Le bon David

Ett bakomliggande skäl till att skriva uppsatsen som jag presenterade häromdagen är att jag anser att Hume är undervärderad som politisk filosof. I mina ögon borde han läsas med samma självklarhet som Hobbes, Locke och Kant.

I ett ännu opublicerat manuskript har Angela Coventry och Alex Sager (2011) gjort en översikt över Humes position och inflytande i samtida politisk teori. De inleder som följer:

Hume occupies a central, but ambiguous position in contemporary political philosophy. Political philosophers recognize the importance of his analysis of justice as an artificial virtue and his account of convention, his identification of the “conditions of justice,” and his criticisms of the social contract. But while it is fairly easy to identify philosophers with acknowledged Aristotelian, Hobbesian, Lockean, Kantian, and Hegelian approaches to political philosophy, Hume has no school and few disciples. (2011, p.1)

Skälen till detta kan diskuteras, men utan tvivel är ett av dem det faktum att Hume aldrig skrev ett enhetligt verk dedikerat till politisk filosofi (2011, p. 2). Hans politiska tänkande finns dels insprängt i böcker som framlägger ett mycket större filosofiskt system (A Treatise on Human Nature), dels i hans mer fragmentariska texter (Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary). Det finns helt enkelt ingen given text att kanonisera, så att säga.

Istället får man leta efter de guldkornen i hela hans verk. Inte minst de nämnda essäerna rymmer många sådana, och dessa tänkte jag uppmärksamma här på bloggen den närmsta tiden.

Först ut: inledningen till den korta essän ’Of the Origin of Government’.

Man, born in a family, is compelled to maintain society, from necessity, from natural inclination, and from habit. The same creature, in his farther progress, is engaged to establish political society, in order to administer justice; without which there can be no peace among them, nor safety, nor mutual intercourse. We are, therefore, to look upon all the vast apparatus of our government, as having ultimately no other object or purpose but the distribution of justice, or, in other words, the support of the twelve judges. Kings and parliaments, fleets and armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, ministers, and privy-counsellors, are all subordinate in their end to this part of administration. Even the clergy, as their duty leads them to inculcate morality, may justly be thought, so far as regards this world, to have no other useful object of their institution.

All men are sensible of the necessity of justice to maintain peace and order; and all men are sensible of the necessity of peace and order for the maintenance of society. Yet, notwithstanding this strong and obvious necessity, such is the frailty or perverseness of our nature! it is impossible to keep men, faithfully and unerringly, in the paths of justice. Some extraordinary circumstances may happen, in which a man finds his interests to be more promoted by fraud or rapine, than hurt by the breach which his injustice makes in the social union. But much more frequently, he is seduced from his great and important, but distant interests, by the allurement of present, though often very frivolous temptations. This great weakness is incurable in human nature.

Men must, therefore, endeavour to palliate° what they cannot cure. They must institute some persons, under the appellation° of magistrates, whose peculiar° office it is, to point out the decrees of equity, to punish transgressors, to correct fraud and violence, and to oblige men, however reluctant, to consult their own real and permanent interests. (1987, p. 37-38)


Coventry, Angela and Sager, Alexander (2011), ’Hume and Contemporary Political Philosophy’, Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting.

Hume, David (1987), Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics).

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    1. Självklart ska vi ses! I mitten av november kommer jag och frugan för övrigt ha flyttat till den kungliga hufvudstaden.

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