The Aesthetics of Political Economy: The Case of Francis Hutcheson

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Abstract

There is a well-worn path which historians walk when retracing the
steps taken to reach the high ground of Classical political economy.
It is one which begins in the valleys of political arithmetic accompanied by William Petty, rises through the sloped forests of imperial mercantilism in which Thomas Mun dwells, and breathes the heady air of the Scottish Enlightenment on reaching the pinnacle with Adam Smith. What marks out this pathway is a continuous reliance on numbers as a guiderail. Starting with the calculations of Richard Gough in The History of Myddle,this parochialism gives way rapidly to the urbanity of Daniel Defoe’s morbid tabulation of death in A Journal of the Plague Year.1 The national issue is raised in the historical comparisons offered by David Hume when dealing with the ‘populousness of ancient nations’. 2 And an international purview is provided whilst condemning modern republicanism through Burke’s tabulations in Reflections on the Revolution in France.3 The British eighteenth-century imaginary can be thought of as obsessed with calculation.4
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-147
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Scottish Thought
Volume7
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

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