front cover of The Cautious Jealous Virtue
The Cautious Jealous Virtue
Hume on Justice
Annette C. Baier
Harvard University Press, 2010
Like David Hume, whose work on justice she engages here, Annette C. Baier is a consummate essayist: her spirited, witty prose captures nuances and telling examples in order to elucidate important philosophical ideas.Baier is also one of Hume’s most sensitive and insightful readers. In The Cautious Jealous Virtue, she deepens our understanding of Hume by examining what he meant by “justice.” In Baier’s account, Hume always understood justice to be closely linked to self-interest (hence his description of it in An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals as “the cautious jealous virtue”), but his understanding of the virtue expanded over time, as evidenced by later works, including his History of England.Along with justice, Baier investigates the role of the natural virtue of equity (which Hume always understood to constrain justice) in Hume’s thought, arguing that Hume’s view of equity can serve to balance his account of the artificial virtue of justice. The Cautious Jealous Virtue is an illuminating meditation that will interest not only Hume scholars but also those interested in the issues of justice and in ethics more generally.

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Civilizing Money
Hume, his Monetary Project, and the Scottish Enlightenment
George Caffentzis
Pluto Press, 2021

Taking the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume as its subject, this book breaks new ground in focusing its lens on a little-studied aspect of Hume’s thinking: his understanding of money.

George Caffentzis makes both an intervention in the field of monetary philosophy and into Marxian conceptions of the relation between philosophy and capitalist development. He vividly charts the ways in which Hume’s philosophy directly informed the project of ‘civilizing’ the people of the Scottish Highlands and pacifying the English proletariat in response to the revolts of both groups at the heart of the empire.

Built on careful historical and philosophical detective work, Civilizing Money offers a stimulating and radical political reading of the ways in which Hume’s fundamental philosophical claims performed concrete political functions.


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Death and Character
Further Reflections on Hume
Annette C. Baier
Harvard University Press, 2008
Reviewing Annette Baier’s 1995 work Moral Prejudices in the London Review of Books, Richard Rorty predicted that her work would be read hundreds of years hence; Baier’s subsequent work has borne out such expectations, and this new book further extends her reach. Here she goes beyond her earlier work on David Hume to reflect on a topic that links his philosophy to questions of immediate relevance—in particular, questions about what character is and how it shapes our lives.Ranging widely in Hume’s works, Baier considers his views on character, desirable character traits, his treatment of historical characters, and his own character as shown not just by his cheerful death—and what he chose to read shortly before it—but also by changes in his writings, especially his repudiation of the celebrated A Treatise on Human Nature. She offers new insight into the Treatise and its relation to the works in which Hume “cast anew” the material in its three books. Her reading radically revises the received interpretation of Hume’s epistemology and, in particular, philosophy of mind.

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The Everlasting Check
Hume on Miracles
Alexander George
Harvard University Press, 2016

A touchstone of the Enlightenment dispute between rationality and religious belief, David Hume’s essay “Of Miracles” has elicited much commentary from proponents and critics ever since it was published over 250 years ago. Alexander George’s lucid and sustained interpretation of Hume’s essay provides fresh insights into this provocative, occasionally elusive, and always subtle text. The Everlasting Check will be read with interest by both students new to Hume and seasoned scholars.

George does justice to the letter and spirit of Hume’s essay, explaining the concepts and claims involved, making intelligible the essay’s structure, and clarifying remarks that have long puzzled readers. Properly interpreted, the essay’s central philosophical argument proves to be much hardier than Hume’s detractors suggest. George considers a range of objections to Hume—some recent, some perennial—and shows why most fail, either because they are based on misinterpretations or because the larger body of Hume’s philosophy answers them.

Beyond an analysis and defense of Hume’s essay, George also offers a critique of his own, appealing to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s thoughts on magic and ritual to demonstrate that Hume misconstrues the character of religious belief and its relationship to evidence and confirmation. Raising a host of important questions about the connection between religious and empirically verified beliefs, George discusses why Hume’s master argument can fail to engage with committed religious thought and why philosophical argumentation in general often proves ineffective in shaking people’s deeply held beliefs.


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Experience and Empiricism
Hegel, Hume, and the Early Deleuze
Russell Ford
Northwestern University Press, 2023

A clarifying examination of Gilles Deleuze’s first book shows how he would later transform the problem of immanence into the problem of difference
Despite the wide reception Gilles Deleuze has received across the humanities, research on his early work has remained scant. Experience and Empiricism remedies that gap with a detailed study of Deleuze’s first book, Empiricism and Subjectivity, which is devoted to the philosophical project of David Hume. Russell Ford argues that this work is poorly understood when read simply as a stand-alone study on Hume. Its significance only becomes apparent within the context of a larger problematic that dominated, and continues to inform, modern European philosophy: the conceptual constitution of a purely immanent account of existence. While the importance of this debate is recognized in contemporary scholarship, its genealogy—including Deleuze’s place within it—has been underappreciated. This book shows how Deleuze directly engages in an ongoing debate between his teachers Jean Wahl and Jean Hyppolite over experience and empiricism, an intervention that restages the famous encounter between rationalism and empiricism that yielded Kant’s critical philosophy. What, Deleuze effectively asks, might have happened had Hume been the one roused from his empirical dogmatic slumber by the rationalist challenge of Kant?


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Hume's Inexplicable Mystery
His Views on Religion
Keith E. Yandell
Temple University Press, 1993

The eighteenth-century Scottish empiricist David Hume has been regarded as a notorious enemy of religion. Still, his discussion of religion is systematic, sophisticated, and sustained. Focusing mainly on two of Hume’s works, the relatively neglected Natural History of Religion and the more widely read Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Keith Yandell analyzes Hume’s treatment of a subject that he described as "a riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery." In so doing, he explores the relationships between Hume’s philosophy of religion and his general philosophy.

Hume’s "evidentialism," applied to religion, can be summed up by saying that it is unreasonable to accept a religious belief unless one has evidence for it. Since it is also Hume’s view that there is no evidence for any religious belief, he concludes that no one is ever reasonable in accepting a religious belief. Yandell examines the explanations that Hume gave for such acceptance in Natural History of Religion. Addressing the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, he compares Hume’s views to those of such authors as Herbert of Cherbury and Bishop Joseph Butler, traces changes in Hume’s theory of meaning, and discusses the ontological and cosmological arguments and Hume’s treatment of the problem of evil. Yandell then considers other lesser known writings by Hume that are relevant to his philosophy of religion.


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A Philosopher's Economist
Hume and the Rise of Capitalism
Margaret Schabas and Carl Wennerlind
University of Chicago Press, 2020
Reconsiders the centrality and legacy of Hume’s economic thought and serves as an important springboard for reflections on the philosophical underpinnings of economics.

Although David Hume’s contributions to philosophy are firmly established, his economics has been largely overlooked. A Philosopher’s Economist offers the definitive account of Hume’s “worldly philosophy” and argues that economics was a central preoccupation of his life and work. Margaret Schabas and Carl Wennerlind show that Hume made important contributions to the science of economics, notably on money, trade, and public finance.  Hume’s astute understanding of human behavior provided an important foundation for his economics and proved essential to his analysis of the ethical and political dimensions of capitalism. Hume also linked his economic theory with policy recommendations and sought to influence people in power. While in favor of the modern commercial world, believing that it had and would continue to raise standards of living, promote peaceful relations, and foster moral refinement, Hume was not an unqualified enthusiast. He recognized many of the underlying injustices of capitalism, its tendencies to promote avarice and inequality, as well as its potential for political instability and absolutism.
Hume’s imprint on modern economics is profound and far-reaching, whether through his close friend Adam Smith or later admirers such as John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek. Schabas and Wennerlind’s book compels us to reconsider the centrality and legacy of Hume’s economic thought—for both his time and ours—and thus serves as an important springboard for reflections on the philosophical underpinnings of economics.

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Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium
Hume's Pathology of Philosophy
Donald W. Livingston
University of Chicago Press, 1998
The Scottish philosopher David Hume is commonly understood as the original proponent of the "end of philosophy." In this powerful new study, Donald Livingston completely revises our understanding of Hume's thought through his investigation of Hume's distinction between "true" and "false" philosophy. For Hume, false philosophy leads either to melancholy over the groundlessness of common opinion or delirium over transcending it, while true philosophy leads to wisdom. Livingston traces this distinction through all of Hume's writings, providing a systematic pathology of the corrupt philosophical consciousness in history, politics, philosophy, and literature that characterized Hume's own time as well as ours.

By demonstrating how a philosophical method can be used to expose the political motivations behind intellectual positions, historical events, and their subsequent interpretations, Livingston revitalizes Hume's thought and reveals its relevance for contemporary dicussions of politics, nationalism, and ideology for the first time.


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A Progress of Sentiments
Reflections on Hume’s Treatise
Annette C. Baier
Harvard University Press, 1991
Annette Baier’s aim is to make sense of David Hume’s Treatise as a whole. Hume’s family motto, which appears on his bookplate, was “True to the End.” Baier argues that it is not until the end of the Treatise that we get his full story about “truth and falsehood, reason and folly.” By the end, we can see the cause to which Hume has been true throughout the work.Baier finds Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature to be a carefully crafted literary and philosophical work which itself displays a philosophical progress of sentiments. His starting place is an overly abstract intellectualism that deliberately thrusts passions and social concerns into the background. In the three interrelated books of the Treatise, his “self-understander” proceeds through partial successes and dramatic failures to emerge with new-found optimism, expecting that the “exact knowledge” the morally self-conscious anatomist of human nature can acquire will itself improve and correct our vision of morality. Baier describes how, by turning philosophy toward human nature instead of toward God and the universe, Hume initiated a new philosophy, a broader discipline of reflection that can embrace Charles Darwin and Michel Foucault as well as William James and Sigmund Freud. Hume belongs both to our present and to our past.

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The Pursuits of Philosophy
An Introduction to the Life and Thought of David Hume
Annette C. Baier
Harvard University Press, 2011

Marking the tercentenary of David Hume's birth, Annette Baier has created an engaging guide to the philosophy of one of the greatest thinkers of Enlightenment Britain. Drawing deeply on a lifetime of scholarship and incisive commentary, she deftly weaves Hume’s autobiography together with his writings and correspondence, finding in these personal experiences new ways to illuminate his ideas about religion, human nature, and the social order.

Excerpts from Hume’s autobiography at the beginning of each chapter open a window onto the eighteenth-century context in which Hume’s philosophy developed. Famous in Christian Britain as a polymath and a nonbeliever, Hume recounts how his early encounters with clerical authority laid the foundation for his lifelong skepticism toward religion. In Scotland, where he grew up, he had been forced to study lists of sins in order to spot his own childish flaws, he reports. Later, as a young man, he witnessed the clergy’s punishment of a pregnant unmarried servant, and this led him to question the violent consequences of the Church’s emphasis on the doctrine of original sin. Baier’s clear interpretation of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature explains the link between Hume’s growing disillusionment and his belief that ethics should be based on investigations of human nature, not on religious dogma.

Four months before he died, Hume concluded his autobiography with a eulogy he wrote for his own funeral. It makes no mention of his flaws, critics, or disappointments. Baier’s more realistic account rivets our attention on connections between the way Hume lived and the way he thought—insights unavailable to Hume himself, perhaps, despite his lifelong introspection.


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Socrates Meets Hume
The Father of Philosophy Meets the Father of Modern Skepticism
Peter Kreeft
St. Augustine's Press, 2010
Kreeft presents a Socratic examination of Hume’s Enquiry concerning Human Understanding in relation to the skepticism of Hume, posing questions that challenge the concepts that Hume proposed. Kreeft states that Hume is the “most formidable, serious, difficult-to-refute skeptic in the history of modern thought.”

Kreeft invites the reader to take part in the process of refuting Hume’s skeptical arguments, with the great insights of Socrates. Based on an imagination dialogue between Socrates and Hume that takes place in the afterlife, this profound and witty book makes an entertaining and informative exploration of modern philosophy.

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Two Thumbs Up
How Critics Aid Appreciation
Stephanie Ross
University of Chicago Press, 2020
Far from an elite practice reserved for the highly educated, criticism is all around us. We turn to the Yelp reviewers to decide what restaurants are best, to Rotten Tomatoes to guide our movie choices, and to a host of voices on social media for critiques of political candidates, beach resorts, and everything in between. Yet even amid this ever-expanding sea of opinions, professional critics still hold considerable power in guiding how we make aesthetic judgements. Philosophers and lovers of art continue to grapple with questions that have fascinated them for centuries: How should we engage with works of art? What might enhance such encounters? Should some people’s views be privileged? Who should count as a critic? And do critics actually help us appreciate art?

In Two Thumbs Up, philosopher Stephanie Ross tackles these questions, revealing the ways that critics influence our decisions, and why that’s a good thing. Starting from David Hume’s conception of ideal critics, Ross refines his position and makes the case that review-based journalistic or consumer reporting criticism proves the best model for helping us find and appreciate quality. She addresses and critiques several other positions and, in the process, she demonstrates how aesthetic and philosophical concerns permeate our lives, choices, and culture. Ultimately, whether we’re searching for the right wine or the best concert, Ross encourages us all to find and follow critics whose taste we share.

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