George Berkeley Summer School, Thomastown, August 15th & 16th 2014

The George Berkeley Summer School will be held on the 15th and 16th of August, 2014 in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. George Berkeley was born at Dysart Castle, Thomastown. Cost: 10 euro (per adult)/8 euro (senior citizens,students,unwaged), includes all events and picnic. Come along on the 15th/16th of August or to register in advance please email … Read more

Hutcheson’s Dublin: Who was Francis Hutcheson?

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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Fairy Field of Fiction

[Passions] borrow the language of reason to seduce us from her maxims. Our sex is more particularly exposed to this illusion. Our whole course of education is, in general, calculated to give additional force to the power of imagination, and to weaken, in a correspondent degree, the influence of judgment. You, my Harriet have in this respect an advantage over many of your sex. […] Your mind has not been suffered to run wild in the fairy field of fiction; it has been turned to subjects of real and permanent utility.

From Elizabeth Hamilton’s novel Memoirs of Modern Philosophers.

Elizabeth Hamilton (1756?–1816) was born in Belfast, probably on 25th July 1756, but lived much of her life in Scotland. Like her friend Maria Edgeworth she wrote novels and also philosophical pieces, mostly on education.

The primary aims of Modern Philosophers was to explore the role of women and to argue against “Jacobinism” or New Philosophy, that philosophy espoused by William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Paine. However, she also shared some of the concerns of that radical group. This passage, a letter written by Mrs Martha to her niece Harriet, criticises the education given to women; a topic that equally concerned Hamilton, Maria Edgeworth and Mary Wollstonecraft.

The first sentence is part of a larger quote from Rousseau.

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 … Read more

Is Consuming Always a Vice?

It is ridiculous to say, ‘That using any thing above the bare Necessaries of Life is Intemperance, Pride or Luxury; and that no other universal Boundaries can be fixed; because what in one Station or Fortune is bare Study of Decency, or Conveniency, would be Extravagance in another.’ As if Temperance, Frugality, or Moderation, denoted fixed Weights or Measures or Sums that all were to observe, and not a proportion to to Mens Circumstances. Great and Little are relative to a Species or Kind. Those Dimensions are great in a Deer which are small in a Horse: What is great in a Horse would be small in a Mountain. Will any one thence argue, that there can be no adapting one Form to another, so it shall neither be too big not little? Cannot a Coat suit a middle Stature, because the dimensions would be too great for a Dwarf, and too little for a Giant? If […] a man of good sense may know how far he may go in Eating and Drinking, or any other Expenses, without impairing his Health or Fortune, or Hindering any Offices of Religion or Humanity, he has found the Bounds of Temperance, Frugality, and Moderation for himself. “

Francis Hutcheson writing in Dublin Weekly Journal (1727), later printed in “Hibernicus’ Letters”, on the topic of “The Fable of The Bees” by Bernard Mandeville.

Hutcheson goes on to argue that even if true over-consumption was stamped out, the money would be spent elsewhere – on goods to improve the person’s circumstances or that of his family or friends (“Dress, Habitation or Studies”) or indeed keep people alive longer to consume more in the long run!

(Inspired by “The Good Consumer”, which mentions Mandeville but leaves out Hutcheson.)

Happiness and Self

Happiness is a matter of one’s most ordinary everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self. To be damned is for one’s ordinary everyday mode of consciousness to be unremitting agonising preoccupation with self.

Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good, (1968), chapter 22.

Beckett at the Back: World Cup Philosophy

Panel from "World Cup Philosophy: Germany vs France" (c) Existential Comics
Panel from “World Cup Philosophy: Germany vs France”
(c) Existential Comics

Beckett playing (in some sense of the term) for the French team in a parallel universe version of the World Cup 2014 quarter-final game against Germany in Rio de Janeiro. See Existential Comics for more.