Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Samuel Scheffler, Friedrich Schelling and Francis Hutcheson

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32 ideas

2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 1. On Reason
Reason is our power of finding out true propositions [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Reason is our power of finding out true propositions.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 4: The Moral Sense [1728], §I)
     A reaction: This strikes me as a very good definition. I don't see how you can define reason without mentioning truth, and you can't believe in reason if you don't believe in truth. The concept of reason entails the concept of a good reason.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / c. Becoming
Being is only perceptible to itself as becoming [Schelling]
     Full Idea: Being is only perceptible to itself in the state of becoming.
     From: Friedrich Schelling (Of Human Freedom [1809], p.403), quoted by Jean-François Courtine - Schelling p.90
     A reaction: Is the Enlightenment the era of Being, and the Romantic era that of Becoming? They like process, fluidity, even chaos.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism / d. Absolute idealism
Schelling always affirmed the absolute status of freedom [Schelling, by Courtine]
     Full Idea: Throughout Schelling's work we find the affirmation of absolute freedom or of the absolute as freedom.
     From: report of Friedrich Schelling (Philosophy of Revelation [1843], Vol.13 p.359) by Jean-François Courtine - Schelling p.83
     A reaction: Of all of the German idealists, Schelling may be the closest to modern existentialism.
For Schelling the Absolute spirit manifests as nature in which self-consciousness evolves [Schelling, by Lewis,PB]
     Full Idea: (Like Schopenhauer) Schelling understood the Absolute - spirit rather than will - to manifest itself as nature in which man evolves with self-consciousness.
     From: report of Friedrich Schelling (Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature [1799]) by Peter B. Lewis - Schopenhauer 4
     A reaction: The influence of Spinoza seems strong here. Is his Absolute just Spinoza's 'God'?
Metaphysics aims at the Absolute, which goes beyond subjective and objective viewpoints [Schelling, by Pinkard]
     Full Idea: Schelling never lost his youthful conviction that any metaphysics had to be an explication of the 'absolute' as something that went beyond both subjective and objective points of view.
     From: report of Friedrich Schelling (Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature [1799]) by Terry Pinkard - German Philosophy 1760-1860 12
     A reaction: Even for a scientific and analytic modern philosopher there must be a target of an ideal account that includes human subjectivity within an objective view of the world. Even Mysterians like McGinn would like that.
We must show that the whole of nature, because it is effective, is grounded in freedom [Schelling]
     Full Idea: What is required is to show that everything that is effective (nature, the world of things) is grounded in activity, life, freedom.
     From: Friedrich Schelling (Of Human Freedom [1809], p.351), quoted by Jean-François Courtine - Schelling
     A reaction: I take the ancestor of this view of nature to be the monads of Leibniz, as the active principle in nature. Because this is an idealist view, it starts with the absolute freedom of the Self, and presumably sees nature in its own image.
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 4. Presupposition of Self
The basis of philosophy is the Self prior to experience, where it is the essence of freedom [Schelling]
     Full Idea: The highest principle of all philosophy is the Self insofar as it is purely and simply Self, not yet conditioned by an object, but where it is formulated by freedom. The alpha and omega of all philosophy is freedom.
     From: Friedrich Schelling (Letters to Hegel [1795], 1795 02 04), quoted by Jean-François Courtine - Schelling p.83
     A reaction: A common later response to this (e.g. in Schopenhauer) is that there is no concept of the Self prior to experience. The idealists seem to adore free will, while offering no reply to Spinoza on the matter, with whom they were very familiar.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 2. Sources of Free Will
Only idealism has given us the genuine concept of freedom [Schelling]
     Full Idea: Until the discovery of idealism, the genuine concept of freedom has been missing from every modern system, whether it be that of Leibniz or of Spinoza.
     From: Friedrich Schelling (Of Human Freedom [1809], p.345), quoted by Jean-François Courtine - Schelling p.87
     A reaction: Spinoza denied free will, and Leibniz fudged it. Evidently more medieval theological accounts were not good enough. I presume Fichte is Schelling's hero, and he seems to see freedom as axiomatic about the Self.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
Reason is too slow and doubtful to guide all actions, which need external and moral senses [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: We boast of our mighty reason above other animals, but its processes are too slow, too full of doubt, to serve us in every exigency, either for our preservation, without external senses, or to influence our actions for good without the moral sense.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §VII.III)
     A reaction: This idea was taken up by Hume, and it must have influence Hume's general scepticism about the importance of reason. What this idea misses is the enormous influence of prior reasoning on our quick decisions.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / e. Altruism
Human nature seems incapable of universal malice, except what results from self-love [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Human nature seems scarce capable of malicious disinterested hatred, or an ultimate desire of the misery of others, when we imagine them not pernicious to us, or opposite to our interests; ..that is only the effect of self-love, not disinterested malice.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §II.VII)
     A reaction: I suppose it is true that even the worst criminals brooding in prison don't wish the entire population of some foreign country to die in pain. Only a very freakish person would wish the human race were extinct. A very nice observation.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / h. Self interest
As death approaches, why do we still care about family, friends or country? [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: How comes it that we do not lose, at the approach of death, all concern for our families, friends, or country?
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §II.V)
     A reaction: A nice question. No doubt some people do cease to care, but on the whole it raises the 'last round' problem in social contract theory, which is why fulfil your part of a bargain if it is too late to receive the repayment afterwards?
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / g. Consequentialism
My action is not made good by a good effect, if I did not foresee and intend it [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: No good effect, which I did not actually foresee and intend, makes my action morally good.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §III.XII)
     A reaction: This is one of the parents of utilitarianism repudiating pure consequentialism. Bentham sharply divided the action (which is consequentialist) from the person (who has useful intentions, but is not particulary important); this division is misleading.
If the aim is good outcomes, why are killings worse than deaths? [Scheffler, by Foot]
     Full Idea: It is not clear why, in the measurement of the goodness of states of affairs or total outcomes, killings for instance should count so much more heavily than deaths.
     From: report of Samuel Scheffler (The Rejection of Consequentialism [1982], pp.108-12) by Philippa Foot - Utilitarianism and the Virtues p.61
     A reaction: Or drunken drivers worse than careless drivers. Or stolen bracelets than lost bracelets. The point is that morality is about the behaviour of people, and not about consequences.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / a. Nature of happiness
Happiness is a pleasant sensation, or continued state of such sensations [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: In the following discourse, happiness denotes pleasant sensation of any kind, or continued state of such sensations.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 4: The Moral Sense [1728], Intro)
     A reaction: This is a very long way from Greek eudaimonia. Hutcheson seems to imply that I would be happy if I got high on drugs after my family had just burnt to death. Socrates points out that scratching an itch is a very pleasant sensation (Idea 132).
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / c. Ethical intuitionism
We approve of actions by a superior moral sense [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: By a superior sense, which I call a moral one, we approve the actions of others.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], Intro)
     A reaction: This tries to present moral insight as being on a par with the famous five senses. This doesn't seem quite right to me; separate parts of me can operate individual senses, but the whole of me is required for moral judgements, based on evidence.
We dislike a traitor, even if they give us great benefit [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Let us consider if a traitor, who would sell his own country to us, may not often be as advantageous to us, as an hero who defends us: and yet we can love the treason, and hate the traitor.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §I.VI)
     A reaction: A nice example, which certainly refutes any claim that morality is entirely and directly self-interested. High-minded idealism, though, is not the only alternative explanation. We admire loyalty, but not loyalty to, say, Hitler.
The moral sense is not an innate idea, but an ability to approve or disapprove in a disinterested way [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: The moral sense is not an innate idea or knowledge, but a determination of our minds to receive the simple ideas of approbation or condemnation, from actions observed, antecedent to any opinions of advantage or loss to redound to ourselves.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §I.VIII)
     A reaction: This may claim a pure moral intuition, but it is also close to Kantian universalising of the rules for behaviour. It is also a variation on Descartes' 'natural light' of reason. Of course, if we say the ideas are 'received', where are they received from?
We cannot choose our moral feelings, otherwise bribery could affect them [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Neither benevolence nor any other affection or desire can be directly raised by volition; if they could, then we could be bribed into any affection whatsoever toward any object.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §II.IV)
     A reaction: Of course, notoriously, the vast mass of people have often been bribed to love a politician, by low taxes, or bread and circuses. Still, you cannot choose to love or admire someone, you just do. Not much free will there.
Everyone feels uneasy when seeing others in pain, unless the others are evil [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Every mortal is made uneasy by any grievous misery he sees another involved in, unless the person be imagined morally evil.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §V.VIII)
     A reaction: This is the natural compassion on which Hume built his moral theory. This remark emphasises that a concern for justice is just as important as a compassion for pain. Kant was more interested in what we deserve than in what we get.
Can't the moral sense make mistakes, as the other senses do? [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Can there not be a right and wrong state of our moral sense, as there is in our other senses?
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 4: The Moral Sense [1728], §IV)
     A reaction: Hutcheson replies by saying something like they are both fully reliable in normal conditions. It remains, though, a very good question for the intuitionist to face, as the moral sense is supposed to be direct and reliable, but how do you check?
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / g. Will to power
Ultimately, all being is willing. The nature of primal being is the same as the nature of willing [Schelling]
     Full Idea: In the last and highest instance there is no other being but willing. Willing is primal being, and all the predicates of primal being only fit willing: groundlessness, eternity, being independent of time, self-affirmation.
     From: Friedrich Schelling (On the Essence of Human Freedom [1809], I.7.350), quoted by Andrew Bowie - Introduction to German Philosophy 5 'Reason'
     A reaction: Insofar as this says that 'primal being' must be active in character, I love this idea. Not the rest of the idea though! Bowie says this essay clearly influenced Schopenhauer. It looks as if Nietzsche must be read it too.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
We don't choose our characters, yet we still claim credit for the actions our characters perform [Schelling]
     Full Idea: Nobody has chosen their character; and yet this does not stop anybody attributing the action which follows from his character to themself as a free action.
     From: Friedrich Schelling (The Ages of the World [1810], I.93)
     A reaction: This pinpoints a very nice ambivalence about our attitudes to our own characters. We all have some pride and shame about who we are, without having chosed who we are. At least when we are young. But we make the bed we lie in.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / d. Courage
Contempt of danger is just madness if it is not in some worthy cause [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Mere courage, or contempt of danger, if we conceive it to have no regard to the defence of the innocent, or repairing of wrongs or self-interest, would only entitle its possessor to bedlam.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §II.I)
     A reaction: If many criminals would love to rob a bank, but only a few have the nerve to attempt it, we can hardly deny that the latter exhibit a sort of courage. The Greeks say that good sense must be involved, but few of them were so moral about courage.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
You can't form moral rules without an end, which needs feelings and a moral sense [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: What rule of actions can be formed, without relation to some end proposed? Or what end can be proposed, without presupposing instincts, desires, affections, or a moral sense, it will not be easy to explain.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 4: The Moral Sense [1728], §IV)
     A reaction: We have no reason to think that 'instincts, desires and affections' will give us the remotest guidance on how to behave morally well (though we would expect them to aid our survival). How could a moral sense give a reason, without spotting a rule?
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
That action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: That action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number; and that worst, which, in like manner, occasions misery.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §III.VIII)
     A reaction: The first use of a phrase taken up by Bentham. This is not just an anticipation of utilitarianism, it is utilitarianism, with all its commitment to consequentialism (but see Idea 6246), and to the maximising of happiness. It is a brilliant idea.
25. Social Practice / C. Rights / 1. Basis of Rights
The loss of perfect rights causes misery, but the loss of imperfect rights reduces social good [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Perfect rights are necessary to the public good, and it makes those miserable whose rights are thus violated; …imperfect rights tend to the improvement and increase of good in a society, but are not necessary to prevent universal misery.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §VII.VI)
     A reaction: This is a very utilitarian streak in Hutcheson, converting natural law into its tangible outcome in actual happiness or misery. The distinction here is interesting (taken up by Mill), but there is a very blurred borderline.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 1. Nature
Schelling sought a union between the productivities of nature and of the mind [Schelling, by Bowie]
     Full Idea: Schelling's philosophy of nature aims to connect nature's 'unconscious productivity' with the mind's 'conscious productivity'.
     From: report of Friedrich Schelling (Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature [1799]) by Andrew Bowie - German Philosophy: a very short introduction 3
     A reaction: If you have a fairly active view of nature (as Leibniz did), then this is a promising line. I like the unpopular view that the modern idea of spontaneous 'powers' in nature is applicable to explanations of mind.
Schelling made organisms central to nature, because mere mechanism could never produce them [Schelling, by Pinkard]
     Full Idea: Schelling made the image of the 'organism' central to his conception of nature, arguing that merely mechanical processes could never produce 'life' (as a self-producing, self-sustaining, self-directing process).
     From: report of Friedrich Schelling (Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature [1799]) by Terry Pinkard - German Philosophy 1760-1860 08
     A reaction: At that date this seems a reasonable claim, but subsequent biochemistry has undermined it.
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 6. Divine Morality / a. Divine morality
We are asked to follow God's ends because he is our benefactor, but why must we do that? [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: The reasons assigned for actions are such as 'It is the end proposed by the Deity'. But why do we approve concurring with the divine ends? The reason is given 'He is our benefactor', but then, for what reason do we approve concurrence with a benefactor?
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 4: The Moral Sense [1728], §I)
     A reaction: Characteristic of what MacIntyre calls the 'Enlightenment Project', which is the application of Cartesian scepticism to proving the foundations of morals. Proof beyond proof is continually demanded. If you could meet God, you would obey without question.
Why may God not have a superior moral sense very similar to ours? [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: Why may not the Deity have something of a superior kind, analogous to our moral sense, essential to him?
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 4: The Moral Sense [1728], §I)
     A reaction: This is Plato's notion of the gods, as beings who are profoundly wise, and understand all the great moral truths, but are not the actual originators of those truths. The idea that God creates morality actually serves to undermine morality.
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 6. Divine Morality / c. God is the good
We say God is good if we think everything he does aims at the happiness of his creatures [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: We call the Deity morally good, when we apprehend that his whole providence tends to the universal happiness of his creatures.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §VII.V)
     A reaction: From the point of view of eternity, we might accept that God aims at some even greater good than the happiness of a bunch of miserable little creatures whose bad behaviour merits little reward. The greater good needs to be impressive, though.
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 6. Divine Morality / d. God decrees morality
If goodness is constituted by God's will, it is a tautology to say God's will is good [Hutcheson]
     Full Idea: To call the laws of the supreme Deity good or holy or just, if these be constituted by laws, or the will of a superior, must be an insignificant tautology, amounting to no more than 'God wills what he wills' or 'His will is conformable to his will'.
     From: Francis Hutcheson (Treatise 2: Virtue or Moral Good [1725], §VII.V)
     A reaction: This argues not only against God as the source of morality, but also against any rules, such as those of the Categorical Imperative. Why should I follow the Categorical Imperative? What has value must dictate the rules. Is obedience the highest value?