Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 4: On the Will of God - Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind
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CHAPTER 4: On the Will 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 Will of God
What the will of God is
1. We also attribute to God a will which is similar to our own, though without our faults, weakness, and imperfection; no intelligent nature would be perfect which lacked a will. There are no violent emotions in God, analogous to human passions, and no disagreeable sensations or distress, since a most powerful and most wise nature is not liable to fatigue from his efforts to get a thing or from anxiety that he may not get it.
2. Although God is held to delight in external events, especially in the best and happiest state of the world, the divine happiness is not therefore made uncertain, precarious, or dependent on external things, since all external things and their entire condition depend upon his most powerful self.
3. There seems to be nothing that the most blessed God could seek as a result of self-love that would increase his happiness.
4. All intentions for his own actions seem to emanate rather from his unwavering benevolence and his natural and unchangeable will to share his felicity with others.
5. Of all the things that are pleasing to God in themselves and worthy to be sought by him, the greater are more sought and the greatest most sought.
[6. All ascribe liberty to God, but different kinds of it. However, hardly anyone would say that he could will anything contrary to his own innate virtues, or could fail to will anything consistent with them. God is not therefore to be thought to be indifferent to all those things that depend on his will, or favorable to both sides; for there is a certain necessary will.
7. Although some of the designs of God have the status of ends and others of means, since he sees that certain lesser things are a means to other, more excellent things, nevertheless the divine excellence precludes a progress like our own from conceiving the end to discerning the means: he sees all things at a single glance, and at the same time determines the whole sequence of all things with an unwavering will.]1
Arguments which show that God is good
We infer that God is wholly good and benevolent not only from the natural assumption that good men alone are happy, and that benevolence itself is a very great cause of happiness to its possessor and bars no other source of happiness, and because it is praiseworthy in itself and the supreme excellence and perfection of an intelligent nature, the very sense of which brings joy to such a nature, but also because no temptation to a contrary course could occur to a superior nature which needs nothing for its own sake.
[Arguments] from the fact that the very fabric of the world is built to a benevolent design
The whole structure of the world, all the things which have been fabricated by art and design, seem to have been built to a benevolent design and to have been intended to create or to preserve life and happiness. Nothing seems to have been made by art and intelligence for the purpose of causing pointless pain or misery. There is no trace of an evil intention or of a spiteful or cruel intention, which it would have been possible to see, frequently or regularly, in a world which was under the rule of a malignant deity. Let the structure of the world which shows that God exists be examined. How beautiful, clever, and kind it is! What a store of things has kindly nature supplied which help one to live a comfortable and agreeable life! The senses of men and of all living things have been so fashioned that almost everything that is health-giving and useful is also pleasant to healthy people, and they are prompted by unpleasant sensations to avoid anything that would cause disease. All the appetites implanted by nature are useful, indeed necessary, for the preservation and happiness of the individual or of the species. By a kind of acute sense of the fitting and the beautiful, together with kindly and social feelings, men are prompted to be helpful one to another and to offer mutual assistance; by a most happy sense of the right and the good, those who have made an effort for the happiness of others are rewarded; and the approbation and approval of others fills them with the most honorable delight. But those who neglect these duties or do the opposite are punished by the bitter bites and unseen strokes of conscience.
From the preponderance of happiness in the world
All these things have that much greater weight because we see that there are far, far more good and happy things in life than there are sad and gloomy things, so that nearly everyone has a good reason to go on living; and even those who at some time feel it would be better to depart from life have had a happy and desirable life through far more years.
Various reasons which indicate that a kindly God had to mix evil with good
Even the evils which afflict many men seem to follow clearly from the fabric and structure of things and from the natural laws which are altogether necessary and most useful. The bodies of living things could not be preserved if they were not warned and compelled by a sharp sense of pain to avoid and repel things which would harm the fabric of the body and impair its integrity. If men cannot without much labor obtain what they need for food and clothing, and cannot enhance their lives without still further labor, still labor itself very much contributes to health and strength both of mind and body. In cultivating the arts, practice and thought sharpen men’s minds, and should be called pleasures, not labors.
Disagreeable sensations often very useful
Who has grown so hardened against the feelings and promptings of nature that he finds fault with those motions of the mind by which we deplore the misfortunes of others and are prompted to give help to the distressed, even at some cost to ourselves? Or that bite or pain of the mind which we get from consciousness of wrongs we have done, which a kindly God intended as a remedy for vices? Who even will condemn all anger and indignation, especially that which stimulates us to protect ourselves, our family, and all good men from wrong, and to restrain evil men, and to advance good men to higher dignities?
Death too is desirable
What of the fact that death itself, from which we so fiercely shrink, also seems to be necessary, having regard to the whole system. For those who are satiated with all the pleasures of life and who do not know how to live well should give way to those for whom life will be happier and who can use it more fittingly. And an early death holds no sadness and grief for those who are departing from life, nor should God be thought to have had little regard for them. Death takes away the pleasures of life which they were expecting, but after death, either there will be for good men a happy experience or no experience at all. If the former, which right reason and the consent of all nations affirm, they will be much happier; if the latter, they will at any rate not be miserable. Nor do the brief pains of illness have so much importance that they deserve to be weighed against long years of health and the many pleasures of life.2
The best system of the world requires various kinds of sentient natures
In even the best-constituted system of things there have to be different kinds of living things, higher and lower, so that there may be an opportunity to exercise the noble virtues of the mind. For compassion, doing good, generosity, courage, equanimity, patience, gentleness, and nearly all the duties that we freely do (the sense of which is by far the happiest and the memory the most agreeable) would be excluded if there were no weakness, no want, no vices and errors among men; and no honest duties would be performed. There would be no room for counsel, prudence, and industry, if there were no general laws in force in the nature of things, in the knowledge of which men could make their plans and promise themselves certain effects and consequences from certain actions; and from even the best-designed laws certain evils would necessarily arise. The things that are seen in a bad life will not have sufficient force to show that the world was not made by a good God. For under the rule of even the most benevolent God such evils would happen. And indeed the evils which we see, though many and various, do not seem to be built into the actual machinery or structure of things as the proper end of them, but appear to result from the weakness of the material, the error of inferior agents or chance, beyond the natural design or intention of the work, in accordance with laws which are altogether useful and necessary.
Evils often serve greater goods or are linked with them
And in the end it is only a small part of the world that we see and for a short space of time. In this corner and in this short time, there are far more goods than evils in life, so that it is better for nearly everyone to remain in life rather than to simply die, and the whole machinery of things shows the kindly design of the supreme artificer. Even in this life we see that very many evils bring great benefits, which often check and punish men’s crimes, exercise and augment the virtues of the good, and convert men’s minds from external things and lower pleasures to internal and true goods. Hence it is surely probable that even those evils whose use we do not now see have been destined for the happiness and perfection of parts of the system remote from us, or of centuries to come, and of the whole world. At any rate these things will not show that the government of the world is spiteful or malignant.
God is very good
If therefore God is kind, and desirous of the happiness of all living things, their greater happiness will be preferred to their lesser happiness. Despite the fact, then, that many men are afflicted with grievous ills, we conclude that since God is also most powerful, all things have been from the beginning made in the best way and are kept in the best condition they can be, having regard to the whole world and its government through all the ages.3
The justice of God
Justice is associated with goodness itself and is rightly thought to be a part of it, since goodness expresses itself in making and promulgating laws pertaining to conduct, which command all right things and which will benefit the whole world, and also requires that these laws be fortified with strong sanctions so that all men may be better held to their duty and due obedience. And that the force of these laws for the common happiness may be all the greater, the same justice or goodness requires that fixed penalties be attached to the laws and that there be no unfair indulgence or favor shown toward evil men, which would harm the whole city of God.
Holiness has almost the same nature as goodness and justice; in willing all the best and in designing the best for the whole world, God is free of all evil or wicked desire, and rejoices in his own virtues and in all those who are like him, and condemns and turns his face from the opposite.
God is truthful
Since there is no reason to doubt that God can teach men many things beyond the common lot of nature and declare his will through them, we conclude from the fact that he is both the best and the wisest, who neither can be deceived himself nor wishes to deceive men when it is not to their interest to be deceived, that God is truthful in keeping his words and promises.
From all the other virtues of God we conclude that he is most blessed. But the blessedness of God can by no means depend upon external things, since all these depend upon him. Rather the best and most benevolent God receives his supreme and unchanging joys from himself and the consciousness of his own virtues, and from the optimal state of the whole world which he has made and continues to preserve by his own virtue.
[1 ]The sentences between brackets were added in 1744.
[2 ]The argument that evil, disagreeable sensations, and death itself are consistent with the benevolent design of the world is developed at greater length in A System of Moral Philosophy, bk. 1.
[3 ]Hutcheson’s note (1749): “On this whole question, read Leibniz, Théodicée; the Earl of Shaftesbury, Rhapsody [“The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody,” in Characteristics ]; Samuel and John Clarke; the Boyle lectures; and dissertations of others against the Manichees.”