Explaining National Characters by Passions, Creating Moral Dialogue by Utility: An Aspect of Hume’s Political Thought





Published date: 

六月, 2018


Chien-kang Chen


A significant influence of Hume’s political philosophy lies in his developing a foundation based on passions and human nature for men’s political and moral spheres, in the trend of secularization that characterized the Age of Enlightenment. In this philosophical project known as ethical naturalism, although Hume is famous for treating reason as subordinate to the passions, his elaboration of the passions as found in the second book of the Treatise has long been undervalued by Hume scholars. The purpose of this article is to contest this account of Hume by revealing the contribution of  Hume’s theory of the passions to his political philosophy. In this dimension of Hume’s thought, we find that he establishes the social order based on man’s care regarding the opinions of others. More than securing the social order, the force of opinion still shapes the moral character and the value systems of each nation. However, when faced with the differences between each nation’s culture and values, Hume indicates that the principle of utility, which he derives inductively from human history and experience, may well be used to reconcile conflicting values, and to secure a basis for
moral deliberation.