Essays hume

Because he locates the basis of virtue in utility rather than in God-given reason, Hume’s list of virtues implicitly forms a rejection of Christian morality. Items such as ambition are vices under the old model, so Hume’s acceptance of them into his catalog is an insult to religious theorists. However, Hume is consistent in his theory that these traits are virtues because they fulfill his two requirements for moral sentiments: they must be useful to ourselves or others, or they must be pleasing to ourselves or others. Furthermore, Hume rejects the concept of morality as strictly voluntary. Instead, he divides his list into voluntary and involuntary virtues, claiming that separating them is necessary only when devising a system of reward and punishment. He is not interested in creating or endorsing such a system, so he makes no such distinctions in his moral philosophy.

Hume had been toying for some time with the notion of writing a history, but did not begin in earnest until he was put in charge of the sizable library of the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh in 1752. After a few words on the “rude and turbulent” ancient Britons and their appalling Druids, his six-volume History traces England’s story from the arrival of Caesar to the deposition of James II in 1688. The inhumane effects of religious zealotry are a recurring theme. Hume’s emphasis on the harms to which religion can all too easily lead did not please many clerics. Harris argues that Hume’s History should be reckoned as broadly philosophical because of its focus on general principles of social, economic, and political change rather than on the actions of individuals. It was sometimes judged—for instance by Dr. Johnson, who did not intend this as a compliment—to be similar to the histories of Voltaire.

The constitution of the Roman republic gave the whole legislative power to the people, without allowing a negative voice either to the nobility or consuls. This unbounded power they possessed in a collective, not in a representative body. The consequences were: When the people, by success and conquest, had become very numerous, and had spread themselves to a great distance from the capital, the city-tribes, though the most contemptible, carried almost every vote: They were, therefore, most cajoled by every one that affected popularity: They were supported in idleness by the general distribution of corn, and by particular bribes, which they received from almost every candidate: By this means, they became every day more licentious, and the Campus Martius was a perpetual scene of tumult and sedition: Armed slaves were introduced among these rascally citizens; so that the whole government fell into anarchy, and the greatest happiness, which the Romans could look for, was the despotic power of the C æ ae originally 'æ'; separated to make searching the text easier sars . Such are the effects of democracy without a representative.

Essays hume

essays hume


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