Ferguson’s Faculty and Moral Psychology

Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives internationales d’histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 191)


Human Nature Eighteenth Century Moral Philosophy Human Constitution Moral Psychology 
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  4. 446.
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  6. 448.
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  11. 454.
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    According to David Hothersall’s definition of faculty psychology. D. Hothersall, History of Psychology: Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985, p. 21.Google Scholar
  13. 456.
    Institutes, p. 11. The same point is reiterated in ‘Joseph Black‘, p. 109 and in the Principles, I. p. 1. This approach seems to have originated with Francis Bacon (Wood ‘The Natural History of Man’, pp. 94–5) though Aristotle had also argued that ‘we must study the soul of man’ in order ‘to understand what moral goodness is’. Aristotle, Ethics, translated by J.A.K. Thomson, London: Penguin, 1976, Book I. xiii. p. 87. It should be remembered that in the eighteenth century moral philosophy included what we would today define as psychology. Viner, The Role of Providence, p.78. For a general discussion of the psychology of the ‘Common Sense’ school see Philip Flynn’ scottish Philosophers, Scotch Reviewers, and the Science of Mind’, The Dalhousie Review, Vol. 68, 1988, pp. 259–83. See also Pierce, ‘The Scottish Common Sense School and Individual Psychology’, pp. 137–49.Google Scholar
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    But such should not be taken to mean that Ferguson approaches the genuinely prescient psychology of Nicolas Malebranche who also conceived human behaviour as efficient causes of God’s transcendent will. Reed, ‘Theory, Concept and Experiment’, p. pp342. Whereas Ferguson identifies our faculties and passions as these efficient causes, Malebranche was articulating an almost fully developed theory of the power of the unconscious mind. Ferguson’s approach is also a long way away from the nascent’ science’ of psychiatry promulgated by Diderot, Holbach, Marat, and Hartley because he has limited himself to working within a theological framework; the study of human beings has not been fully naturalised because to Ferguson’s mind there is far more to human beings than matter and cells. For further discussion on the transition of the perception of mental illness from a metaphysical to a physiological event see Sergio Moravia, ‘The Enlightenment and the Sciences of Man’, History of Science, Vol. 18, 1980, pp. 247–68, pp. 263–4.Google Scholar
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    As is shown in more detail in Chapter 7.Google Scholar
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    An entity has a teleological function when it has use or contributes to the ‘attainment of some end or purpose of some system or user’. William G. Wimstatt ‘Teleology and the Logical Structure of Function Statements’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Vol.3(1), 1972, pp. 1–80, pp. 4–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    ‘Who ever doubted that the eye was made to see, the ear to hear, the mouth to receive, and the teeth to grind his food; that the foot was made to step on the ground; the hand to grasp, or enable him to seize and apply things proper for his use’. ‘Of Things that are or May Be’ (Part 1), Collection of Essays, No. 27, p. 220. See also. P.I., p. 165. Hutcheson’s faculty psychology was also teleological; indeed faculty psychologies are, by nature, essentially teleological. D.W. Howe ‘The Political Psychology of the Federalist’, William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 44, July, 1987, pp. 484–507, p. 488.Google Scholar
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    P.I., p. 29. Margaret Reesor notes: ‘Cicero attributes to the Stoics generally the statement that men were born in order that they might help one another’. M. Reesor, The Political Theory of the Old and Middle Stoa, New York: J.J. Augustin, 1951, p. 21.Google Scholar
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    P.I. p. 9. ‘[T]o know himself, and his place in the system of nature, is the specific lot and prerogative of man’. P.I., 306. ‘In the game of human life, the inventor knew well how to accommodate the players’. P.I., p.187; Of Cause and Effect, Ends and Means, Order, Combination and Design’, Collection of Essays, No. 13, p. 129; ‘Of Things that are or May Be’, Collection of Essays, No. 27 (2), p. 238. All of these faculties as teleologically conceived can be found in Stoic thought. Reesor, Old and Middle Stoa, p. 32.Google Scholar
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  62. 505.
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  63. 506.
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  64. 507.
    The belief in human uniformity shared by Ferguson, Montequieu and Machiavelli is traceable to Stoicism. Patricia Springborg, Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince, Oxford: Polity Press, 1991, p. 47.Google Scholar
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    Owens, ‘Teleology of Nature’, p. 162.Google Scholar
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    To put it in terms first framed by Allan Smith. The Political Philosophy of Adam Ferguson, p. 35.Google Scholar
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    Hume asserted that ‘there is no such passion in human minds, as love of mankind’. Treatise, II. ii. 1, p. 481. For further discussion see Evan Radcliffe, ‘Revolutionary Writing, Moral Philosophy, and Universal Benevolence in the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 54 (2) April, 1993, pp. 221–40. Though Hume took an anti-Stoic line, he seems to have identified himself more with Scepticism than with Epicureanism. For a detailed discussion of Hume’s prejudices here see M.A. Stewart, ‘The Stoic Legacy in the early Scottish Enlightenment’ in Osler, Atoms, Pneuma and Tranquillity, pp. 273–96.Google Scholar
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    John Sekora, Luxury, London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977, p. 93. Yet, Ferguson does not refer to any of these earlier critiques. Even Gibbon was not entirely hostile to greed and luxury. He distinguished between ‘harmless and harmful luxury’. Sekora, Luxury, p. 103. For Mandeville’s views here about the hypocrisy of contemporaries who disparaged material progress while enjoying its material benefits see Malcolm Jack, ‘Progress and Corruption in the Eighteenth Century; Mandeville’s “Private Vices, Public Benefits”’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 37 (2), 1976, pp. 369–76, p. 373.Google Scholar
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    P.I., p. 29. Hume argued that the legal order, though socially beneficial, does ‘not arise from a view to the public good’ but has its exclusive and ‘real origin’ in’ self-love’. Treatise, III. ii. vi, pp. 528–9.Google Scholar
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    P.I., p. 29. Ferguson emphasises that both the self and other regarding drives are species survival mechanisms: ‘The general tendency of benevolence, like that of the animal propensities, is to preserve the human race, and to render man useful to his fellow creatures...while the selfish principles co-operate to the preservation of the whole, by preserving...the safety of individuals apart, benevolence’ works to the ‘general’ good. P.II., p. 19. See also P.II., p. 122, for more on the social utility of beneficence.Google Scholar
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    Sekora, Luxury, p. 93. These problems were typified by the example of the’ south Sea Bubble’ scandal in 1720, which ruined thousands.Google Scholar
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