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Hutcheson on Ideas of Beauty and Virtue Review Essay

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Updated: Jun 30th, 2022

Francis Hutcheson, a famous and respected Scottish philosopher, is well known for his contribution to the fields of political rights, liberalism, and human nature. His activities and theories had a significant influence almost all around the world, and they were especially crucial for moral sentimentalism. The philosopher’s writings are mostly concentrated on human nature and promote a natural benevolence as opposed to Hobbes’s egoism and Pufendorf’s reward and punishment system.

In his book, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, Hutcheson supports the sensibility and internality of beauty, giving one argument for each. First, since pleasure is necessary and immediate, and it discerns beauty, this discernment becomes sensible (Shelley, 2020). Then, Hutcheson does not entirely agree with Shaftesbury regarding the idea of the mind alone being beautiful and states that the five external senses are insufficient for the discernment of beauty. Thus, perception of beauty is only a specific kind of internal sense that is irrational and has nothing to do with knowledge.

As for the actual proof of its discernment, Hutcheson does not provide it in An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. However, in An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, he mentions that an internal sense is “one whose ideas arise only if certain other ideas have already arisen” (Shelley, 2020, para. 1.2). Another Scottish philosopher, David Hume, suggests that the usefulness of objects at least in part defines their beauty, while Hutcheson disagrees with this idea since taste judgments are disinterested and usefulness perception is interested.

As for me, I find Hutcheson’s theories and ideas quite engaging. I agree with his thoughts regarding beauty and usefulness and the lack of dependence between them. Indeed, some objects are just beautiful without being quite useful, while those that are actually useful may not be perceived as beautiful by certain people. What is more, the idea of beauty not depending on knowledge appeals to me. It is not necessary to be aware of an object’s history or purpose to find it beautiful or not.

Reference

Shelley, J. (2020). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.

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