Francis Hutcheson and John Clarke: Self-Interest, Desire, and Divine Impassibility

International Philosophical Quarterly 57 (3):315-330 (2017)
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In this article I address a puzzle about one of Francis Hutcheson’s objections to psychological egoism. The puzzle concerns his premise that God receives no benefit from rewarding the virtuous. Why, in the early editions of his Inquiry Concerning Virtue (1725, 1726), does Hutcheson leave this premise undefended? And why, in the later editions (1729, 1738), does he continue to do so, knowing that in 1726 John Clarke of Hull had subjected the premise to plausible criticism, geared to the very audience (mainly Christian) for whom Hutcheson’s objection to egoism was written? This puzzle is not negligible. Some might claim that Hutcheson ruins his objection by ignoring Clarke’s criticism. To answer the puzzle we must consider not only Hutcheson’s philosophy but also some theological assumptions of Hutcheson’s time.

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John J. Tilley
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis


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