Castle, Nicholas John (1998) David Hume's theory of justice: a defence of the establishment without recourse to the argument for the divine right of kings, or a workable guiding principle of legitimate and lasting government? Masters thesis, Durham University.
David Hume' political philosophy has a strongly paternalistic feel, leading to a misconception of Hume as a conservative thinker with little to contribute in the field of political philosophy beyond a defence of the status quo. This Thesis assesses the extent to which Hume's work can help us understand his world and our own. Chapter One dwells on the personality of David Hume, as a prerequisite to a fuller understanding of the intentions and significance of his work. Includes: Hume’s ambition; his concern for accuracy (and restraint from empty rhetoric); his caution; his objectivity (demonstrated by his greed for independence; his emotional side (including an introduction to the idea of Hume as agnostic rather than strictly an atheist as he is - still - often characterised); his attitude towards the truth. Chapter Two moves onto an examination of relevant parts of Hume's general philosophy, forming the beginning of Hume's theory of justice. Chapter Three concerns the impact of Hume's general philosophy on his politics. Hume’s theory of just government is rooted in his general thoughts on morality, which are characterised by a scepticism sometimes mistaken for cynicism. Hume dismisses the idea of an original and binding Contract of Government. In Hume's political philosophy man has the capacity for improvement and progress without being restrained by the past. Justice underscores civil society, which is about mutual protection - peace is justice. Justice is not necessarily about democracy, although Hume is not challenging the possibility of legitimate government authority. Key questions: What does Hume mean by stability in government? Is Hume right about Justice? What precisely does Hume mean by self-interest? Was Hume a democrat? Chapter Four Conclusion: concluding comments on Hume's philosophy of the state. Hume shares Hobbes' objective of non-ideological government. Hume was wary of change, especially if it was in accordance with some grand plan for society and / or mankind (which tended to mean revolution). Includes: the crucial role of property in Hume’s jurisprudence, empirical evidence from history to support this and other claims; more on the political culture in Hume's functional civil society, including a look at how Hume uses the Aristotelean distinction between man and citizen; the practical aspects of his theory of justice in government; conclusion that Hume’s theory of justice is a theory of property, and that this is because self-interest drives all men. Key questions: What is Hume's "common sense"? Has Hume identified the elusive, verifiable moral absolute? Can we derive a workable principle of civil society from Hume’s analysis? Did David Hume fulfil his lofty intellectual ambitions?
|Master of Arts
|Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
|13 Sep 2012 15:50