Hume on the origin of ‘modern honour’

John P. Wright

in Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199227044
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739309 | DOI:
Hume on the origin of ‘modern honour’

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Recent work on dating Hume’s manuscripts by M. A. Stewart, with further evidence adduced here, establishes the likelihood that Hume’s manuscript ‘An historical essay on chivalry and modern honour’ was written in 1732 or 1733. What can we learn from the chapter about the development of Hume’s ideas in ethics and religion at this time, six or seven years before the publication of his Treatise of human nature? Throughout the chapter Hume assumes Hutcheson’s theory that genuine virtue is natural, and that its perversion results from artifice. Both the chapter itself and Hume’s contemporary correspondence strongly suggest also, however, that he was beginning to be influenced by the sceptical philosophy of Bernard Mandeville which stresses the role of artifice in moral judgement. The overreaching principle developed in the early chapter appears to be applied also in Hume’s later writings on religion, where the scepticism of Mandeville and Bayle is explicit.

Keywords: overreaching principle; chivalry; modern honour; virtue; perverted value; artifice vs. nature; religious scepticism; Bernard Mandeville; David Hume; Francis Hutcheson

Chapter.  13042 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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