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26 Jul

Hutcheson’s Dublin: Who was Francis Hutcheson?

cover
Francis Hutcheson has been called “the Father of the Scottish Enlightenment”. He influenced Adam Smith (a pupil of his) and David Hume. He is credited with being the first to denounce slavery from a human rights perspective. His thought has been linked to the American Founding Fathers and to the United Irishmen. But who was he?

Francis Hutcheson was born on the 8th of August 1694, probably in Saintfield, Co. Down, in his grandfather’s manse. Both his father and grandfather (who originally came from Scotland) were Presbyterian ministers.

As a Dissenter (a protestant who was not a member of the Church of Ireland), Francis Hutcheson could not attend Trinity College Dublin. Instead he attended a dissenting academy in Killyleagh, which provided a basic third level education. From there he went to Glasgow in 1710, taking a course of study aimed at fitting him to become a minister. He left the university in 1717, received a licence to become a minister in 1718 and got offered a post in Co. Armagh.

But he didn’t take it. Instead he took a post offered in Dublin by the Wood St meeting house to open a dissenting academy there. The law had only just been changed, the position would be precarious, but in the end his Dublin years proved Hutcheson’s most fruitful.
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22 Jul

Symposium: Educating the Irish Genius. Kilkenny, 25th – 27th July

This “International Symposium and Cultural Weekend bills itself as “an accessible, world-class enquiry into the shaping of the Irish mind during the Enlightenment, also known as the long Eighteenth Century.”

The introduction says (before mentioning the likes of Francis Hutcheson, George Berkeley, Jonathan Swift and others) that:

Our international symposium explores the proposition that we can, and we should, identify a discrete Irish Enlightenment, just as we do a distinctive Scottish Enlightenment. The greater Enlightenment emphasized experimentation in pursuit of evidence-based knowledge—what, broadly, we call the scientific method. In many ways, Ireland from the Tudors to well beyond Oliver Cromwell constituted a large, complex, and often messy social experiment, with new ideas about settlement, new methods of agriculture, and more being tried out.

The Symposium is held at the Newpark Hotel Kilkenny and hosted by Kilkenny College, “one of Ireland’s oldest, most respected schools and the alma mater of Jonathan Swift, George Berkeley, and other great philosophes”.

Click here for the programme brochure.

20 Jun

Philip Pettit Public Lecture, “The Infrastructure of Democracy”, 20 June 2014, 6pm, UCD

Philip Pettit will give a public lecture on “The Infrastructure of Democracy” at 6pm on Friday 20th June, 2014, in the FitzGerald Debating Chamber, Student Centre, UCD. Ruairi Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills, will respond, followed by a reception.

This lecture is the Opening Keynote for the third annual UCD Garret FitzGerald School. The topic for discussion is Reforming The Republic’s Democratic Institutions, a debate which has recently gained momentum from the Constitutional Convention, debates on the role of the Senate, and possibilities of far-reaching changes in institutions ranging from the judiciary and courts to the educational system.

To register or for more detail on the sessions to be held on Saturday, 21 June 2014 as part of the Summer School see here.

02 Jun

Swift Satire Festival, July 12-13, 2014

Gulliver meets the King of Broddingnag, in Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" Source: Wikicommons/cc

Gulliver meets the King of Broddingnag, in Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”
Source: Wikicommons/cc

The Swift Satire Festival, held in Trim Co. Meath, celebrates the life, works and legacy of Jonathan Swift. It will take place on July 12-13, 2014. (Trim is the closest large town to Laracor, where Swift was appointed vicar in in 1700.)

More details here.

25 Apr

The President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative

President Michael D. Higgins Source: wikicommons/CC

If you have listened to Baroness Onora O’Neill’s Edmund Burke lecture you will have heard mention of the Irish President’s Ethics Initiative.

At his inauguration, the President stated his intention to hold

Presidency Seminars which may reflect and explore themes important to our shared life yet separate and wider than legislative demand, themes such as the restoration of trust in our institutions, the ethical connection between our economy and society, the future of a Europe built on peace, social solidarity and sustainability.

The second of these seminars is on the topic of ethics and the challenge and invitation of living ethically.
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19 Apr

Onora O’Neill: “What would Edmund Burke think of Human Rights” (Annual Burke Lecture, TCD)

The inaugural Edmund Burke Lecture is on the subject of Human Rights. Edmund Burke was sceptical about the Rights of Man, but also deeply interested in what moral codes should underpin society. The (Northern Ireland born) Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve CH CBE FBA will lecture on the topic: “What would Edmund Burke think of Human Rights” as part of the President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative on Tuesday 22 April 2014 18:00 in the Trinity Long Room Hub. More details here.

The event is free but booking is required.

Also see Joe Humphrey’s interview with Onora O’Neill in the Irish Times.

Her TED talks lecture on “What we don’t understand about trust” is here.

24 Jun

Philosophy in Marsh’s Library

Marsh's Library, © Janetmck on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Gate to Marsh’s Library © Janetmck on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The current exhibition in Marsh’s Library (ends 30th June 2013) displays science books from their collection. Given that “science” as a term only replaced “natural philosophy” in the mid 19th century, there are many books by philosophers included. So as well as treatises by Johannes and Elisabetha Hevelius, Galileo, Kepler, Tycho, and a 14th century Irish translation of an astronomical treatise based on Arab works, there are also books of Aristotle (translated and with a commentary from Averroes), Lucretius’ Epicurean poetry, Pascal, Descartes and Gassendi. Robert Boyle’s complete works can been seen, as well as William Molyneaux’s (1690) Treatise on Dioptricks, dedicated in the author’s handwriting to Narcissus Marsh himself.

Marsh’s Library was the first public library in Ireland. Marsh had long contemplated a library for “publick use, where all might have free access seeing they cannot have it in [Trinity] College”. The library (the tour guide informed us) was open to all, regardless of religion.

Interior of Marsh's Library © Marsh's Library (CC)

Interior of Marsh’s Library © Marsh’s Library (CC)

Marsh donated his entire collection of over 10,000 volumes, including the collection of Bishop Edward Stillingfleet which he had bought for £2,500, to the public library. The first librarian, Dr. Elias Bouhereau, a Huguenot refugee who fled France in 1695, was the first librarian, and also donated his library. An additional bequest was made in 1745 by John Sterne Bishop of Clogher.
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06 Jun

Irish Student notebook from 1722

Maynooth Notebook

I wish my lecture notes looked this good!  This notebook relating to philosophy studies is from the Irish College in Salamanca. It is signed by Richardus Lincolne [Richard Lincoln] and dated 1722. Lincoln went on to become the Archbishop of Dublin.

The diagram on the right hand page is a Tree of Porphyry: a series of definitions outlined in diagrammatic form. A more modern version of the diagram is here; more on Porphyry’s tree (“The Earliest Metaphorical Tree of Knowledge”) here.

From Irish Students in Europe: celebrating 350 years of scholarship through the collections of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and NUI Maynooth, a small exhibition of notebooks (17th and 18th century; one each from Paris, Louvain, Glasgow, Salamanca and Seville, all from the Maynooth archives) and secondary literature relating to Irish students in Europe. The exhibition is on in the John Paul II Library in Maynooth and is open to the 21st June.

24 May

Book : A History of Irish Thought

HistoryIrishThought

Description and contents (from Routledge)

By Thomas Duddy.

The first complete introduction to the subject ever published, A History of Irish Thought presents an inclusive survey of Irish thought and the history of Irish ideas against the backdrop of current political and social change in Ireland.

Contents

Preface Acknowledgements

1 Interpreting Marvels: The Irish Augustine

2 The Philosophy of Creation: John Scottus Eriugena
Eriugena, Peter of Ireland, Richard Fitzralph

3 Nature Observed: Robert Boyle, William Molyneux, and the New Learning
Robert Boyle, William Molyneux, Michael Moore

4 John Toland and the Ascendancy of Reason
    John Toland, Peter Browne, Edward Synge, Philip Skelton, William King, Robert Clayton

5 Wonderfully Mending the World: George Berkeley and Jonathan Swift
    George Berkeley, Jonathan Swift

6 Against the Selfish Philosophers: Francis Hutcheson, Edmund Burke, and James Usher
Francis Hutcheson, Edmund Burke, James Usher

7 Peripheral Visions (1): Irish Thought in the Nineteenth Century
Daniel O’Connell, George Ensor, William Thompson, Anna Doyle Wheeler, Henry MacCormac

8 Peripheral Visions (2): Irish Thought in the Nineteenth Century
John Elliot Cairnes, John Tyndall, Gerald Molloy, J.J. Murphy, G.G. Stokes, Benjamin Kidd, Frances Power Cobbe, William Rowan Hamilton, Oscar Wilde

9 Between Extremities: Irish Thought in the Twentieth Century
W.B. Yeats, J.O. Wisdom, M. O’C. Drury, Iris Murdoch, William Desmond, Philip Pettit

The book covers a wide range of philosophers and thinkers, many of whom have been largely forgotten. Clearly written and endlessly fascinating.

13 May

Book: Dictionary of Irish Philosophers

Dictionary of Irish Philosophers

About (via Bloomsbury Publishing)

Since 1999 Thoemmes Press (now Thoemmes Continuum) has been engaged in a large-scale programme of biographical dictionaries of philosophy and related subjects. This volume on Irish philosophers follows the standard format of arranging entries alphabetically by thinker.
It includes two forms of entry: (1) entries reproduced from previous editions of Thoemmes encyclopedias of British philosophy and (2) wholly new entries on early (renaissance-period) and  modern (20th century) philosophers, together with some new entries on the intervening centuries.

My new bible! The hardback is going for £175, but I got a copy of the paperback secondhand for $14 including shipping (as of May 2013).

The book includes an introductory overview which summarises the history of Irish philosophy from the Irish Augustine up to the 21st century. It also explains the logic behind the inclusions. The idea for the dictionary in the first place stemmed from the difficulty surrounding the Irish entries in the British dictionaries. Thomas Duddy outlines the debate that went on regarding this Irish Dictionary, in which differing definitions of “Irish” clashed, he feeling birth in Ireland was a necessary criterion, another consulting editor M. A. Stewart feeling birth in Ireland was neither necessary (what of those born abroad who had their career in Ireland?) nor sufficient (someone born in Ireland but who had no connection thereafter). Thus the selection of entries involved compromise and excluded several philosophers with more tenuous connections.

 As with the Thoemmes Encyclopedias an inclusive definition of philosopher, including writers on philosophical subjects whose contribution was small, plus celebrated figures from other domains such as literature, science or mathematics, who had made philosophical contributions.

There are entries on “over 180 philosophers”, with no entries on any living person. The selection includes all the well-known names, medieval philosophers, forgotten scholastics and academics. Where works by the subject have been published a bibliography is included, along with further reading.