Essays: Moral, Political and Literary

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Cosimo, Inc., Jul 1, 2006 - Philosophy - 628 pages
2 Reviews
As part of the tried and true model of informal essay writing, Hume began publishing his Essays: Moral, Political and Literary in 1741. The majority of these finely honed treatises fall into three distinct areas: political theory, economic theory and aesthetic theory.Interestingly, Hume's was motivated to produce a collection of informal essays given the poor public reception of his more formally written "Treatise of Human Nature" in 1739. He hoped that his work would be interesting not only to the educated man, but to the common man as well. He passionately argues that essays provide a forum for discussing his philosophy of "common life."DAVID HUME (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher and historian. Educated at Edinburgh, he lived in France from 1734 to 1737, where he finished his first philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40). His additional philosophical works include An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), Political Discourses (1752), The Natural History of Religion (1755), and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779).
 

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There are at least two ways to read this short collection of political essays by the Scottish philosopher David Hume: as an historical document, reflecting the views of a leading thinker of the ... Read full review

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Hume's ethical and political writings in a single collection. Read full review

Contents

I
3
II
8
III
13
IV
29
V
35
VI
40
VII
48
VIII
54
XXVIII
303
XXIX
316
XXX
334
XXXI
339
XXXII
349
XXXIII
355
XXXIV
372
XXXV
381

IX
63
X
75
XI
81
XII
89
XIII
98
XIV
112
XV
139
XVI
147
XVII
157
XVIII
161
XIX
185
XX
196
XXI
202
XXII
221
XXIII
231
XXIV
257
XXV
259
XXVI
275
XXVII
289
XXXVI
452
XXXVII
474
XXXVIII
478
XXXIX
487
XL
499
XLI
517
XLII
545
XLIII
547
XLIV
552
XLV
558
XLVI
563
XLVII
568
XLVIII
573
XLIX
579
L
585
LI
605
LII
607
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Page 29 - When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.
Page 35 - We are, therefore, to look upon all the vast apparatus of our government, as having ultimately no other object or purpose but the distribution of justice, or, in other words, the support of the twelve judges. Kings and parliaments, fleets and armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, ministers, and privy-counsellors, are all subordinate in their end to this part of administration.

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About the author (2006)

David Hume was born in Edinburgh to a minor Scottish noble family, raised at the estate of Ninewells, and attended the University of Edinburgh for two years until he was 15. Although his family wished him to study law, he found himself unsuited to this. He studied at home, tried business briefly, and after receiving a small inheritance traveled to France, settling at La Fleche, where Descartes had gone to school. There he completed his first and major philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739--40), published in three volumes. Hume claimed on the title page that he was introducing the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects, and further that he was offering a new way of seeing the limits of human knowledge. Although his work was largely ignored, Hume gained from it a reputation as a philosophical skeptic and an opponent of traditional religion. (In later years he was called "the great infidel.") This reputation led to his being rejected for professorships at both Edinburgh and Glasgow. To earn his living he served variously as the secretary to General St. Clair, as the attendant to the mad Marquis of Annandale, and as the keeper of the Advocates Library in Edinburgh. While holding these positions, he wrote and published a new version of his philosophy, the two Enquiries, and many essays on social, political, moral, and literary subjects. He also began his six-volume History of England from the Roman Invasion to the Glorious Revolution (1754--62), the work that made him most famous in his lifetime. Hume retired from public life and settled in Edinburgh, where he was the leading figure in Scottish letters and a good friend to many of the leading intellectuals of the time, including Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin. During this period, he completed the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which he had been working on for more than 25 years. Hume first worked on the Dialogues in the middle of his career, but put them aside as too provocative. In his last years he finished them and they were published posthumously in 1779. They are probably his best literary effort and have been the basis for continuous discussion and debate among philosophers of religion. Toward the end of Hume's life, his philosophical work began to be taken seriously, and the skeptical problems he had raised were tackled by philosophers in Scotland, France, and finally Germany, where Kant claimed that Hume had awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers. Hume was one of the most influential philosophers of modern times, both as a positive force on skeptical and empirical thinkers and as a philosopher to be refuted by others. Interpreters are still arguing about whether he should be seen as a complete skeptic, a partial skeptic, a precursor of logical positivism, or even a secret believer.

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