The Rise of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment

By Tatsuya Sakamoto; Hideo Tanaka | Go to book overview
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Morality, polity and economy in Francis Hutcheson

Toshiaki Ogose

This chapter aims to reinterpret Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) from the perspective of the Modern Order Problem-that is, how to construct a harmonious order in the functional interrelationships between members of a society. This problem was a common theme among eighteenth-century British thinkers, and it is still challenging for us today. We can also call this 'the Hobbesian order problem' because Thomas Hobbes explicitly claimed the necessity of state power to solve the problem of conflict between private and public interests. John Locke tried to solve it by emphasizing the power of self-control (liberty to strive to accomplish the highest good) in human nature. This view was followed by Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, 1671-1713), who regarded self-interest as part of the human mind incorporated into a preestablished harmony of the universe. However, he had to admit that it was possible only for a small number of virtuous men (whom he dubbed virtuosi) to harmonize their own self-interests with public interests. In contrast, Bernard Mandeville paradoxically demonstrated that the pursuit of private interests could lead to public interests, but he eventually had to ask for the help of a 'cunning politician' in order to resolve this paradox. Following Shaftesbury and criticizing Mandeville, Hutcheson managed to construct a system of harmonious order among all the members of society. Considering this historical process, and trying to account for the way in which Hutcheson was able to establish his system of harmonious order, I will examine the main structure of his system as it relates to the main fields of moral philosophy: morality, polity, and economy, with special attention to how he accepted or criticized the thoughts of his contemporaries in his system.

Two strands in Hutcheson's thought

To begin with, it is important to examine the thinking Hutcheson developed in his adolescence, and how he incorporated it into his system. 1 We should first note that Hutcheson learned the Continental tradition of jurisprudence based on natural law, especially in its Pufendorfian version, probably from Gershom Carmichael (1672?-1729) at Glasgow University. Carmichael, following Leibniz's criticism that Pufendorfian theory lacked sufficient theological founda-


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