Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 2: On the Natural Virtues of God - Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind
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CHAPTER 2: On the Natural Virtues of God - 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 Natural Virtues of God
How the attributes of God are known
Since we seem to have shown clearly enough that a superior nature has existed from all eternity, we proceed to explain his virtues or attributes. [We understand well enough from logic that all our ideas arise from some sense either external or internal. What we derive from our external senses is supplemented by arguments from which we rightly infer that there is a God, and that he is endowed with every virtue; no external sense, however, can grasp the virtues of God themselves. All mental virtues therefore are understood by an internal sense or by internal consciousness of the self and its properties. This is the source from which at least the elements of all the notions which represent the divine virtues are engendered in the mind. But since it is agreed that the first and superior nature is free of all those vices and defects with which human virtues are tainted, we form the most perfect notions of the divine virtues of which our minds are capable by amplifying as much as we can these ideas of our own virtues or perfections, and removing all defects from them. [Communicable and incommunicable attributes ]1 Hence in a certain manner all the divine virtues may be said to be communicable, because we find a certain resemblance to them or obscure intimation of them in created things. However, those names or attributes that denote the supreme and highest degree of virtue which the virtues of God alone attain are called incommunicable.]2
Independent and necessary existence
Among the attributes which cannot be communicated, the first place is taken by independence, by which God is understood to have always existed in himself, the first of all things, so that he recognizes no other cause or force from outside to which he owes anything of himself. We should not, however, imagine from this that either God is cause of himself or that any attribute of his is the cause or effective reason of the other attributes. Independence always entails that God from the first and always necessarily is, and therefore depends on the will of no one. And we are not to ask any cause or efficient reason for the first cause; and a necessity of nature is not a cause or reason of the existence of the thing itself in which this necessity is, since no attribute can be prior to its subject.3
Hence we also conclude that there is only one God, if by the word God we understand the first nature created by no one. For nothing suggests that there has been more than one thing of that kind, and indeed the notion is unintelligible. For when there is a certain number of any things, whatever they may be, we are simply compelled to think that the will or design of a spontaneous or free cause has intervened to decide on this number rather than any other. But this cannot be supposed in the case of the first nature.
The structure of the world shows this too: all the parts of the world that are known to us are so connected with each other and mutually dependent that they seem to signal the design of a single maker. [Polytheism does not preclude all piety.] Not all piety, however, or religion would be abolished, nor would all the foundations of virtue be subverted by the belief that there are several gods, provided we retain a belief in the government of the whole universe by the harmonious counsel of benevolent and provident gods.4
From the fact that God is absolutely first and sprung from nothing, we conclude that the virtues or perfections of God are infinite in precisely the same way, and that he is endowed with every true and pure perfection. For when a thing enjoys only certain virtues but not all, or a merely finite mode and measure of perfection, these things seem to have been altogether determined by the will of an effective cause. We therefore rightly conclude that the first nature which recognizes no cause has all virtues and all superiority and that it is infinite.
God is spirit
That God is not corporeal is shown by the same arguments that prove that human minds are things different from body and that matter cannot think or have a sense of itself.5 And no thing devoid of sense can have any superiority or perfection. But all of these are to be attributed to the first nature of all.
That God is a simple nature without parts and not made or composed of different things is inferred from the fact that he is spirit, and that primary and independent nature is most perfect. The perfections of God are not therefore adventitious but are all necessarily connected with the divine nature from the beginning. [Immutable ] He is therefore immutable, whereas all adventitious things come in to make up a deficiency. Therefore God is rightly defined as independent spirit, all of whose virtues are most superior.
In what sense he is immeasurable and eternal
Since all the things that we know in time seem to exist successively, and every action or passion of the mind of which it is itself aware appears to carry with it a certain notion or sense of this, and since all the corporeal things among which we live seem to fill a certain place or space, a difficult question arises about the divine nature: does it exist successively, and is it diffused like space? Serious thinkers have gone in opposite directions on this.6 Some believe that God, like every thinking thing, is so simple that he cannot be coextended with space nor occupy any place. For these things cannot be understood without parts which are distinct, however similar or cohesive they may be. They also confirm this from the fact that the properties, virtues, and vices of spirits and all that seem to belong to the nature of mind itself, and which nature leads us to believe are properties of our own minds, appear incapable of being diffused through space or spread through an extended place. Likewise by a similar reasoning (which, however, seems to go beyond what the mind can see), some think that the simple and immutable divine nature, which understands and wills all the samethings always in a single act, does not exist successively either. Other equally powerful thinkers, however, reject this belief and take the position that eternal duration is the very eternity of God, and that his immeasurability is infinite space itself. In this difficult question which altogether surpasses the powers of the human mind, we can hardly assert that anything has been fully made out, except this one thing: that everything that happens in the whole of space is and always has been perceived and comprehended by God, and that in all places he can always bring about what he has willed. The former position seems the more likely, though it is so obscure that it scarcely seems to come within the orbit of thought.7
From these natural attributes or virtues of God, which cannot be communicated with others, one may see above all that God is uncomprehended, not adequately grasped by any finite mind.8 This is true of God not only in the sense in which it may be said of any other substance, namely that its inner nature is hidden from us and that no one has discerned and known its innumerable relations with other things, but also in the sense that our ideas of these attributes are not appropriate to depict or represent the things themselves, although they seem to go some way toward them. The moral attributes which are said to be communicable are another matter. For our ideas of these are appropriate, and they do truly depict them, however imperfect and inadequate [our ideas] may be; for all the evidence which proves that God exists also proves that he is endowed with supreme wisdom, power, and goodness, and is the kind of evidence of which we can form distinct and suitable conceptions in our minds. We will now proceed to expound the virtues which we know from that inner awareness of our own virtues that we mentioned above.]9
[1 ]For the distinction between the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God, see Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, chap. 5, p. 60 ff., and Carmichael, “A Synopsis of Natural Theology,” Natural Rights, pp. 248-70.
[2 ]All of the sentences between brackets were added in the second edition (1744).
[3 ]Hutcheson’s opinion that God does not require a cause and that the notion of self-creation or aseity is not a meaningful term or idea was shared by de Vries, Determinationes Ontologicae, III, 3, pp. 52-54, and Carmichael, Natural Rights, pp. 249-50.
[4 ]As Hutcheson understood the Stoics, they made provision for the government of nature by “many inferior created spirits.” See “The Life of the Emperor Marcus Antoninus,” prefaced to Hutcheson’s and Moor’s translation of The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, p. 35 ff. See also A System of Moral Philosophy, pp. 174 and 206.
[5 ]Note (1740): “Part II, Chapter III,” pp. 138-44 above.
[6 ]Note (1749): “Part I, Chapter III, Section 4 and Part II, Chapter III, Sections 4 and 5.” See pp. 82-86 and 140-42. The “serious thinkers” whom Hutcheson had in mind were identified in his note to I, 3, 4 (p. 83, n. 10) and the note to A System of Moral Philosophy, p. 200, cited at II, 3, 5 (p. 142, n. 6).
[7 ]Hutcheson’s view that “the former position seems the more likely” appears consistent with the line taken by Leibniz in his exchange with Clarke: “some have believed it [space] to be God himself, or, one of his Attributes, his Immensity. But since Space consists of Parts, it is not a thing which can belong to God.” The Works of Samuel Clarke, vol. 4, p. 602. Carmichael had adopted a similar position: Natural Rights, p. 254.
[8 ]Compare Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion, pt. 1, chap. 7, pp. 160-61: “The natural world then, and natural government of it, being … so incomprehensible, that a man must, really in the literal sense, know nothing at all, who is not sensible of his ignorance in it. …”
[9 ]This paragraph was added in 1744.