Hutcheson, Francis

Hutcheson, Francis

(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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hutcheson, Francis


Born Aug. 8, 1694, in Drumalig, County Down, Ireland; died in 1746 in Glasgow. Scottish philosopher.

Hutcheson became a professor of moral philosophy in Glasgow in 1729. He systematized and developed the ideas of Shaftsbury and influenced Hume and Adam Smith. According to Hutcheson, underlying beauty, morality, and religion there are particular and mutually independent “internal senses”—aesthetic, moral, and religious. Thus, the moral sense is the instinctive emotional approval or disapproval of behavior. Differentiating “affections” as prolonged and clear attractions and “passions” as unstable and blind, Hutcheson understood virtue as an affection toward universal welfare—“the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Philanthropy and consciousness of duty are not utilitarian, according to Hutcheson: rather, they are similar to a natural drive. Inasmuch as moral feeling also exists among nonbelievers, ethics for Hutcheson do not depend on religion. The teachings of Hutcheson were directed against Hobbes and Mandeville and in opposition to eudaemonism and rationalism.

Hutcheson’s aesthetics are in accord with the teachings of Kant with respect to the disinterestedness of aesthetic enjoyment; but in contradistinction to Kant, Hutcheson affirms the emotional origin of the beautiful. The basic principles of the beautiful are, for Hutcheson, harmony, proportion, and unity in diversity.


Works, vols. 1–6. Glasgow, 1769–74.
In Russian translation:
In F. Hutcheson, D. Hume, and A. Smith, Estetika. Moscow, 1973. Pages 43–269.


“Angliiskie deisty XVII i XVIII stoletii.” Zap. imp. Novorossiiskogo un-ta, 1868, vol. 3, issue 1.
Meerovskii, B. V. “Estetika Frensisa Khatchesona.” In F. Hutcheson, D. Hume, and A. Smith, Estetika. Moscow, 1973. Pages 7–41.
Vigone, L. L’etica del senso morale in F. Hutcheson. Milan, 1954.
Blackstone, W. T. Francis Hutcheson and Contemporary Ethical Theory. Athens, Ga., 1965.
Ossowska. M. Myśl moralna oświecenia angielskiego. Warsaw, 1966.
Scott, W. R. Francis Hutcheson: His Life, Teaching and Position in the History of Philosophy. New York, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Hutcheson, Francis (1971), Illustrations on the Moral Sense.
Hutcheson, Francis (1990), Collected Works, Fabian, Bernhard (ed.), Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, vol.
Innes Addison, A Roll of Graduates of the University of Glasgow (Glasgow: James MacLehose & Sons, 1898), 686, which lists 'Hutcheson, Francis, Professor Of Moral Philosophy, 1730-1746 ...