6

AGAINST THE SELFISH PHILOSOPHERS

Francis Hutcheson, Edmund Burke, and James Usher

After the savage indignation of Jonathan Swift, the good-natured moral and political philosophy of Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) presses itself to the mind like a healing balm. Hutcheson was born in the townland of Drumalig in Co. Down, the son of an Irish Presbyterian minister of Scottish parentage. He received his early education in a school held in a disused meeting house near Saintfield before going on to attend a dissenting academy in Killyleagh, also in Co. Down. His training at the Killyleagh academy seems to have been mainly in classics, scholastic philosophy, and theology. In 1710 he proceeded to the University of Glasgow, taking his MA degree there in 1712. The following year he enrolled in the theology department of the university, coming under the influence of the unorthodox professor of divinity, John Simpson. He completed his theology courses by 1717, and returned to Ireland in 1718 to his father's residence in Ballyrea in Co. Armagh. He entered the ministry of the local Presbyterian church a year later, licensed as a probationer by the general synod of Ulster, and apparently aligning himself with the liberal or 'New Light' tendency within the church. One of his earliest experiences of preaching was before his father's congregation in Ballyrea. The experience was not a happy one, principally because at least some members of his father's congregation were not yet ready for the exhortations of the 'New Light' philosophy. According to a story recounted by his biographer, he was judged in no uncertain terms by a forthright member

-168-

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A History of Irish Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • 1 - Interpreting Marvels 1
  • 2 - The Philosophy of Creation 18
  • 3 - Nature Observed 45
  • 4 - John Toland and the Ascendancy of Reason 82
  • 5 - Wonderfully Mending the World 124
  • 6 - Against the Selfish Philosophers 168
  • 7 - Peripheral Visions (1) 214
  • 8 - Peripheral Visions (2) 241
  • 9 - Between Extremities 285
  • Bibliography 321
  • Index 348
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