Hutcheson on Chickens

Here’s the never-to-be-forgotten Professor Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), writing about chickens:

The peculiar Beauty of Fowls can scarce be omitted, which arises from the vast Variety of Feathers, a curious Sort of Machines adapted to many admirable Uses, which retain a vast Resemblance in their Structure among all the Species, and a perfect Uniformity in those of the same Species in the corresponding Parts, and in the two Sides of each Individual; besides all the Beauty of lively Colours and gradual Shades, not only in the external Appearance of the Fowl, resulting from an artful Combination of shaded Feathers, but often visible even in one Feather separately.

H/t PS.

3 thoughts on “Hutcheson on Chickens”

  1. I feel it’s important for your readers to know, Chris, why chickens – and fowl generally – are so beautiful.

    It is – obviously – because they exhibit “Uniformity amidst Variety”. As Hutcheson insists we all already know, this is the basic principle of beauty – guaranteed and instantiated by the free choice of God – which even the meanest of the vulgar may discern through their internal perceptive Sense of Beauty.

    Of course, certain more advanced instances of uniformity amidst variety require a special subtlty and sophistication to discern – but that merely shows that men are not equal in their perceptive capacities in line with God-given reason, not that all beauty is not, at base, founded in Uniformity amidst Variety.

    Consequently, it is a self-evident truth known to all honest enquirers that as squares are more uniform than triangles, squares are more beautiful than triangles (and so on):

    First, the Variety increases the Beauty in equal Uniformity. The Beauty of an equilateral Triangle is less than that of the Square; which is less than that of a Pentagon; and this again is surpass’d by the Hexagon. When indeed the Number of Sides is much increas’d, the Proportion of them to the Radius, or Diameter of the [18] Figure, ?7 or of the Circle to which regular Polygons have an obvious Relation,? is so much lost to our Observation, that the Beauty does not always increase with the Number of Sides; and the want of Parallelism in the Sides of Heptagons, and other Figures of odd Numbers, may also diminish their Beauty. So in Solids, the Eicosiedron surpasses the Dodecaedron, and this the Octaedron, which is still more beautiful than the Cube; and this again surpasses the regular Pyramid: The obvious Ground of this, is greater Variety with equal Uniformity.

    (Sadly, this is about as fun as Hutcheson’s philosophy gets. From here onwards it’s generally just incoherence and desperate point-scoring against Mandeville.)

  2. Would it be indelicate to point out that English philosophy might have had a collective chip — chips — on its shoulder following the assassination of Francis Bacon by a chicken? Just saying.

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