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Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment$
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Jon Parkin and Timothy Stanton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265406

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265406.001.0001

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Natural Rights or Political Prudence? Francis Hutcheson on Toleration

Natural Rights or Political Prudence? Francis Hutcheson on Toleration

(p.183) 8 Natural Rights or Political Prudence? Francis Hutcheson on Toleration
Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment

Knud Haakonssen

British Academy

Francis Hutcheson is commonly seen as a theorist of natural rights, including the right to a free conscience. However, his notion of conscience is of a moral faculty that is subject to education and, under certain circumstances, to political control. By distinguishing between the possession and the exercise of a right, Hutcheson is able to argue that the right to toleration of the individual's conscience is dependent upon social and political circumstances and is, in fact, a matter of prudence, not of transcendent status. This argument coheres with Hutcheson>'s emphasis on the fundamental role of the common good in the moral life, with his aesthetic and providentialist idea of morality, and with his Erastian view of the church in general and of the Scottish Kirk in particular. This chapter shows that these ideas made Hutcheson the centre of contemporary controversy.

Keywords:   natural rights, conscience, political prudence, Erastianism, toleration, controversy

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