The Suasive Art of David Hume

The Suasive Art of David Hume

M. A. Box
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 280
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    The Suasive Art of David Hume
    Book Description:

    Recognized in his day as a man of letters equaling Rousseau and Voltaire in France and rivaling Samuel Johnson, David Hume passed from favor in the Victorian age--his work, it seemed, did not pursue Truth but rather indulged in popularization. Although Hume is once more considered as one of the greatest British philosophers, scholars now tend to focus on his thought rather than his writing. To round out our understanding of Hume, M. A. Box in this book charts the interrelated development of Hume's literary ambitions, theories of style, and compositional practice from his Treatise in 1739 through the Enquiries. In so doing, Box makes the case for Hume's career-long concern with the presentational modes of reaching an audience for his philosophical writings. Hume reacted to the popular failure of his masterpiece, A Treatise of Human Nature, Box suggests, by self-consciously exploring strategies in his subsequent works for agreeably bringing his readership to participate in the act of philosophizing. Combining a sensitive grasp of the ways Restoration period and eighteenth-century writers conceived the relations between rhetoric and philosophy with sound readings of particular texts, Box shows how Hume's literary concerns went beyond matters of style to involve persona, structure, and doctrine. While this book helps explain long-standing ambiguities surrounding Hume, especially by pointing out the tension between his created persona and his own voice, it also serves as an excellent introduction to his philosophy.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6065-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-52)

    Hume was one of the most celebrated writers of his day. George Birkbeck Hill, who was qualified to judge, reckoned that his European fame was equaled only by Rousseau’s and Voltaire’s.¹ Thus we find Boswell, before he fell under Johnson’s influence, recording in his journal that Hume was “the greatest Writer in Brittain.” Upon Hume’s death an anonymous biographer wrote that after the publication of theHistoryHume “was considered as the greatest writer of the age: his most insignificant performances were sought after with avidity.”² We must make allowances for exaggeration here, and acknowledge that some of this celebrity...

  6. Chapter II THE TREATISE
    (pp. 53-110)

    We have seen that Hume regarded philosophy as an entertainment, a noble and salutary one, but an entertainment nonetheless. He did not in the least regard it as frivolous, yet he was eager that it should be neat and elegant in its presentation. It was precisely because it was important that it should be advantageously dressed. “[A]ny author who speaks in his own person,” and who merely states his case without regard for the refinements of language, “may be correct; but he never will be agreeable” wrote Hume (“SRW,” 192), explicitly including philosophers in his pronouncement. In his wish to...

    (pp. 111-162)

    With his next publication, theEssays, Moral and Political, Hume made a modest start in an unspectacular but steady ascent to literary fame. The work was received favorably enough, he tells us, to make him forget his disappointment at the stillbirth of theTreatise.¹ Today these essays are not the subject of intense study; still less are they the pleasure reading of many people’s leisure hours (whereas theTreatiseis one of the most closely scrutinized works in our language). But our comparative neglect of these essays is no great indictment of the obtuseness of the times, for this measure...

    (pp. 163-256)

    In the twoEnquiriesHume’s literary development reached what he felt to be a kind of culmination. It was not that they dwarfed his other writings in the importance of their contents. The culmination lay in his having solved to his satisfaction some literary problems to which his experience with theTreatisehad made him sensitive. Certainly he did not not see this culmination as philosophical.¹

    It is generally agreed that theEnquiries, together with the dissertation “Of the Passions,” constitute a new presentation of substantially the same philosophy as Hume expounded in theTreatise. Argumentative details and some entire...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 257-268)