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Francis Hutcheson

Glasgow University Library Special Collections

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Francis Hutcheson

An engraving of Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), the philosopher and "founding father" of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Born in County Down, the son of an Irish Presbyterian minister, Hutcheson came to Glasgow to study philosophy, classics, and theology at the University. He returned to Ireland in 1718 intending to acquire a licence to preach as a minister. Instead he founded a Presbyterian academy in Dublin for ten years before he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow in 1729. He became an immensely popular and influential lecturer, not least because he chose to defy convention and lecture in English rather than in Latin.

Hutcheson's most important publications were Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725) and An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations of the Moral Sense (1728). In direct contradiction of the teachings of Joseph Hobbes, he argued that man had an innate "moral sense" and that "that action is best that secures the greatest happiness for the greatest number." His writings and teachings had a great influence on the development of the school of "common sense" philosophy in Scotland and on the development of the ideas of Thomas Jefferson and others, who were to frame the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.

Reference: Sp Coll Bm10-c.13

Glasgow University Library, Special Collections

American Revolution, authors, common sense philosophy, ethics, ministers, moral philosophers, moral philosophy, professors, Scottish Enlightenment, University of Glasgow

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