The Natural Workings of the Human Mind


in Philosophy and Ideology in Hume's Political Thought

Published in print March 1984 | ISBN: 9780198246589
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681028 | DOI:
The Natural Workings of the Human Mind

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This chapter examines Hume's account of the natural workings of the human mind. Hume's professed intention in both the Treatise and the first Enquiry was to place the study of the human mind on a scientific footing, analogous to that achieved for the natural world by Newton, Bacon, and the other great scientists of the preceding century. Once the general principles governing human understanding had been discovered, it would be possible to develop the three applied human sciences: morals, criticism, and politics. These, Hume thought, should be cultivated for their own sake, to satisfy curiosity, but also for practical reasons: the better we understood political life, for instance, the better able we should be to conduct our affairs according to our wishes. Thus, it was no accident that increasing accuracy in philosophy went along with increasing stability in government. Everything rested, therefore, on the general science of the mind, and Hume was faithful to his intentions in beginning his intellectual career with a work (Treatise, Book I) devoted entirely to it.

Keywords: Treatise; human mind; human sciences; philosophy; government

Chapter.  9517 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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