Hutton's Relevance Today

Hutton lived in a time of great intellectual activity to which we know he contributed as a free and independent thinker. He will also inevitably have been influenced by his peers. His thinking resonates with topical issues and much still fascinates;

On women

He was an early advocate of better education for women ‘the culture of the fair sex is necessary of the perfection of the state’ , which was picked-up by John Playfair in his biography of Hutton, ‘One in particular deserves notice, in which he treats of the importance of the female character to society, in a state of high civilisation’.

On the free-market and agriculture

He felt agriculture was too important to be left to the chance of market forces “the husbandman maintains the nation in all it’s ease, it’s affluence and it’s splendour”. He was interestingly at odds with his friend Adam Smith, one can but imagine the arguments and discussions they would have had at the Oyster Club.

On labour relations and the importance of a trained labour-force

He believed labourers could be made more efficient by careful training and supervision, proper tools and the division of labour

On communication

He believed strongly in the dissemination of information, he was very forward thinking and he made a connection between agriculture and the public good.

On death

Death is …only the termination of a mode of thought…a passage from one condition of thought to another…(and therefore), the existence of the mind after death

Hutton was a deist; therefore religion and geology were mutually supportive. Deism was popular with 18th century intellectuals in Britain and Europe. Deism was more an ‘attitude’ than a religion and is based on ‘natural religion’ or an instinctive religion which they believed to be inborn in every person and is exercised through reason rather than knowledge. It was influenced by three principal concerns; faith in human reason, God as the architect for a rational ordered world and finally growing distrust in religious dogma based on revelation leading to intolerance.