David Hume (1711-1776) is perhaps best known for his treatises on problems of epistemology, skepticism, and causation. A less familiar side of his intellectual output is his work on legal and political theory. David Hume's Political Theory brings together Hume's diverse writings on law and government, collected and examined with a view to revealing the philosopher's coherent and persuasive theory of politics.
Through close textual analysis, Neil McArthur suggests that the key to Hume's political theory lies in its distinction between barbarous and civilized government. Throughout the study, the author explores Hume's argument that a society's progress from barbarism to civilization depends on the legal and political system by which it is governed. Ultimately, McArthur demonstrates that the skepticism apparent in much of Hume's work does not necessarily tie him to a strict conservative ideology; rather, Hume's political theory is seen to emphasize many liberal virtues as well.
Based on a new conception of Hume's political philosophy, this is a groundbreaking work and a welcome addition to the existing literature.
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Neil McArthur is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Manitoba.