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Philosophy and Ideology in Hume's Political Thought$
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David Miller

Print publication date: 1984

Print ISBN-13: 9780198246589

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198246589.001.0001

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Human Nature

Human Nature

(p.101) 5: Human Nature
Philosophy and Ideology in Hume's Political Thought


Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Hume's conception of human nature. He sees men less as selfish than as partial in their benevolence, serving the interests of those connected to them at the expense of mankind in general; as intensely social creatures, delighting in company and conversation, but at the same time jealous in their reputation and anxious to stand well with their associates; as driven by this quest for status and also by an innate love of activity to pursue material gain; and as held within the bounds of justice by custom and social pressure. It is a mildly pessimistic picture, both in the obvious sense that men are not seen as potentially angelic, and in the sense that the restraints on anti-social behaviour depend upon an elaborate web of convention which, although strong, is not indestructible.

Keywords:   Hume, human nature, self-interest, social creatures, status, material gain, custom, social pressure

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