The son of Tiberius Hemsterhuis, he was born at Franeker in the Netherlands. He was educated at the University of Leiden, where he studied Plato. Failing to obtain a professorship, he entered the service of the state, and for many years acted as secretary to the state council of the United Provinces. He died at the Hague on 7 July 1790. Through his philosophical writings he became acquainted with many distinguished persons--Goethe, Herder, Princess Adelheid Amalie Gallitzin, and especially Jacobi, with whom he had much in common. His most valuable contributions are in the department of aesthetics or the general analysis of feeling. His philosophy has been characterized as Socratic in content and Platonic in form. Its foundation was the desire for self-knowledge and truth, untrammelled by the rigid bonds of any particular system.
His most important works, all of which were written in French, are:
The best collected edition of his works is by PS Meijboom (1846-1850); see also SA Gronemann, F. Hemsterhuis, de Nederlandische Wijsgeer (Utrecht, 1867); E Grucker, François Hemsterhuis, sa vie et ses œuvres (Paris, 1866); E Meyer, Der Philosoph Franz Hemsterhuis (Breslau, 1893), with bibliographical notice; Augustinus P. Dierick, “Pre-Romantic Elements in the aesthetic and moral writings of François Hemsterhuis (1721-1790).” Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 26 (1998), 247-271.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hemsterhuis, François". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 264–265.