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Preparing students for life in eighteenth-century Scotland and pro- viding them with an ideal for human happiness while also defending a unified moral personality are not all that moral philosophy does in the Short Introduction. It is also a work of moral therapy, that is, the text is designed to combat some of our most important moral failings. Philosophy, it turns out, helps to remove those beliefs that lead our naturally good wills astray. Hutcheson was at the Scottish vanguard of a theology and anthro- pology that exuded confidence about the capacity of human beings to govern themselves and that were able to establish themselves in the institutions of university and church.

By and large, our moral failings arise not from a corrupt will in fact, we have a general orientation toward the good but from misapprehension of important features of our moral world and of ourselves. Moreover, this misapprehension can often be corrected through reflection. The Short Introduction contains the philosophical resources meant to address these errors: it helps students by informing them about what constitutes our private good and what human nature is re- ally like. That is, we often think of our private good as in opposition to the public good, taking, for example, a just act to be contrary to our own best interests.

First, it better enables us to find goodness and beauty in ourselves and our surroundings. For Hutcheson, as for Shaftesbury, it is difficult to love goodness or beauty in the part when there is no belief in goodness or beauty in the whole. These can crop up from several sources. One that particularly exercised Hutcheson was the doctrine of human depravity found among philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, Rochefoucauld, and Bernard Mandeville and also, though Hutcheson prudently decides not to emphasize it, among Christians who hold a robust doctrine of the Fall Hutcheson never completely avoided heresy charges, both formal and informal, brought by more traditional Calvinists.

Dark views about humanity can also spring from membership in a sect or faction. Limitations of Philosophy All this is not to claim that Hutcheson takes all moral problems to be due to false beliefs. He also identifies, for example, problems that arise due to patterns of association, whereby we take some things to be good that are not: Hence by some notions of elegance, ingenuity, or finer taste, of pru- dence, liberality, and beneficence, the luxurious ways of living obtain a much greater reputation, and seem of much more importance to happiness than they really are.

Nevertheless, the association can be shown to be false, and yet it may still resist our reasoning due to the strength of the habituation. Thus, nonrational forces play a role in moral life. In addition to there being morally important faculties that philosophy cannot touch, there are also morally important exercises that philosophy cannot elicit. Hutcheson notes, for example, that philosophy does not provide the kind of stimulation toward moral action that can be found in dramatic and epic poetry.

As he says, Where we are studying to raise any Desire, or Admiration of an Ob- ject really beautiful, we are not content with a bare Narration, but endeavour, if we can, to present the Object it self, or the most lively Image of it. And hence the Epic Poem, or Tragedy, gives a vastly greater Pleasure than the Writings of Philosophers, tho both aim at recommending Virtue. The representing the Actions themselves, if the Representation be judicious, natural, and lively, will make us admire the Good, and detest the Vitious, the Inhuman, the Treacherous and Cruel, by means of our moral Sense, without any Reflections of the Poet to guide our Sentiments.

Though there are substantial limits to the power of the understanding as a moral faculty and the power of philosophy as a genre of ethical writ- ing, Hutcheson and his moderate allies in the church, in the universities, and among the nobility nevertheless defend the key roles played by the understanding in moral life. This enables them to present university training as essential to moral, political, and religious cultivation.

Conclusion On this account of the Short Introduction, then, moral philosophy does three principal things. First, it prepares students for life in eighteenth- century Scotland and defends a Whig and moderate Presbyterian perspective on that life. Part of that defense involves providing students with a ready language with which to describe and make sense of phe- nomena as right, wrong, just, unjust, appropriate, and inappropriate, in a manner congruent with Whig and moderate Presbyterian principles.

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Second, moral philosophy informs us about our nature, and the happi- ness and virtue best suited to it. This implies, in turn, the conception of a relatively unified moral persona. In the introduction to his compendium, Hutcheson says that educated readers will see how much of the text is taken from Pufendorf and his commentator Gershom Carmichael. After the bloody European wars prompted in part by confessional differences con- cerning theology, metaphysics, and ways to live and worship, Pufendorf strove to empty metaphysics from moral philosophy in order to locate grounds for agreement among those divided in faith.

For Pufendorf, the main purpose served by educating students in natural law is to make them good citizens.


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How does the Short Introduction compare with our own philosophical and pedagogical practices? This stylistic character of the text reflects the interest that the text has in providing its readers with a moral system rather than introducing them to the intricacies of philosophical debate on moral topics. The book thereby offers very little consideration of alternative views to the one espoused in the text.

Only occasionally are disagreements among philosophers noted, and it is also rarely the case that there is any serious discussion of why disagreements might exist. The moral philosophy to which contemporary students are introduced is not a coherent moral system, that is, a largely uncontested set of philosophical arguments and conclusions. Rather, it is a contentious, professional discipline.

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Instead, they invite the reader to share in a professional discipline—a discipline generally oriented by an interest in Sidgwickian theory, in which moral edifica- tion comes in passing. Of course, this difference in the content of moral philosophy textbooks reflects a difference in context. For a variety of reasons sociological, economic, cultural , most universities avoid taking responsibility for the moral development of their students. More generally, Hutcheson was one of a large number of intellectually active Church of Scotland ministers such as William Robertson and Hugh Blair who played a significant role in shaping Christian responses to the Scottish Enlightenment.


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Deeply aware of the growing commercial character of European societies, Hutcheson and his fellow clergymen thought that such societies needed strong moral underpinnings in the form of the classical virtues and practical Christian ethics. Their approach was not one of seeking to oppose the subsequent economic and political changes unleashed by the spread of markets. Rather, they were concerned with helping people to live the moral life and pursue human flourishing in increasingly market-ordered communities.

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Like Smith, Hutcheson sought to moderate the powerful role played by self-interest in commercial society, though without seeking to negate what he regarded as its often economically beneficial side-effects. Hutcheson's most long-term influence, however, may well have been upon key aspects of the American Founding. Hutcheson's books were studied in all the main colonial American educational establishments from the s onward — including by several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, such as John Adams as well as the Scottish clergyman and sixth principal of the College of New Jersey now known as Princeton University , John Witherspoon.

Though Witherspoon and Hutcheson had often been on opposing sides of theological debates in the Church of Scotland, Witherspoon was deeply influenced by Hutcheson's writings on ethics, especially his posthumously published Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiaria with a Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy Some scholars have even argued that Hutcheson's language and phraseology is, of all the discernible influences upon the American Declaration of Independence, the most significant even more than John Locke , including the immortal words, "unalienable rights.

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Meaning of "moralis" in the Malay dictionary

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