Allegiance to Government


in Philosophy and Ideology in Hume's Political Thought

Published in print March 1984 | ISBN: 9780198246589
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681028 | DOI:
Allegiance to Government

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This chapter examines Hume's account of political allegiance. It argues that just as Hume's discussion of justice is intended primarily to refute those rationalists who believe ‘that there are eternal fitnesses and unfitnesses of things, which are the same to every rational being that considers them’, so his account of political allegiance is directed against those who attempt to find a purely rational basis for our obligation to government. In this case the main target is quite explicit. It is the theory of a social contract, which settles questions about political obligation by reference to a covenant or contract supposedly entered into by all members of a society at the inception of the state, laying down the terms on which the government possesses its authority. On the assumption that such a contract has been made, and adhered to by the other parties, a man's obligation to obey his government can immediately be demonstrated. Hume wished to demolish this theory without simultaneously falling into the extreme sceptical position that nothing constructive can be said about allegiance to government.

Keywords: Hume; political allegiance; social contract; political obligation

Chapter.  9249 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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