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Books by Francis Hutcheson - Discover Saintfield

Francis Hutchson wrote many books, some of the most influential of which were completed during his time in Dublin.  All were highly respected by philosophers in Europe and North America, both during his life time and after.

In recent years academics around the world have recognised once again the major contribution his thoughts, letters and books have made to the evolution of liberal democracy.  One outcome of this is that many of his books have recently been reprinted.

Saintfield Heritage Society has recently purchased the following books by and about Francis Hutcheson for donation to the Linenhall Library in Belfast on 9 May 2012, where they will be available for reference.

An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, edited and with an introduction by Wofgang Leidhold.  This was Hutcheson’s first major publication, in 1725.  It contained some innovative and controversial ideas that were the foundation for the eighteenth century enlightenment and influenced the drafting of the Virginia Bill of Rights, the forerunner of the American Constitution.  It is in this book that the phrase “That action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers” is first coined, a philosophy that was later developed by Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarians.  In this book Hutcheson also argues for the right of resistance to inadequate government.  His ideas became part of the liberal creed and were used by the leaders of the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the United Irishmen, all of which attempted to replace monarchy with a form of liberal democracy.  Some of Hutcheson’s thinking was also used in the development of the anti-slavery movement.

Letters Concerning the True Foundation of Virtue or Moral Goodness, Wrote in a Correspondence Between Mr. Gilbert Burnet and Mr. Francis Hutcheson. Following publication of Inquiry Gilbert Burnet wrote a letter of criticism, published in the Dublin Weekly Journal.  Hutcheson replied and there was a lengthy correspondence between them through the pages of the Journal. The letters were signed using pen names, including Philaretus, Philanthropus, Philopatris, Philomeides, and P.M.    Hutcheson addressed his letters to “Hibernicus” and Gilbert addressed his to “Britannicus”. A collection of the letters, described by Burnet in the preface as “this small controversy”, was first published in 1772 by Robert Foulis, a former student of Hutcheson’s whose publishing house in Glasgow printed many of Hutcheson’s works.

An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense, edited and with an introduction by Aaron Garrett, first published in 1728.  Hutcheson’s Inquiry provoked many letters of criticism and support, particularly about his theory of the passions.  In the Essay he explains his views of desire and sentiment more precisely, defending many of the ideas of Shaftesbury and rebutting those of Mandeville as formulated in his Fable of the Bees of 1723.  The Essay and Inquiry were widely translated and vastly influential throughout the eighteenth century in England, continental Europe and America.

Hutcheson: Two Texts on Human Nature, edited by Thomas Mautner;  The first of these, Reflections on our Common Sense of Morality, was published in The London Journal in 1724.  The second is the 1730 printing of his inaugural lecture as Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow entitled  The Social Nature of Man. In a contemporary report of this lecture Robert Wodrow wrote that  “He delivered it very fast and low, being a modest man, and it was not well understood.”  Mautner covers Hutcheson’s life and work, the intellectual environment of his day, Hutcheson’s contribution and early reactions to him. He also includes a detailed bibliography of Hutcheson’s works.

Philosophiae Moralis Institutio Compendiaria with A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy edited and with an introduction by Luigi Turco.  This reprint comprises the original Latin work published in 1742 and its translation into English dating from 1747.  Each page of the Latin original has the English translation beside it.  Hutcheson aimed the work at university students and it had a large circulation within Scottish universities, Irish and English dissenting academies, and American colleges.  The aim of the book was twofold: on one hand, to put forward an optimistic view of God, human nature, and the harmony of the universe; on the other hand, to provide students with the knowledge of natural law required by the university curriculum.

A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, in Three Parts: Containing the Elements of Ethicks (sic), and the Law of Nature; This is a reprint of the 1787 edition of the translation from the original Latin version, Philosophiae Moralis Institutio Compendiaria, published in 1742 and aimed, principally, at students.

A System of Moral Philosophy, with an introduction by Daniel Carey (Note that this reprint mis-spells Hutcheson’s Christian name as “Frances” on the covers, but not in the introduction).  The original was published after Hutcheson’s death by his son in 1755.  It is Hutcheson’s longest philosophical work and contains his later thoughts on subjects first covered in earlier books.  The first edition had more than 400 subscribers (listed in the reprint), including bishops, archbishops, Cambridge and Glasgow professors, gentry, MPs and scores of ministers of religion.  Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Thomas Reid, Lord Kames, Edward Synge and Archbishop Robinson of Armagh were subscribers.  Archbishop Robinson’s personal copy can be seen in the Armagh Public Library. One name on the list of subscribers is “John Adams”.  It is known from his diary that the American John Adams, who was a founding father of the United States, read Francis Hutcheson.  It would be interesting to know if he were the subscriber of the same name.  The reprint also contains the original preface, Giving some Account of the Life, Writings, and Character of the Author, by Hutcheson’s contemporary at Glasgow University, Dr. William Leechman, Professor of Divinity.

Logic, Metaphysics and the Natural Sociability of Mankind, edited by James Moore and Michael Silverthorne.  This reprint comprises three of Hutcheson’s writings.  The first is A Compend of Logic, published posthumously in 1756.  The second is A Synopsis of Metaphysics, published in1744.  These represent Hutcheson’s only systematic treatments of logic, ontology, and pneumatology, or the science of the soul.  Both were written in Latin and were intended for instructing students.  They ran to six and seven editions respectively.  The third writing is his inaugural oration, On the Natural Sociability of Mankind.

Reflections Upon Laughter, and Remarks Upon the Fable of the Bees. These were published together in book form in 1750.  They had been originally published in the Dublin Journal, when Francis Hutcheson signed himself “Your very humble Servant, Philomeides”, Philomeides meaning ” lover of laughter”.


Thoughts on Laughter and Observations on “The Fable of the Bees” in Six Letters, with an introduction by John Price.  This edition was originally published in 1758.  Francis Hutcheson’s three essays on laughter first appeared in the Dublin Journal on 5, 12, and 19 June 1725, and were signed “Philomeides”  In 1726 Hutcheson published three essays critical of Bernard Mandeville’sFable of the Bees (1714) on 4, 12,, and 19 February, in the same journal, this time signing the anonymous essays “P.M.”

The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus by Francis Hutcheson and James Moor, edited and with an introduction by James Moore (Emeritus Professor of Political Science and leading scholar on the scottish Enlightenment) and Michael Silverthorne.  This translation, from Gataker’s erudite seventeenth century Greek and Latin versions, was originally published in 1742.  Hutcheson was reluctant to claim which parts of the translation were his work and, therefore, make clear which were the work of James Moor (university librarian of the University of Glasgow in 1742 and Professor of Greek in 1746).  Scholars now believe that Hutcheson translated ten of the twelve books of the original work.

Francis Hutcheson His Life, Teaching and Position in the History of Philosophy; Written by William Scott and first  published in 1900. This is still the definitive biography of Francis Hutcheson and has not been superseded.

Francis Hutcheson in Dublin, 1719-1730: The Crucible of His Thought (2002) by Michael Brown, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Irish Scottish Studies in Trinity College, Dublin.