Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 4: On the Principal Divisions of Being - Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind
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CHAPTER 4: On the Principal Divisions of Being - Francis Hutcheson, Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind 
Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind, ed. James Moore and Michael Silverthorne, texts translated from the Latin by Michael Silverthorne, introduction by James Moore (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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On the Principal Divisions of Being
Dependence and independence of being; the latter is supreme perfection
The first division of being is into dependent or created being and independent being, which has been made or created from nothing.1Independent things seem to imply perfection, absolute things absolute perfection, and relative things a relative perfection. Indeed, independence which is absolute and full of perfections seems to imply infinity,2 since it is not intelligible that an absolutely primary thing whose nature has not been limited or circumscribed by any prior thing at its discretion should possess any one finite perfection rather than another, or be restricted to perfections of one kind so as not to possess the others. That therefore has supreme perfection which is absolutely primary, and all other things take their origin from it.
[Some learned men therefore do not seem to have correctly expressed their view of independence, in implying that any perfection or attribute of a primary nature could have been the cause or reason why that nature exists, since a primary nature cannot have a cause or ground of being (essendi), as they term it. Nor in a nature which we have represented as not yet in existence can we suppose there is any attribute or internal necessity which brings this about or requires that the thing itself should exist.]3
The sign of dependence
Metaphysicians therefore conclude that every nature is dependent to which any mode, from a certain range of modes, is wholly necessary, if it is equally capable of all such modes. For if it were supposed that it was independent, it would have had, on this hypothesis, some one mode before any action or choice of any cause whatsoever; this one mode therefore would be more connected with the nature or essence of that thing, above all other such modes; and therefore it would not be equally capable of other such modes, nor would it equally admit any of them at all. Every body (corpus) necessarily has some space, some figure, and some state of either motion or rest; it cannot exist without such properties. However, it is indifferent to all [particular] places, and is equally capable of all figures, and of every movement or rest. The thing therefore is dependent and made to be.
Necessary and contingent being
Related to the former is another division of being into necessary and contingent, or rather voluntary, being. Necessary being is that which does not depend on a will; the term is the opposite of voluntary or discretionary being.
[Internal and external necessity
One [kind of] necessity is internal necessity, also called antecedent necessity. It exists in the very nature of a thing; for example, there is a necessity of connection between the terms of a self-evident or proven abstract proposition. It is also called absolute necessity, since it remains the same in every time and place. The other [kind] is external necessity, a subsequent or hypothetical necessity which necessarily follows upon something else which has been previously posited, or a hypothesis.]4 A perception is said to be necessary if it presents itself to us, whether we will or no; a voluntary [perception], on the other hand, is one which we can change, obstruct, or stop. Judgment is necessary; this is either because the nature of the object is such that it cannot be changed for any reason so as to render the judgment untrue, or because the connection or conflict between the terms in the stated proposition is such as to ensure that the proposition will always be true. This necessity of abstract propositions remains the same in every time and place; and the arguments by which it is shown are called causes, i.e., causes of knowledge (an analogical use of the word “cause”). The necessity of being (essendi ), as a result of which beings (entia) are said to be necessary, denotes an existence which does not depend on a will; if entities do not depend on a human will, they are called necessary entities so far as men are concerned. If existence does not depend on any will at all, it is said to be absolute necessity, since the thing is said to have existed of itself from eternity, and to be so constant and perfect that it does not perish of its own accord and cannot be destroyed by any other force. The same necessity is also called intrinsic and is distinct from the necessity which originates externally and on the basis of a hypothesis, since things are only necessary [either] because they depend on the immutable will of God or necessarily follow from other things previously posited. From the absolute necessity of a thing it can only be inferred that it is eternal in itself; its other attributes or perfections do not seem to be able to be derived from this, except by confusing the necessity of judgment with the necessity of the thing itself. Nor should it be said that any attribute of a thing precedes the subject itself or is the ground of its being.
[Simple and multiple being
Beings are divided into simple and multiple beings. Souls or spirits are simpler beings, and we discuss them elsewhere.5 Of these the simplest is a [soul or spirit] which is not only without any parts but has all its virtues so necessarily connected with its nature that nothing adventitious can befall it, nothing new occur to it. Multiple [beings] are either composite, when their parts are joined in a kind of natural bond or union like animal and vegetable bodies, or merely multiple, like a heap, or a corporeal mass endowed with mere power of cohesion, which is distinguished by this alone from a being by aggregation, though that too has its own metaphysical unity.]6
Finite and infinite being
There is another division of being, into finite and infinite.7Finite is self-explanatory from the name. Infinite is “that which is greater than everything finite,” or “that which rejects all relationship with finite things.” All things perceived by the senses appear to be finite. We acquire the notion of infinity not only from the fact that in certain things, namely numbers, sizes, and time, the mind can always go on, and sees that in adding new parts, in extending or amplifying an idea, or in dividing a quantity where it is impossible to arrive at portions which are absolutely the smallest, its progress cannot be arrested; some call this potential infinity. But [we acquire the notion of infinity] above all [from the fact] that in contemplating space the mind sees that no bounds can be anywhere conceived beyond which it cannot reach, and because it is quite certain that there has always been something without a beginning, and that past duration has been infinite. This notion of infinity we transfer to things that are quite different, namely power, wisdom, and goodness, for we want these things to be as great as they absolutely can be.
Difficult questions about infinite things
There are many fierce disputes about infinite things. These are the points that seem most likely. There can hardly be more than one thing of the same kind which is infinite in every way. There cannot be an infinite [thing] which is greater than an[other] infinite [thing] in the respect in which it is infinite. Infinite things, as they are infinite, cannot be multiplied; nor can they have any finite relation to finite parts, though things that are infinite in one respect and finite in another, if there are any such, may be multiplied and divided. If anyone chooses to spend time on these questions, which wholly exceed the powers of our minds, he will receive just one reward: he will be made more aware of his own limitations and any intellectual arrogance he may have will be diminished.
There is another division of being, into cause and thing caused. The idea of power, force, efficacy, action, causality is simple; it arises when we see from the proximity of certain things, and from their motion or their effect on other things, that new sensations instantly follow in ourselves, and new motions or changes of form in those other things.8 Moreover, we find from our awareness of our own intentions that our ideas are changed in different ways in our minds by our own efforts, and movements are aroused in our bodily members. And in these events we not only see that the desired change follows, but also perceive our minds exercising some sort of actual initiative (energia). The notion of action or efficiency, therefore, which should clearly be counted among the simpler [ideas], denotes something quite different from the fact that one thing or an alteration in a thing follows another thing, or that this thing preceded that thing in time, or has normally preceded it, even though this is quite often the only indication of efficiency that we have. And then, since the physical properties which affect the senses are known, namely, the forces of inertia, weight, mobility, and figure, we may infer from the force and nature of these qualities what changes in other things or in themselves bodies which have these qualities may effect by their own motion or impact. [But since the nature of the causes is not perspicuous to us, our knowledge of efficiency is also exiguous, and we more often make inferences by use and wont than by sure reasoning as to what effects are to be expected from any given cause or from what cause a given effect springs. Such is the ignorance of men in this matter that although we are quite aware that we are doing something in changing our thoughts and desires and appetites, yet all the rest of our human efficacy is uncertain, even in the movement and control of our own bodies; of this elsewhere.]9
[As for the forces or attractions attributed to other bodies which seem to give rise to gravity, cohesion of parts, elasticity, and other such things, whether they are necessarily in bodies of themselves or can coexist with the inertia of matter, or whether, on the other hand, they are caused by the continuous power of a nature which is far different and incorporeal in a fixed order in accordance with certain laws, the most learned men are at variance on the question of how it occurs, as also in the matter of the continuation of a motion already begun and its communication after a collision of bodies.10 The arguments which show that more than anything else one must invoke a certain power and design of nature which is far from corporeal are based on the fact that we have seen time and again that we have been able to formulate innumerable laws of nature, of the most diverse and different kinds, and understand them without any contradiction, like those laws which we see affording the highest degree of security and usefulness to all things.]11
Logical causes, moral causes, etc.
We will say nothing here of logical causes, which are said to be causes of knowing, such as the premisses of conclusions, or of metaphysical causes, which are not truly distinguished from effects, such as attributes which are easily enough known and from which others seem to arise. Those are called moral causes which have done or omitted, according to their own wills or states of mind, things from which some good or evil could be foreseen as likely to arise either of its own accord and from its own nature or by the intervention of other causes of any kind whatsoever, which they have aroused or failed to restrain.12Denials therefore and privations, as well as real things, have their own moral causes.
Material causes and formal causes improper
Those causes which are called material causes, formal causes, and final causes have received the name [of cause] by a transference of meaning; only an efficient cause is properly called a cause. A material cause achieves nothing, whereas a real cause effects something either by itself or as a result. A formal cause effects nothing, but is itself effected.13
An end is a certain pleasing and desired thing, in the hope of obtaining which an agent is prompted to act; it may be pleasure perhaps or things which afford pleasure. Pleasure effects nothing by itself, but expectation of it moves a man, so that he wants to do those things which seem likely to produce pleasure.
Therefore when a man acts in view of an end, the end had previously been known to him and desired; innate in him is self-love (philautia, or an appetite for his own happiness), or a certain kindly feeling toward others. Further, when a man desires an end for its own sake, the thing desired has become pleasing to him because he has a certain sense which is prior to all reasoning; for there is no place for reasoning about ultimate ends, but only about aids or means as they are called. And if anyone desires something for the sake of another, again some feeling toward him for whose sake he desires it has necessarily preceded [the desire]. A final end is whatever is sought for its own sake. Hence every man has many ultimate ends, among which indeed a struggle or process of comparison may occur, with a view to discovering which one makes the greater contribution to a happy life. In this struggle there is little room for reasoning, since the question is rather to be settled either by a sense, external or internal,14 which instructs one as to what things afford the greatest pleasure, or by experience of things, which reveals what are the more constant and lasting pleasures.
Axioms about efficient causes
Here are the common axioms about efficient causes, which are either quite true or close to the truth. 1. Every cause is a true or existing thing. 2. Every cause is prior to its own effect, if not in time at least in nature. That is, in order for it to exist, the existence of the thing effected is not required; but the latter is unable to exist if the cause does not exist. For a thing which is endowed with effective force does not depend on its effect, even though it gets to be called a cause because of the effect. 3. No thing is a cause of itself. 4. Nor are several things mutually causes of each other; or, in causes there is no circle. 5. As soon as a cause acts, its true effect exists without any interval of time, though not the whole system of effects which perhaps it was set to bring about by a long chain of actions. 6. There is no true perfection in a created thing, which the cause itself did not possess, if not in a similar manner yet in a superior or at least an equal manner. 7. Any cause will effect nothing at all, if it is not determined by its own character or nature, or by its present disposition in the given circumstances, to ensure above everything that it does this now rather than not do it, but remains indifferent to both directions. These [axioms] seem to carry assent without any reasoning.
From these [axioms] metaphysicians infer: 1. That the continued duration, as well as the first existence, of a made or created thing is to be attributed to the power of the efficient cause, whether this requires continued action on the part of the cause or whether such constancy of nature, or perfection, has been granted to the created thing from the start as may last for the necessary time. 2. No effect, at least no effect which depends on human power, lasts longer than while the cause operates. This will not seem strange to anyone who has studied human efficacy. Human efficacy consists wholly of variously altering one’s own thoughts and feelings and initiating or directing movements in one’s own body. But the motion which we excite in our bodies is often continued without any effort on our part; and the force which we have impressed on contiguous bodies by means of our limbs seems to continue without our will and without our efficacy.
No infinite series of causes
The arguments which show that there cannot be an infinite series of causes without a first and independent cause are very similar, namely, that every term in that series is dependent and effected; therefore the whole series has been effected, even though there may be nothing outside the series on which the whole series depends or by which it is effected; and that it is true of each part of the series that it has been determined by the efficacy of some cause to exist rather than not exist; therefore it will be true of the whole series that it has been determined to exist by the efficacy of another. To these can be added [the argument] that each term in that series, apart from the last, is both cause and caused; and for each term there is one act of effecting and one thing effected; but if a final term is added, the things effected will be more than were the effecting actions; which is absurd. Since, however, arguments equal to and very similar to these (namely the argument which infers that what is true of any part of an infinite is true also of the whole infinite) can be adduced to overturn an infinity of space and time, it does not seem safe or necessary in such a grave question as the existence of God to rely on these arguments alone; for we find everywhere throughout this whole universe traces of so great a power and intelligence, which lead to a certain nature that is supremely excellent, the most wise and most powerful creator of the world. And there cannot be any suspicion that this superior nature sprang from a prior cause, much less that there has been an infinite series of things of that kind, since every cause in that series would have to be regarded as at least equal in virtue to the creator of the world. Anyone, therefore, who, believing that the world has been created, takes refuge in such a series of causes in order not to acknowledge the one eternal God, since it is not credible that things of such great power and virtue should have perished while their works still remain, verily, he will substitute innumerable gods in place of the one God.
Rational causes, necessary causes, and contingent causes
There is a well-known division of causes into rational, necessary, and contingent. Neither contingency, however, nor chance or fortune, denotes a true efficacious nature; these words are used when effects result either from natural causes in such a way that we cannot foresee them, or from free causes when there is no obvious incentive which would certainly direct the cause in one direction or the other, and no indication from which a spectator could predict the choice. Therefore all contingent things are effected either by necessary or by free causes. Furthermore, necessary causes which seem to act without design or will should be regarded as instruments which perform a function rather than as acting, and when they do seem to be acting or impelling, they themselves are also acted upon or impelled. Only deliberately acting things, therefore, seem to have a real power within themselves, or truly to effect anything.
What is liberty?
There is a difficult question about the liberty of deliberately operating causes: do they have within themselves the power to twist and turn, so that they can set themselves to will a thing or its contrary equally, which is called the liberty of contrariety (as if one were to say that he can desire and pursue either that which seems to him pleasant or that which appears harmful and annoying), or do they have at least the power to set themselves to act or not to act, to will or not to will, which is the liberty of contradiction.15 It was the opinion of the Stoics16 that our desires and aversions are excited by the images of good and evil which appear to the mind, together with the character and qualities of the mind itself, in accordance with a certain constant law of our nature, and further, that the character of the mind itself is set by the earliest fabric of [its] nature and then by education and morals. They also held, therefore, that judgments and opinions are always formed from the sagacity, caution, or diligence which the mind possesses at that time on the basis of the indications of good and evil which things themselves display; and volitions and actions emerge from the calm or violent passions of the mind. And all these necessary antecedents of actions were set and foreseen by God himself. [By free causes therefore they mean those which can do what they will and abstain from what they reject, however much they may actually have been impelled to will or to reject. For they take the view that the power of directing oneself, which some imagine to be determined neither by the character of the agent nor by the appearance of good and evil nor by the judgment of the agent, is absurd and useless, and properly does not occur except when incentives are offered which are equal in both directions, which rarely happens; and even in this case the inclination of the self in either direction would have no quality of virtue or vice. And if anyone were to make use of this power to act against what seems to him to be the prevailing incentive, his action would be stupid if not wicked. On this whole question each one will best judge who examines himself to see whether or not in every deliberate intention to act (for few would maintain that when we are blindly carried away by a passionate emotion, we are free in this sense) he has before him some prospect of obtaining a good or repulsing an evil, by which his mind was moved to will. Similarly, in things which are completely equal, let him see whether or not he chooses one thing over the rest because it was the first that occurred to him, or because he has attached a feigned and imaginary image of good to the direction which he chooses. On this question the Stoics argue that nothing arises without a cause; and if anything were indeed effected by a cause which was indifferent and capable of going in either direction, and were not inclined to one direction or the other, either by its own character and nature or by the circumstances assumed to surround it, such a decision would not amount to a cause.
Others, however, respond17 that such is the nature of rational causes that they can move in any direction, that they are themselves the cause of their inclining or turning, and that this characteristic is theirs by nature. They concede that they nearly always follow their own judgments in some way but that there are two particular appearances that move the will, namely, [the appearance] of right (honestum) and duty, or of the pleasant and the useful, and that it is in their own power to incline and turn themselves to either of these.]18
Beings are divided into substances and accidents
Finally, beings are divided into substances and modes or accidents, and not without reason. The first notion of substance, a quite simple notion, arises for each man from the fact that he is aware of himself as persisting, even though his thoughts, sensations, and feelings are constantly changing, and that he cannot imagine himself other than he has always been, despite these mental variations. Similarly, we perceive by sight and touch that bodies take on new colors and new shapes and quietly change their motions, while their quantity or extension, mass, weight, and solidity remain constant. Thus we call the thing that, despite its change of properties, remains itself, a substance; and the changeable properties we call accidents.
What are the truest modes
The principal modes which truly add something to their substances seem to be the power of moving, that is, motions and figures in corporeal things, and in our minds the operations or passions of perceiving, understanding, and willing.19
[Corporeal substances and thinking substances
Substances are either extended or thinking; there are perhaps several kinds of both which are fundamentally different from each other. If there is any reality in space, it is different from every body; and among bodies themselves there have perhaps been from the beginning certain notable differences which are hidden from us. Likewise the kinds of thinking things which are widely different from each other are perhaps innumerable, of which some are far more highly endowed with senses and powers and fitted to lead their lives in quite contrary ways: from the feeblest souls of immobile shellfish, not to speak of plants, to the highest orders of angels and God himself. And though we call them all by the common name of spirit or soul, we should not rush to the judgment that they are all alike in nature and differ only in degree.]20
Body, magnitude and extended things are the concern of physics and mathematics, spirits of pneumatology.
[1 ]De Vries had also made independence and dependence the first division of being: Determinationes Ontologicae, chap. 11.
[2 ]Samuel Clarke argued that an independent being must also be an infinite being, “for else it would be impossible there should be any Infinite at all, unless an Effect could be more perfect than its Cause.” A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, p. 87. See also Ralph Cudworth, The True Intellectual System of the Universe, p. 649: “To assert an Infinite Being is nothing else but to assert a Being Absolutely Perfect, … God, and Infinite and Absolutely Perfect being but different names for One and the same thing.”
[3 ]This paragraph was added in the second edition (1744). The “learned men” in question appear to be “Spinoza and his Followers,” as discussed by Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, p. 122 ff.
[4 ]The sentences between brackets were added in 1744. Samuel Clarke had described the necessity of God as “Antecedent … to our supposition of its Being”; that is, it would be self-contradictory to deny the existence of a necessarily existent being: A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, p. 28. It was argued against Clarke that the necessity he contended for was more properly considered a consequent or subsequent necessity to be inferred from the order of the creation. “A Dissertation upon the Argument a Priori for Proving the Existence of a First Cause” [by Daniel Waterland] appended to Edmund Law, An Enquiry into the Ideas of Space, Time, Immensity and Eternity: “Dissertation,” pp. 51-52, 56, and Law, chap. 5, “Of Self-Existence and Necessary Existence,” pp. 148-49. Hutcheson was never persuaded of the cogency of Clarke’s arguments from intrinsic or antecedent necessity, as the remainder of this paragraph attests. Hutcheson told William Leechman that he had written a letter [no longer extant] to Clarke, ca. 1717, to express his doubts on this subject. See William Leechman, “Account of the Life and Character of the Author,” prefaced to A System of Moral Philosophy, pp. iv-vi.
[5 ]See Part II, chap. 3: “Whether spirit is a different thing from body.”
[6 ]Section 3 was added in 1744.
[7 ]See de Vries, Determinationes Ontologicae, chap. 15 (“Infinite, Finite, Indefinite”), pp. 144-46. In the first edition of Hutcheson’s metaphysics (1742), these two paragraphs, on finite and infinite, followed the discussion of causation (sec. 5 below) as it does in de Vries’s work.
[8 ]Hutcheson explained causation in terms of ideas; like Locke, Essay, bk. 2, chap. 26, and Le Clerc, Ontologia, chap. 9. De Vries, Determinationes Ontologicae, chap. 12, in contrast, explained causation in terms of things.
[9 ]The sentences between brackets were added in 1744. In the 1749 edition, a note was added to “of this elsewhere”: “See Part II, Chapter IV, Section 1,” p. 145 below. See also sec. 6 of this chapter, pp. 96-99.
[10 ]Hutcheson’s note (1749): “On this matter, consult Malebranche and certain Newtonians.” Baxter, Enquiry, reviews the opinions of various Newtonians on the subject in secs. 1 and 2.
[11 ]This paragraph was added in 1744.
[12 ]Compare Le Clerc, Ontologia, chap. 9, sec. 5, for many distinct ideas of causality: physical, moral, logical (between parts and whole), principal and instrumental, per se and accidental, and so on.
[13 ]De Vries, Determinationes Ontologicae, chap. 12, sec. 22, p. 128, also dismisses material and formal causes as “outside the realm of physics.” Also Le Clerc, Ontologia: see chap. 9, p. 36.
[14 ]See Part II, chap. 2, n. 5, and the introduction, pp. xv and xxvi.
[15 ]The distinction between liberty of contrariety and liberty of contradiction was made by scholastic moralists: Eustache, Ethica sive Summa Moralis Disciplinae, p. 12; Carmichael, Natural Rights, p. 24.
[16 ]On the ideas of the Stoics concerning the necessity of human actions, see the introduction, p. xxv, and below: II, 2, 3, pp. 129-31, and III, 3, 3, p. 171.
[17 ]Peripatetic moralists were critical of Stoic determinism, insisting upon the ability of reason or rational causes to direct the will to beatitude or lasting happiness. Eustache, Ethica, p. 55ff; Burgersdijk, Idea Philosophiae tum Moralis tum Naturalis, Oxford, 1654, pp. 37-38, 52-54. See the introduction, p. xxv, and Part II, chap. 2, n. 8, pp. 130-31.
[18 ]The sentences that appear between brackets were added in 1744. In the 1749 edition, there is a note: “See Part II, Chapters 2 and 3 [pp. 126-44] and Part III, Chapter 3, Section 3 [pp. 171-72]. Read the chapter of Locke cited above, ‘On Power,’ and other frequently encountered writers.”
[19 ]The following note appears in the 1749 edition: “See the letters of Samuel Clarke against Dodwell, and his defenders, on the difference between thinking thing and body.”
[20 ]This paragraph was added in 1744.