Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue


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Item#: 120370 price:$2,500.00

Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue
Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue


(HUTCHESON, Francis). An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue; In Two Treatises. London: J. Darby, A. Bettesworth, F. Fayram, et al., 1726. Octavo, contemporary brown calf rebacked and recornered, raised bands, later black morocco spine label; (i-iii), iv-xxvii (2), 1-304. $2500.

Second edition, expanded and enlarged, issued one year after the first edition, of Hutcheson's controversial work proposing an innate moral sense similar to an inborn aesthetic one—the "first major work of the Scottish Enlightenment"—including printed equations for questions that were deleted from later editions—in contemporary calf boards.

The Scottish Enlightenment is "not just an episode in Scottish history. It marks a crucial turning point in America… [and] created the basic idea of modernity" (Herman, Scottish Enlightenment, vii-viii). The term itself is in "use today through William R. Scott, who in 1900 who spoke of Francis Hutcheson as 'the prototype of the Scottish Enlightenment'" (Broadie & Smith, Cambridge Companion, 1-3). In addition to his status as "father of the Scottish Enlightenment," Hutcheson was "probably the most influential and respected moral philosopher in America in the 18th century" (Mailer, "Nehemias," 241). Born in 1694, he expanded his influence beyond seminal works such as Inquiry, his first work, with his tenure at the University of Glasgow and his crucial impact on students such as Adam Smith, who "arrived to study at Glasgow in 1737 and quickly fell under Hutcheson's spell" (Herman, 82).

In this "first major work of the Scottish Enlightenment," Hutcheson draws on Shaftsbury to argue in favor of an inborn moral sense, comparable to an inborn aesthetic sense (Broadie & Smith, 79). Inquiry proposes a "natural capacity of humans to distinguish between moral and immoral qualities, similar to the ability of the eye to distinguish between different colors" in appreciating beauty (Ahnert, Moral Culture, 51). "Europe's first liberal in the classic sense… Hutcheson created a new political and social vision" with his sense of an innate "moral reasoning… one that went far beyond Locke or any comparable English thinker" (Herman, 83). Inquiry proved most controversial for its attempt to provide a form of moral calculus—including printed equations for moral questions. This reduction of morality to equations sparked outrage; the first edition had advertised on the title page that it included "an attempt to introduce a mathematical calculation in subjects of morality," which was dropped from the title page of the present second edition. By the fourth edition, the mathematical expressions were deleted altogether. Title page with: "The Second Edition, Corrected and Enlarg'd"; as issued with page 183 a cancel. First published in 1725. ESTC T83285. Armorial bookplate of Charles Vere Dashwood Esq. (1745-1821), of Stanford Hall, Nottinghamshire, England (Peerage). Small bookseller inkstamp.

Text very fresh, mere trace of rubbing to contemporary calf boards. A handsome near-fine copy.

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