former against the latter. Dr. Hutcheson deduced all moral ideas from what he calls a moral sense t implanted in our natures, or an instinct like that of self-preservation, which, independently of any arguments taken from the reasonableness and advantages of any action, leads us to perform it ourselves, or to approve it when performed by others; and this moral sense he maintained to be the very foundation of virtue. His hypothesis was new, but whether much better than other theories of the same kind, may be questioned. His fame, in the opinion of an eminfent author, rests now chiefly on the traditionary history of his academical lectures, which appear to have contributed very powerfully to diffuse, in Scotland, that taste for analytical discussion, and that spirit of liberal inquiry, to which the world is indebted for some of the most valuable productions of the eighteenth century." 1


Biog. Brit. Supplement, Teller’s Life of Kames, Stewart’s life of Dr. Adam Smith.