Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 1: Francis Hutcheson

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    • 00:02

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR: In the 18th century,something really spectacularly interestinghappened in Scotland.Now, this might come as a surprisebecause most people don't think of Scotlandas being a spectacularly interesting place.But in the 18th century it was because we have the dawnof the Scottish enlightenment.I want to point out to American audiences

    • 00:22

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: that we have yet to have an American enlightenment.We just have the Scott's version.So that's what we're going to focus on.And it's spectacular.You have a small, dank country, coveredin hills, sheep, and heather.And it produces philosophical and economic geniuses,who have influence, not just on their compatriots,

    • 00:45

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: but have influence on economics and philosophy even today.And one of the giants of the Scottish enlightenmentis Francis Hutcheson.Hutcheson was not himself Scott.He was Irish.But he moved to Scotland as soon as he possibly could,which is the hallmark of his obvious genius.Hutcheson was fantastic.Hutcheson is the Scottish enlightenment equivalent

    • 01:07

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: of the blue touch paper on a fire work.You light it.And it starts burning, burning.And then suddenly the whole thing just explodes.Because Hutcheson has a tremendous influenceon many of his contemporaries.In particular, he has influence on Adam Smith and David Hume.Moreover, Hutcheson's views resonate today.We have many prominent bioethicists

    • 01:29

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: who have the ears of presidents, such as Leon Kass, with GeorgeW. Bush, who offer a form of Hutchesonianmoral sentimentalism as a justificationfor their views in bioethics.So Hutcheson, writing in the 18th century,resonates today and is still tremendously influential.So what's important about Hutcheson?

    • 01:50

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: The most important thing about Hutchesonis his sentimentalist approach to morality.Hutcheson recognized and accepted,as everybody in the 18th century and nowdoes, that people have five senses, sight, hearing, taste,touch, and the like.But Hutcheson held that people have three further senses.

    • 02:11

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: They have a public sense, a sense of honor,and a moral sense.Now, Hutcheson believed that these are genuine senses.But he didn't think that there was anything spookyor mysterious about them.They are very straightforward in their operation.Let's give you an example.Hutcheson believes that persons have a public sense.

    • 02:32

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: You feel pleasure of a person's happiness.You feel pain at their lack of success or their misfortune.And this comes perfectly naturallyand without any intermediate judgment.It is, after all, a sense.And notice how your other senses work.You smell rotten milk, which is a common experience

    • 02:56

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: in Scotland.You don't sit down and judge this milk is rottenand then have the scent.You just smell it.And it hits you.And you smell the rottenness of the milk.The public sense, for Hutcheson, works just like that.You see somebody experiencing misfortune.You feel sadness as a result of this.You see somebody experiencing good fortune

    • 03:16

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: and you feel happy as a result of this.This is something that people experience every day, not justwith respect to real people, but also with respectto fictional characters.You see movies.The hero does badly.You feel unhappy.If the hero does well, you feel very happy indeed,especially it seems if the hero happensto be a little furry dog.

    • 03:37

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: People like little furry dogs.Well, notice what the point is for Hutcheson.People have a genuine public sense.They also have a sense of honor.And by this, Hutcheson means something quite specific.You have a sense of honor when youreceive appropriate gratitude for a good deedthat you have done.It makes you feel happy.

    • 03:59

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: You don't sit down and think that gratitude was appropriate.Rather, you simply receive it and you feel happinessas a result.Again, like the unhappiness or the happinessthat you experience from your public sensewhen you see the fortune or misfortunes of others,your sense of honor leads you to have certain affections.

    • 04:19

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: And so, too, does your sense operate in this waywith respect your moral sense.And here is where we move into the core of Hutcheson'smoral philosophy.Persons have a moral sense, claims Hutcheson.You feel approval when you recognizethe persons have performed good, virtuous actions.

    • 04:40

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: You feel disapproval, naturally, when you feel, believe,and sense that they haven't.Let's give you a very simple example.You all have been out for a meal with friends.And somebody collects the money and thenis supposed to pay your server.They do pay the server.But they leave a really bad tip.

    • 05:00

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: You might feel that's the wrong thing to do.You feel this almost visceral reactionto your friend's poor behavior.You didn't sit there and think is this rational self-interestin action or not.You simply think that was not the right thing to do.Your moral sense is offended.Now, you might think where does this moral sense come from?

    • 05:23

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Why are we concerned about the interests of other people?For Hutcheson, the answer is straightforward.We have a calm, stable dispositiontowards universal benevolence.In this, Hutcheson is reacting againstthe psychological egoism of Thomas Hobbes, whoheld that persons were rationallyself-interested and always acted in their own self-interest.

    • 05:45

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Not at all, claims Hutcheson.People are, instead, generally benevolent.Moreover, for Hutcheson, Thomas Hobbesis not only wrong in ascribing rational self-interestto agents, he's also dangerous.Because if we think that we are just purely rationallyself-interested and we fail to recognize natural benevolence,

    • 06:06

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: we might not try to develop our benevolent affections.Indeed, we might even try to crush from.Now, one might say, in response to Hutcheson,couldn't we just say that our benevolence worksto our advantage?After all, we tend to like to associatewith benevolent persons.So if you're a benevolent person,you're going to gain certain social advantages.

    • 06:28

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Hutcheson's response is straightforward.Not so.Benevolence can't be reduced to self-interestbecause benevolence, remember, is simply an affection.It's a moral sense.We don't mediate our senses through the will.Moreover, there might be certain acts of benevolencewhich actually cut against our obvious self-interest.

    • 06:49

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: For example, you might be a donorto the Institute for Humane Studies or to your alumniassociation.You could have used something elsewith that money, which would give youmore obvious and immediate gratification.But you don't because you think it'simportant to support the causes that you believe are worthyor to support your alma mater's fund driving effort.

    • 07:11

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: So you act benevolently even if yourecognize this might not be strictly in your self-interest.For Hutcheson then, benevolence and self-interestare going to come apart.Hutcheson is incredibly influential.He develops a moral sentimentalist accountof morality, which influences David Hume and Adam Smith,

    • 07:32

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: two other giants of the Scottish enlightenment.He is important for us today because he influencesmany of the debates which affects public policy,such as the views of Leon Kass.And finally, he's simply somebodywho offers an account of human naturethat we might like to take on-board when we're consideringhow to arrange institutions.

    • 07:54

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: After all, if Hutcheson is right,and people are generally benevolent,we might want to arrange our institutions very differentlythan if we considered people to bein a Hobbesian sense, rational self-interested predatorsof one another.So if Hutcheson's view of this is correct,we're going to have a very different view of society

    • 08:14

      JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: than if Hobbes is correct.And now, let's turn to Adam Smith and David Humeand see where they take the Hutcheson firework.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 1: Francis Hutcheson

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Abstract

Professor James Stacey Taylor begins this multi-part series by analyzing the work of Francis Hutcheson. He reflects upon moral sentimentalism and the influence Hutcheson's work would have on the future of Scottish thought.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 1: Francis Hutcheson

Professor James Stacey Taylor begins this multi-part series by analyzing the work of Francis Hutcheson. He reflects upon moral sentimentalism and the influence Hutcheson's work would have on the future of Scottish thought.

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