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08 Apr

Francis Hutcheson’s ill-fated Sermon

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Ulster Presbyterianism, at this time, was embroiled in controversy. Believers who were reluctant to subscribe to the ‘man-made’ doctrinal formulations of the Westminster Confession of Faith were clashing with those for whom the Confession embraced all that was sound and crucial in Reformed theology. These ‘Non-subscribing’ presbyterians were to become known as ‘New Light’ believers. They generally put less stress on the ‘biblical’ dogma of ‘sinful human nature’ and more emphasis on the broad human imperative to lead a good and charitable life. Into this theological row stepped the young Francis Hutcheson, fresh from Glasgow. We know that he deputised, one wet and cold Sunday, for his father in the Armagh church. (Mr Hutcheson senior, a sufferer from arthritis, did not wish to risk a soaking) The rain cleared and the father decided to risk a short walk in the direction of the meeting house in order to meet with his son on his return journey. However he met up, first of all, with one gloomy-looking member of the congregation, who said to him….

Your silly loon, Frank, has fashed a’ the congregation wi’ his idle cackle, for he has been babbling this ‘oor about the good and benevolent God, and that the souls o’ the heathen
themsel’s will gang to heaven, if they follow the licht o’ their ain consciences. Not a word does the daft boy ken nor say aboot the gude auld comfortable doctrines o’ election, reprobation, original sin and faith…

An early ill-fated sermon of Francis Hutcheson.

Excerpt from an article on the life of Francis Hutcheson, written by Philip Orr, a local historian and expert on Francis Hutcheson. It was published in the Down Survey in the year 2000 by the Down County Museum

07 Apr

philosophy bites: Philip Pettit on Consequentialism

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Is consequentialism in ethics a form of moral opportunism? Is torture always wrong? What about punishing the innocent? Philip Pettit, who recently gave the 2011 Uehiro Lectures on ‘Robustly Demanding Values’, discusses some common criticisms of consequentialism in conversation with Nigel Warburton in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast

07 Apr

Richard FitzRalph: Law and Dominion

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Born in Dundalk around 1300 to an Anglo-Norman family, Richard FitzRalph was educated in Oxford and became chancellor of the University in 1332. His tenure was turbulent and lasted only two years, directly leading to his first visit to Avignon. His contribution to debates there on the beatific vision made him a prominent figure in the papal court. A successful ecclesiastical career both in England and in Ireland followed.

He became archbishop of Armagh in 1347. He was known for great preaching ability and care of his flock. His sermons that survive show keen awareness of social tensions and economic problems. His major focus was on two issues: the war (overt and covert) between the English and Irish elements, and the general prevalence of theft and dishonesty. He denounced the tendency to view theft against “the other side” as a minor issue and defended the cause of the weak (Walsh, p. 258):

[FitzRalph] singled out two faults for special denunciation, and it would appear that he had identified them in the course of a year’s close scrutiny of his flock and its mores — firstly, the civil war ‘inter Anglicos et Hibernicos’ and secondly, general theft and dishonesty. In the former case he pointed out to his hearers, most of whom we can presume were ‘Anglici’, that both rival communities in Ireland were under the impression that it was lawful not merely to rob and plunder those of the opposing community, but also to kill them, and he issued a stem warning that to kill was always gravely sinful except in self-defence. Only an officer of the law, acting in accordance with the prescriptions of that law, had such power.

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06 Apr

Book: Berkeley and Irish Philosophy

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image

Contents from Bloomsbury Publishing

Note on the Text

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part I: Berkeley’s Philosophy

1. George Berkeley

2. On Missing the Wrong Target

Part II: The Golden Age of Irish Philosophy

3. Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment in Irish Philosophy

4.The Culmination and Causation of Irish Philosophy

5.Frances Hutcheson on Berkeley and the Molyneux Problem

6.The Impact of Irish Philosophy on the American Enlightenment

7. Irish Ideology and Philosophy

Part III: New Berkeley Letters and Berkeleiana

8. An Early Essay concerning Berkeley’s Immaterialism

9. Mrs Berkeley’s Annotations in An Account of the Life of Berkeley (1776)

10. Some New Bermuda Berkeleiana

11. The Good Bishop: New Letters

12. Becket and Berkeley

Index

Part 2 of this book was the one that piqued my interest in Irish Enlightenment philosophy. In these essays, Berman looks at the philosophical background Berkeley came from, including Toland and the reactions to him. He discusses the link between Berkeley and Francis Hutcheson in relation to their answers to the Molyneux problem. He also looks at the impact of golden age Irish philosophy on eighteenth-century American philosophy.

The other sections form a wide-ranging look at the achievements of George Berkeley and its broad scope.

05 Apr

Iris Murdoch: A Renaissance?

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Our conversation meanders back to the matter at hand, is there a renaissance in Iris Murdoch Studies? “She is being included increasingly in books from many disciplines.” Frances thinks that times are changing and that there is a “complete change in the way literature is viewed … the idea that western literature should be seen as better is absolutely shot to pieces now …. or people are saying there isn’t a canon at all”. She also makes the valid point that there “tends to be a pattern that after writers die they fall away a bit and then they come back”; this could be true for Iris just the same as for any writer.

Evidence of the growing interest in Iris Murdoch can be seen through the social media: “people are reading about her” and she has more than two thousand followers online on Twitter, and a lively appreciation page on Facebook. Frances becomes suddenly animated at the talk of the growing interest. “People chatting away [on Twitter] saying ‘oh my favorite character is Charles I really really love him’ and someone else saying ‘no I can’t stand him he is so full of himself!’ It’s very very nice the way people are just talking about the books.

From an interview with Frances White of the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies in Kingston University. Iris Murdoch: A Renaissance? via @IrisMurdoch

05 Apr

1797 Map of Dublin (and other map resources)

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Section of a 1797 map of Dublin. The full map is here and quite a lot larger.

Via @oceanclub

Added 13th May 2013:
Trinity College Dublin have published the Down Survey maps based from the survey done in 1656-1658. The Down Survey of Ireland is the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world. The website includes digital images of all the surviving Down Survey maps at parish, barony and county level, together with written descriptions of each barony and parish in the Down Survey Maps section. The Historical GIS section brings together the maps and related sources in a Geographical Information System (GIS), relating the Down Survey maps to 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps, Google Maps and satellite imagery.

Other maps are available on roots.swilson.info, including the John Speed maps from 1610.

04 Apr

The Market as a Res Publica

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To bring out the conflict of images, consider the property conventions that establish the titles and rights of ownership. On the libertarian picture owning is a natural relationship — you might think of it as a relationship of possession and use — and the rules of property serve to affirm and protect the natural rights of owners.

On the republican picture, owning is a relationship that presupposes law, if only the inchoate law of informal custom. You do not own something — you do not have the freedom of an owner — just insofar as you can hang onto it, frightening off or driving off potential rivals. You own something only insofar as it is a matter of accepted convention that given the way you came to hold it — given public recognition of the title you have to the property — you enjoy public protection against those who would take it from you. It is yours to hold and enjoy in private; but it is yours in that sense only by grace of public convention.

Philip Pettit on the contrast between Libertarian and Republican views.
PoliticsInSpires: Taking Back the Economy: The market as a Res Publica.

03 Apr

Medieval snap; or The necessity of martyrs

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horsemeat
An early horse meat scandal in Ireland (via “Topography”)

A look at the history of Irish philosophy shows that a rather high proportion of our well known philosophers worked abroad. But we do know that bishops capable of debate were around before John Toland aggravated Bishops Edward Synge and William King.

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) came to Ireland to visit his Barry relatives in 1186-7. He wrote a description of the country in his Topography of Ireland. As in his works about Wales, Gerald is less than complimentary about the nonNormans he encounters. In his Topography (pp 79-81) he argues that the Irish people have many failings, and attributes this to the failure of prelates to preach to them. To support that preaching was lacking he cites the unparalleled lack of martyrs in the story of Ireland’s conversion to Christianity. If there had been a “voice like a trumpet” preaching to this uncivilised nation, says Gerald, there should have been martyrs.

He once (he tells us) put this argument to Maurice, archbishop of Cashel, (probably Muirges Ua hÉnna) “a discreet and learned man” who retorted:
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02 Apr

Pettit: ‘A Theory Of Freedom’ in Spain

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In 1997, Professor Pettit published a book called Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom. In it, he declares that “the traditional, republican ideal of freedom” – drawing on thinkers going back to Cicero, Machiavelli, the writers of the English Revolution and “many theorists of republic and commonwealth in 18th-century England and America and France” – could still provide “an exciting way of rethinking democratic institutions”.

At its heart is the notion of “freedom as non-domination”. Since liberals see freedom in largely negative terms, as “absence of interference”, writes Professor Pettit, that makes them “tolerant of relationships in the home, in the workplace, in the electorate and elsewhere, that the republican must denounce as paradigms of domination and unfreedom”. It is time to return to the much more demanding republican conception of freedom, he argues.

Republicanism is a clear and accessible book, but Professor Pettit saw little prospect of it changing the world. He had reckoned without the interest of Spanish opposition leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who had read the book in Spanish translation and announced in 2000 that if he ever came to power, he would use it as the basis for his legislative programme.

From Times Higher Education (23 Jan 2011), “Spanish statecraft, the scholarly way” by Matthew Reisz.