One Hume, Two Historical Projects. Unity in David Hume's Philosophy.

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SOC /Philosophy

Professor Mikko Tolonen (University of Helsinki):

The argument of this paper is that we may find relevant coherence in David Hume's oeuvre ranging from his /Treatise/ onward and including his /History of England/. This unity is philosophical by nature, meaning that there is a clear continuity between his theory of the mind and his political and historical texts. The logic of this unity stems from the position that Hume outlines already in his /Treatise/. In Hume scholarship, the question of Hume's philosophical project has been debated from different aspects.

Lately James Harris has argued that there is no such unity to be found in Hume and his different works should be considered separate from each other. This paper makes a contrasting claim by stating that there is inherent logic in Hume's philosophical stance with clear consequences also for his political formulations fleshed out in history. For example, Hume's justification of monarchical elements of civil society follows from his principles of association. A central claim of this paper is that this coherence in Hume has not been realised because the nature of his /History of England/ has not been understood.

The foundation for "the One Hume" -thesis is thus the psychological underpinning of Hume's theory of civil society and the fact that social conventions play a crucial role in this. At the same time, it becomes understandable that overall Hume's political thought does not change from more liberal to conservative late in his publishing career, something that has been debated in the secondary scholarship. The part about "Two historical projects" claims that the Stuart volumes of Hume's /History/ should be read differently in this context of unity because they lead partly to a different track that is not logically connected to Hume's position in the /Treatise/. This is then corrected by Hume in his Tudor volumes and beyond in what is now known as /History of England/. Thus, in the end, there is relevant philosophical unity in Hume's works.


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