Francis Hutcheson on Liberty

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This paper aims to reconstruct Francis Hutcheson's thinking about liberty. Since he does not offer a detailed treatment of philosophical questions concerning liberty in his mature philosophical writings I turn to a textbook on metaphysics. We can assume that he prepared the textbook during the 1720s in Dublin. This textbook deserves more attention. First, it sheds light on Hutcheson's role as a teacher in Ireland and Scotland. Second, Hutcheson's contributions to metaphysical disputes are more original than sometimes assumed. To appreciate his independent thinking, I argue, it is helpful to take the intellectual debates in Ireland into consideration, including William King's defence of free will and discussions of Shaftesbury's views in Robert Molesworth's intellectual circle. Rather than taking a stance on the philosophical disputes about liberty, I argue that Hutcheson aims to shift the focus of the debates towards practical questions concerning control of desire, cultivation of habits, and character development.
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Archival date: 2020-08-11
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