Hume and the Enlightenment

Citation preview



ESSAYS PRESENTED TO Ernest Campbell Mossner





Universities of Edinburgh and Texas 1974 EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS

22 George Square, Edinburgh ISBN o 85224 277 8 Elumanities Research Center, Texas ISBN o 87959 005 5 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 74—84715 Printed in Great Britain by Western Printing Services Ltd, Bristol

Preface It IS ESPECIALLY appropriate that this volume, honouring Ernest Campbell Mossner, should be issued under the auspices both of Edinburgh University and of the University of Texas, the two locales perhaps most often associated, the one with the early time, the other with the later reputation of David Hume. We will remember that twenty years ago Professor Mossner’s Life of Hume appeared in both places; and more recently some of us will recall the rumour that there was at Austin, as there is in Edinburgh, a ‘School of Scottish Studies’ or some kind of ‘David Hume Tower’. Indeed there is all this, essentially, all reposing in the life and achievements of the scholar we now salute. The writers of these essays have endeavoured to present whatever new interpretations or original material may have concerned Le Bon David. Like the philosopher, and like his biographer, they have ranged far in their pursuits, here back to the age of Plato and Aristotle and forward to the era of Wittgenstein. To¬ gether with their colleagues everywhere they thus would express, in this tribute to Professor Mossner, their own sense of what the Enlightenment still means in these our darker days. W.B.T.

26 April 1974 *


Contents p. viii 1

Abbreviations The Misunderstood Hume T. E. Jessop, University of Hull


Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism D. D. Raphael, Imperial College, University of London


Hume on Separating the Inseparable Stanley Tweyman, York University, Ontario


Kant and Hume on Reason and Experience in Ethics Philip P. Wiener, Temple University, Pennsylvania


Michotte and Hume on Mechanical Causation D. G. C. Macnabb, Pembroke College, Oxford


Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume Ian Ross, University of Rritish Columbia


Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume Michael Morris roe Jr, John Marshall Law School, Chicago


Hume’s Argument from Design Richard S. Peters, University of London


Hume and Isaac de Pinto, 11. Five New Letters Richard H. Popkin, Washington University, Missouri


Hume and Nancy Orde. Three New Letters John Valdimir Price, University of Edinburgh


Concepts and Meaning Geoffrey Hunter, University of St Andrews


Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein? Antony Flew, University of Reading


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination Andrew S. Skinner, University of Glasgow


David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography William B. Todd, University of Texas


Ernest Campbell Mossner. Published Writings Works directed at the University of Texas



Abbreviations Hume’s Life and Works


Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed. Norman Kemp Smith, Edinburgh and London 1947


Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, Oxford 1946


The Letters, ed. J. Y.T. Greig, 2 vols, Oxford 1932


Ernest C. Mossner The Life of David Hume, Edinburgh and Austin 1954


A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. Ernest C. Mossner, London (Penguin Books) 1969 Other References


British Library (formerly designated British Museum)


English Historical Review


Journal of English and Germanic Philology


Journal of the History of Ideas


Modern Ijanguage Notes


Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America


Publications of the Modern Language Association of America


Philological Quarterly


Royal Society of Edinburgh


Texas Studies in Literature and Language



The Misunderstood Hume APHlLOSOPHERMAYbe misunderstood if he writes badly—this can¬ not be said of Hume 5 or if he is unusually profound — but acuteness rather than profundity was Hume’s characteristic. Or he may be mis¬ understood if his texts are treated as entirely objective propositions to be studied merely by formal and empirical logic, with little if any consider¬ ation of the particular mind and course of life of the man who thought them out, only the printed words counting 5 or if only one or two of his range of writings be fastened on, the rest being virtually ignored. It is, I think, in these last two ways that Hume has been prevalently mis¬ understood. In particular he has by many been reduced to a label or a standard-bearer for a cause, for subjective positivism, exponents and opponents alike narrowing the approach to this issue. The purpose of this paper is to plead for and illustrate a much wider approach. Such an intention will be congenial to the distinguished man of letters whom this volume is celebrating, for the breadth and tenacity of his interest have been extraordinary.

The Dehumanised Hume It is possible to come to grips with Kant without having to read the early biographies by Borowski, Jachmann, and Wasianski, all published in the year of his death (

1804), or the modern one in English by the American

J. H. W. Stuckenberg (London 1882). It is possible because, tied to East Prussia, his life was almost devoid of meaningful incident: the French scholar Emile Faguet dismissed it with the brilliant epigram ‘Nothing happened to him except the possession of genius’ and proceeded straight¬ way to the sage’s philosophy. Hume on the contrary did not pass his years in a study and a lecture-room. How widely and variously he lived, peppering his years with significant events, has been triumphantly recorded in Professor Mossner’s Life of David Hume (1954), a monu¬ ment of industrious and percipient research, a handsome tome, yet scarcely if ever referred to by British philosophers, perhaps on the quite true ground that biography is not philosophy and on the heartless ground that it is irrelevant to philosophy. My first care will be to draw attention to some of the features of Hume’s national background. 1. A few years of teaching in a Scottish university made me realise that unless we bear in mind that Hume was a Scot, and an eighteenthcentury one, we shall form only an anaemic idea of him. To risk a banality,

The Misunderstood Hume


the Scots are not English. They had checked the Roman expansion northwards, and for centuries warred against the English. They were a people apart until 1707, when the two kingdoms of England and Scot¬ land were united as the kingdom of Great Britain, with a single Parlia¬ ment in London. The union seems to have been accepted reluctantly, and chiefly because of the economic advantage of free access to the English colonial markets. They retained, and still retain, their national independence of mind. Hume disliked the English, although during his visits to London he mixed with them without sourness. With his fellowcountrymen he spoke the broad Lowland Scots which in vocabulary, idiom, and pronunciation was mostly unintelligible to the English;1 when with Englishmen he spoke their language with a strong Scottish accent, which during his stay in Paris he carried into his French. The Scottish speech is virile, and they are outstandingly a virile people, splendidly courageous, hardheaded, yet warmhearted and with a deli¬ cious sense of humour. 2. The Scots were and are an intellectual people, even the simple people being able, at varying levels, to think and talk seriously. The esteem for education is general and deep. They had a school-system far earlier than England: by the insistence of the Kirk an act of 1696 re¬ quired every parish to provide a building for a school and a salary for a schoolmaster. As for higher education, while in the eighteenth century England had only two universities, Scotland had four—St Andrews (1411), Aberdeen (14945 two colleges each granting its own degrees until 1858), Glasgow (1451), and Edinburgh (1582). Although these were smaller than the English, which were groups of colleges, the dis¬ parity is striking. Scotland had a much smaller population (Hume reckoned it to be a million and a half) and much less wealth. Their poverty was not disabling for, as in all else, it was faced robustly. A large proportion of the students were from poor homes, but were well prepared in their parish schools. The professions were mostly the minis¬ try of the Church, law, and medicine. What sort of education did Hume get? His father, a minor country laird of distinguished descent, died when he was only two years old, so that he was brought up by his mother, daughter of Sir David Faulkner, later a Law Lord. Coming from such a family she was competent to direct her son’s education. Whether she herself taught him, or sent him to the parish school, or employed a tutor, is not known 5 but there was a good library in the home, and that he made good use of it is indicated by his remark in an early letter: ‘From my earliest infancy I found always a strong inclination to books and letters’ (Letters, i. 13). He entered Edinburgh University in 1723 at the age of twelve and left it in 1725 or 1726 without proceeding to a degree, both the early entry



and the early departure being by no means unusual in his day. He was obliged to attend the courses in Greek, Logic and Metaphysics, and Natural Philosophy. The medium of instruction was usually Latin. Which optional courses he took is not recorded. He must have been fre¬ quently aware of the talk among students of the zeal of certain professors for the study of the English language and literature, and in the field of Mathematics for the Newtonian Physics. In the latter subject Edin¬ burgh University claims to have been the first university after Cam¬ bridge to make it an important part of a course, which while Hume was there was conducted by Colin Maclaurin, probably the ablest mathe¬ matician after Newton in eighteenth-century Britain. The Newtonian strain in Hume’s Treatise (association of ideas as analogous to Newton’s ‘attraction’ ; cf. Book I, Sect. 4 ad finem) may have occurred to him at that time. The standards set for very young students were doubtless lower than the present university level, but boys matured sooner then than now, their intellectual capacity was certainly stimulated, and Scottish grit kept them on the treadmill after they had finished their courses, a large proportion of them rising to distinguished careers. 3. The religious and the intellectual attitudes were harnessed to one another. Calvin had a theology almost as firmly systematised as the Roman Thomism, with the important difference that it was a matter not only for the ministers of the Church; for these, while ardently point¬ ing out the implications for conduct, made the theology the framework and substance of their preaching, in order to inculcate doctrinal ortho¬ doxy, which indeed was not merely imposed on the congregations but was demanded by them. The layfolk were sufficiently instructed to pounce on and question any sermonic departure from Calvinist orthodoxy. Further, as it is but a step from theology to philosophy, something of the latter crept occasionally into sermons, and would doubtless be amplified for a poor crofter when his lad, or his neighbour’s lad, came home on vacation from his university. In these ways philosophy filtered through, however imperfectly, into the humblest stratum of the Scottish people, something that never happened in England.2 What is the bearing of this third feature on the understanding of Hume? Obviously, that one of the reasons why he became a philosopher is that philosophy was a central part of his nation’s culture, and we know that of the alternatives, theology, law, and medicine, the first two repelled him. He apparently made his choice towards the end of his stay at the university or very soon afterwards. From that time onwai ds he moved on to a mastery of philosophy, himself his own teacher. The possession of a degree and a spell of supervised postgraduate study had not yet become a pre-condition of scholarly status. There was nothing remarkable in his offering himself as a candidate for the Chair of Moral


The Misunderstood Hume

Philosophy at Edinburgh (1744), and later for the Chair of Logic at Glasgow (1751) vacated by his friend and admirer Adam Smith. On both occasions his failure was due not to lack of formal qualifications but to his being a reputed sceptic and a critic of the Church. Did he lack the religious mentality of the great majority of his fellowcountrymen ? It is usually supposed that he did. The supposition may he challenged and should at least be strongly qualified. He was philosophi¬ cally a sceptic? Yes, but his scepticism was limited: he makes it quite clear that what he was sceptical of was not commonsense beliefs about an external physical world, and does not deny a spiritual world beyond it. He contends that our human nature, his own as well as everybody else’s, forces the former on us and strongly inclines us to the latter. The negative force of his arguings is directed wholly towards the conclusion that both those two kinds of belief cannot be rationally proved, which in his day meant that they cannot be justified by a highly abstract formal logic. His essay on miracles does not contend that these are im¬ possible— his own theory of knowledge does not allow such a universal logical negation — but only that all known instances of testimony are inadequate. His Natural History of Religion is scientific, a good pioneer¬ ing survey and examination of facts, limited only by the scanty anthro¬ pological knowledge then available $ in it he expresses in passing a high esteem for the ‘Argument from Design’. His Dialogues concerning Natural Religion is philosophical, elaborating the problem into a skilful balancing of pros and cons, leaving his own position to be conjectured. His public criticism of Churches and clergy was severe, but he was testing them chiefly by the standards which they themselves officially stood for. His rare statements about his own position, in his letters and as reported by others, are sometimes vague, but two of the more definite may be mentioned. About the time of his devout mother’s death an acquaintance rebuked him for his uncontrollable grief, telling him that if he had not disavowed religion he would be grateful that she was now admitted to celestial bliss. Hume replied that his published criticisms of religion had been for learned theorists, while ‘in other things I do not think so differently from the rest of mankind as you may imagine’ {Life, p. 174). The other remark, which I cannot now locate, was that he would not lift a finger to disturb the religious beliefs of ordinary people. He certainly went to church sometimes, and was intimately friendly with the leading liberal-minded clergy of Edinburgh, who admired him warmly. With acquaintances who were pretentiously and boringly pious he teasingly painted himself in the blackest colours. My own impression is that he was certainly not an atheist but somewhere between an agnostic and a deist, believing in a remote God of whom little can be said theoretically. His philosophical scepticism prescribed



academic agnosticism, but did not proscribe religion as an aid to living, that is, as something practical. I he group of atheists in Paris, cordially friendly to him as a man of letters and a sceptic, were puzzled because he would not go with them all the way {Life, p.485). It may be that what fii st moved him to a sceptical attitude was an early recoil from the flinty dogmatism of the Calvinist preaching of his day, and from the harsh and humiliating discipline of wayward parishioners, for example exposure in church on the penitent’s stool. His scepticism was against all dogmatism, and his conscience against all indignity, domineering, and hypocrisy. The Hume of One Book Although he wrote much on philosophy, in the Anglo-Saxon world attention has been for more than a century almost entirely given to the Treatise of Human Nature. It is this that we teachers, at any rate in Britain, have mostly prescribed to our classes, and from it we usually dig out the materials for the articles that keep the academic periodicals going. It is supposed to be the citadel of his philosophy, the canonical text of a cult. We tend to reduce him still further to the first of its three parts, ‘Of the Understanding’, in effect treating him as above all, if not entirely, an epistemologist. A challenge to this fashion is long overdue. The three volumes of the Treatise sold very slowly, and received little attention in the English press, so that he had not the benefit of compe¬ tent critical reviewers. When he wrote that it ‘fell dead-born from the press’ he was apparently not aware that it had been noticed in several of the Continental periodicals.3 He was bitterly disappointed, and puzzled, for he knew that he had put much hard thinking into it 5 but instead of exploding in anger he nursed his sickened hopes and set him¬ self to find out what he himself could detect as faults and what compe¬ tent readers could detect as such, with the result that he quickly began to itch to prepare a revised edition, which, of course, could not be accepted and printed as long as his publisher had a large stock of unsold copies of the original edition. He tried to accelerate sales by issuing anonymously through another publisher the recently discovered Ab¬ stract of a Treatise ( 1740), but without success. His first self-criticism, all of it of Part I only, appeared as an appendix at the end of Part in, published in 1740. He had already begged an acquaintance, Pierre Desmaizeaux, then in London, to answer three searching questions — are the first two volumes intelligible, do the con¬ clusions appear to be really true, and is the style ‘tolerable’ ? About the same time he wrote to his friend Henry Home, ‘My fondness for what I imagined new discoveries made me overlook all common rules of prudence’ ( Letters, i. 51). In his autobiography, looking backwards from

The Misunderstood Hume


the last year of his life, he remarked that the failure of the Treatise ‘had proceeded more from the manner than the matter’. In an undated letter, assigned by Greig to 1754 (i. 187), he regrets the claim he had made ‘to innovate in all the sublimest parts of philosophy’ and above all ‘the positive air which prevails in that book’, due to ‘the ardour of youth’. In a letter of 1751 (i. 158) he goes so far as to advise Gilbert Elliott not to read the Treatise. His final judgement was a forthright and public repudiation of the three volumes: ‘Several writers . . . have taken care to direct all their batteries against that juvenile work, which the author never acknowledged. . . . Henceforth the author desires that the following pieces [first Enquiry, Dissertation on the Passions, second Enquiry, and Natural History of Religion] may alone be regarded as containing his philosophical sentiments and principles’ — ‘juvenile’ because he was only about twenty when he planned the work and barely twenty-eight when he had finished the final draft, and ‘never acknowledged’ means that he published it anonymously. The passage is from a special page, ‘Advertisement’, at the beginning of Vol. II of the 1777 edition of his Essays and Treatises, the proofs of which he had read shortly before his death.4 It is the definitive explanation of the fact that he never reprinted the Treatise. Why has the one work that he himself disowned become in philo¬ sophical circles the most famous ? It certainly is an astonishing achieve¬ ment for a young man. It covers a wide field. Its author had a flair for discovering and formulating problems. It has the pedagogical value of introducing undergraduates (though not first-year ones!) to the diffi¬ culties in epistemology and metaphysics, and is a storehouse of acute reasoning and obiter dicta fertile in suggestions for theses, articles, and books. Its sentences are usually very clear, philosophical prose at a high level. There is a very occasional gallicism (e.g. ‘I explain myself (je m’explique))’, pardonable because the work was mostly written in France. Yet it has faults. Here and there is a burst of rhetoric that is blatantly maudlin, problems are overanalysed as if Hume were wanting to display his analytic virtuosity, and there is an obvious relish in flourishing denials. He can be both tedious and puzzling when an ex¬ position is being overdone. A firm revision would have made it a philo¬ sophical masterpiece, commanding the respect of those who cannot accept his main contentions. Yet the masterly elements are there. When he said that its fault lay in the manner rather than the matter he was partly right, and partly wrong because there were contentions of which he became less certain: his final declaration runs that his philosophy was not to be sought there, which I must also rewrite as his philosophy. I take it for granted that he knew better than anyone else where that philosophy is to be found and what it is. The ignoring of that injunction



has led to a relative neglect of the later works to which alone he directs us. To some of these I must now turn. Are His Later Works Negligible?

It is not surprising that academic men should be more appreciative of a work in three volumes than for such pieces as the two Enquiries. These, it is commonly held, were popularised versions of the Treatise-, this latter, written for scholars, having failed, the later pieces were, it is said (or more often assumed), written to adapt his philosophy to the unacademically minded section of the reading public. This supposition is at least questionable. After 1740 he published nothing of weight until 1748, when his Philosophical Essays appeared. From

1758 onwards the title was

changed to Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. It was his re¬ presentation of Book 1 of the Treatise. During the interval of eight years he had been engaged in several practical activities, and at the end of these he could see his work at a distance, with detachment, able to throw out a great deal of ballast and to isolate the essentials of his theory of knowledge. The section on space and time was cut down to about a seventh of its length, very little was left of the logical doubtfulness of a physical world inferable from our sensations, the critique of ‘substance’ was omitted, and so too was the dissolution of the self into a series of sensations, images, thoughts, impulses, and emotions. His many diva¬ gations were dropped, the eager parading of logical subtleties dis¬ appeared, and overproving of points was removed by reducing the number of steps of the argumentation. The result was a precise, clear, and well-ordered book. One surprise was the addition of the essay on miracles. This had been composed much earlier, intended for the Treatise, was held back under pressure, and inserted in the Philosophical Essays against the advice of his friend Henry Home, to whom he wrote, T won’t justify the prudence [sic] of this step any other way than by expressing my indifference about all the consequences that may follow’ (Letters, i. 111). Consequences did follow. To the conservative parish ministers it was like a red rag to a bull, yet he reprinted it in all the eleven editions which he saw through the press. This fact is a decisive disproof of the common view that in these Essays he was seeking to placate the hostile public not only by simplifying his exposition but also by discreetly diluting any passage offensive to religious orthodoxy. Another way of regarding this short restatement of his theory of cognition as substandard has been to bring it under the cover of Hume’s reference in his autobiography to ‘my love of literary fame, my ruling passion’ where ‘literary’ has been taken to mean the achievement of elegance of style in matters of general interest and of general compre¬ hensibility. Examples of such achievement can certainly be found m his

The Misunderstood Hume


Essays Moral, Political and Literary, but these are not in that Vol.


of his final edition of the Essays and Treatises (the title of his own collection of his works) in which alone he admonishes us to look for his philosophy. The question to be raised is whether ‘literary fame’ in that sense was his ‘ruling passion’ when writing the contents of Vol. II. A Danish scholar, in a serious study, goes so far as to say that Hume ‘was possessed by literary ambition to such an extent that he set aside all consider¬ ations, even the consideration of truth, in order to win the favour of the public’.5 Besides the passion for literary fame, however, Hume certainly had a passion for truth, and I am not convinced that he subordinated the latter to the former. Any deviation from evident care for truth was one of the three features which he had asked Desmaizeaux to look for in examining the Treatise; and in the Philosophical Essays (Sect.v, Part i) he says emphatically that in the ‘Academic or sceptical phil¬ osophy [his own sort, distinguished from Pyrrhonism] every passion is mortified by it except the love of truth, and that passion never is nor can be carried to too high a degree’. This can only be read to mean that in philosophising the love of truth must be the ‘ruling passion’. Care for truth and literary sensitiveness are not, of course, incompatible, and it seems to me that in the Philosophical Essays Hume’s lucidity, economy of statement, and masterly control of his material, together produce a philosophical prose of high aesthetic excellence, and this complexly con¬ ditioned quality was, I believe, what he aimed at. It was not enough for him that style might be praised for itself; it must be the very flowering of the arguing —which is the point of his dry comment on a pamphlet, ‘well wrote but ill reasoned’, that criticised the Philosophical Essays: ‘The writer approves of my composition but not of my argumentation, and therefore I am willing to allow him to be a judge of the former, not of the latter’ (Letters, i. 175). Those who disparage these Essays seem also to suppose that the material not taken over from Book I of the Treatise was dropped in order to accommodate the new exposition to the public taste, not considering the possibility that some of the omissions may have been due to uncertainty on points on which he had earlier written with great confidence. The vehemence with which he eventu¬ ally repudiated the Treatise suggests that matter had been sifted as well as manner. This seems to be clinched by the final sentence: ‘Henceforth the author desires that the following pieces may alone be regarded as containing his philosophical [my italics] sentiments and principles’. To these pieces we have of course to add the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, which by his direction was published after his death. Having no room to consider all the ‘following pieces’, I shall confine myself to the second Enquiry ( 1751). As the inferiority of this to Book



ill of the Treatise has rarely if at all been alleged, it will be useful to consider a different question, namely its place in his intentions and system. A brief comparison, however, of the two Enquiries in respect of the degree of their shortening of Hume’s original text may here be interpolated, for there is an interesting difference. The first Enquiry- is only slightly more than half the length of Book I of the Treatise. The second Enquiry is nine-tenths the length of Book III • further, while more than half of Book ill is devoted to legal or political justice, this occupies only a quarter of the Enquiry, the heavy reduction being used to devote more space to the principles of morality and the examination of the moral virtues. Was Hume Primarily an Epistemologist?

The dominant attention given to the Treatise and within that to Book I implies that he is regarded first and foremost as the author of a theory of cognition. It is as such that his impact on the history of philosophy has been strong. But was that field of inquiry his primary interest? Granted that he has been characterised as an epistemologist, how did he characterise himself? True, this is a biographical question, but it is one that is germane to the problem not of his place in history but of the fair exegesis of his philosophical writings. There is evidence that he thought of himself as in both intention and achievement a moral phil¬ osopher. In a letter of 1753 (Letters, i. 175) mentioning the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) he writes, ‘I have a partial¬ ity for that work, and esteem it as the most tolerable of anything I have composed’. Similarly in 1755 he tells the Abbe Le Blanc that this Enquiry ‘is my favourite performance, though the other [the first Enquiry] has made more noise’ (i. 227). His final word, in his published autobiography (i. 4), is that the second Enquiry ‘is of all my writings, historical, philosophical, or literary, incomparably the best’. Here is a preference held tenaciously throughout the last twenty years or so of his life, and he made room to tell it to posterity in what may be one of the shortest autobiographies written by famous men. We are not obliged to accept his judgement, but we are obliged to infer that his heart was in that work, that the subject engaged his deepest self. Consider one quotation (all that I have room for) from it, praising ‘the love of fame’ as a powerful moralising factor in a decent mind: ‘By a continuing and earnest pursuit of a character, a name, a reputation in the world, we bring our own deportment and conduct frequently in review. . . . This constant habit of surveying ourselves . . . keeps alive all the sentiments of right and wrong, and begets, in noble natures, a certain reverence for themselves as well as others, which is the surest guardian of every virtue’ (Sect. IX, Part i). This observation is in accordance with his most general principle that our philosophising

The Misunderstood Hume


must be based on the facts of human nature; but the tone of the passage is as much moralising as philosophising—which should not surprise anyone who is familiar with his other mature writings, his letters, and his life. The second Enquiry did surprise those of his first readers who had no close personal knowledge of him: it showed that he was not the mocking sceptic he was reputed to be, but a staunch supporter of the best moral convictions of his day, sceptical only of dogmatic theories about them. The intimate circle of his friends, which included out¬ standing ministers of the Kirk and Adam Smith, besides admiring him for his acuteness as a thinker, loved him for his shy moral integrity. Adam Smith’s letter of November 1776 appended to Hume’s autobio¬ graphy published in 1777, mentions the little-known fact that even in his impecunious years, before fame and office under the Crown brought him money, ‘his great and necessary frugality never hindered him from exercising, upon proper occasions, acts both of charity and generosity’, and ends with the judgement, £I have always considered him ... as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit’. One proof of his remarkable self-control was his bearing for decades, without hitting back, the sustained public defamation of him as an atheist and therefore (by the logic of his time, which even the sober Locke had followed) immoral. A concern for the welfare of his fellow-men is recurrent in his comments and recommendations on political and economic matters in his Essays Moral, Political, and Literary and in his humane History of England. He was both a moral philosopher and a moralist. It is indeed arguable that it was his moral interest that led him to the conception of his moral system. More than a mere hint of this is to be found in a draft of a letter in which he describes his state of mind in or just after 1751: £I began to consider seriously how I should proceed in my philosophical enquiries. I found that the moral philosophy trans¬ mitted to us by antiquity . . . [rested] more upon invention than experi¬ ence. Everyone consulted his fancy in erecting schemes of virtue and happiness without regard to human nature, upon which every moral conclusion must depend. This therefore I resolved to make my principal study, and the source from which I would derive every truth in Criti¬ cism [literary aesthetics] as well as morality’ (Letters, i. 16). The letter was written in 1734, a few months before he went to France to think out and compose his Treatise. His original problem, then, was appar¬ ently the ethical one. The theory of knowledge is not yet mentioned. It is possible that his conclusion that the virtues do not spring from ‘reason’ suggested to him that the same holds of our belief in an external physical world. It is further arguable that Vol.lii of the Treatise, the one devoted to



moral philosophy, was sketched and largely written before Vols I and II, despite its being published nearly two years after these (i and II in

January 1759, m not until October of 1740). Such was the contention, both minutely and massively argued, of Norman Kemp Smith in his Philosophy of David Hume ( 1941), which, although followed by four reprints, does not seem to have excited in Britain much public discus¬ sion ; I wonder how many, or rather how few, have read it from cover to cover, which is necessary for the fair evaluation of it. It is long, ex¬ haustive, and exhausting, as I know well, for Kemp Smith asked me to read it in typescript before sending it to the press 5 but, like his book on Kant, it is magisterial. He points out a hitherto unobserved or ignored contradiction between Books 1 and ill: in the former the self is dissolved into a mere bundle of momentary states, while in the latter the term is always used in its customary sense of the unitary possessor of the suc¬ cessive experiences. The inconsistency is not removed, but is explained, if we assume that Book ill was substantially composed before Book I was begun, and that the latter was placed first because it provided the logical basis of the system. Kemp Smith found another curious difference between Books 1 and in. The former reflects a Newtonian outlook. Newton had reduced matter to corpuscles and conceived attraction or gravitation as a univer¬ sal law of their movement. Hume formed a conscious analogue of that: he analysed the objects of perception into simple units, each of which ( and each complex object as well) does not logically imply the existence of anything outside itself, the only empirically discoverable relation being that of association. In Book ill the viewpoint may permissibly be called biological: the self is conceived as a single fount of vital activity with thrusts and pulls that determine ends, warm them emotionally, and incline us to approve or disapprove them and to act or abstain accordingly. Kemp Smith calls this striving teleological view of the mind ‘Hutchesonian’. Here we are brought back to the problem, in another form, of the origin of Hume’s philosophy, namely, was the first influ¬ ence Newtonian or Hutchesonian? It is virtually certain that he had read Hutcheson’s Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue ... In which the Principles of the late Earl of Shaftesbury are Defended (1725)5 and one of Professor Mossner’s many discoveries is that Hume possessed a copy of Shaftesbury’s Characteristics (3rd ed., 1723), which he signed ‘David Hume. 1726’. It is well known that he submitted the MS of Book in to Hutcheson for his scrutiny in 1739.6 As I have already mentioned, Hume was exposed to Newtonian influence when he was at Edinburgh University from 1723 to about 1726. The Newtonian strain would thus seem to be probably the earlier influence, which is incompatible with Kemp Smith’s placing Book ill earlier than


The Misunderstood Hume

Book I — but incompatible only on the two assumptions that Newtonianism impressed him during his student days, and that Hutcheson impressed him later. We lack evidence for proving or disproving either of these assumptions. The merit of Kemp Smith’s awarding temporal priority to the Hutchesonian line (‘moral sense’, etc.) is that it solves the otherwise very puzzling exegetical problem of a self shattered into fragments in Book I, and in Book in turning without a word of self¬ excuse to the commonsense view of its peculiar unity. The only other explanation I can conceive is that, having confessed his dissatisfaction with his theory of a shattered self (developed in Vol. i) in an appendix to Vol. I at the end of Vol. ill, he regarded that confession as entitling him to revert in this same volume to the usual idea of the self. There is nowhere the slightest hint that he was consciously taking that liberty. He owed an explanation to his readers, yet did not give one. This paper has been devised to raise questions rather than to answer them, and contains enough documentation to enable readers to begin to work out their own conclusions. Hume lived widely, read widely (in Greek, Latin, French, and Italian), and wrote widely. He therefore deserves to be studied widely. This, I have pleaded, is a pre-condition of sound exegesis. It would also enable those of us who are teachers to open the windows of the Philosophy classroom and bring in a breath of humane interests that would rouse jaded students from their undogmatic slumber.



3. 4.

5. 6.


Mossner’s story of a Scottish Law Lord is apt: unable to get a Scottish joke across to a little group of English lawyers, he remarked that the only sound he could make like an Englishman was sneezing. The London periodical Punch once had an artful caricature of this general intellectual curiosity. A crofter and his wife were portrayed sitting by the hearth, both reading. The wife came across the word ‘metaphysics’, looked up and asked her husband, ‘Sandy, what’s “metapheesics”?’ He replied, pausing for time to think, ‘Metapheesics? Weel, when the pairty wha’s leesnin disna ken what the pairty wha’s speaking means, an when the pairty wha’s speakin disna ken what he’s blitherin aboot hissel, weel, that's metapheesics.’ The language, the humour, and the meaning are all Humean. See E. C.Mossner ‘The Continental reception of Hume’s Treatise, 1739— 1741’ Mind lvi ( 1947) 31-42. The ‘Advertisement’ was also run off, in another setting, for the several copies still unsold of the 1770 edition, and may well have been supplied for the remainders of other issues. See A. Wayne Colver’s note in PBS A, lxvii (1973) 66—8. Fr.V.Kruse Hume's Philosophy in His Principal IVork . . . and His Essays (Oxford 1939) p.8. It is worth noting that a Hutchesonian influence was discerned by a re¬ viewer of Vols I and II of the Treatise in the Nouvelle Bibliotheque (The Hague, iv [October 1739] 303): to translate, ‘The author’s ideas in several places come very near to those of Dr. Hutcheson.’ Perhaps the reviewer had in mind Vol. II, for Vol. ill had not yet appeared.



Humes Critique of Ethical Rationalism the British Library catalogue of printed books David Hume is distinguished from other writers of the same name by being described as ‘David Hume the historian’. The label reflects Hume’s reputation at a time when his philosophy was thought to be simply perverse. It reads oddly today when most competent judges rate Hume as the greatest of British philosophers. I imagine that historians, while respecting Hume’s contribution to their subject, do not accord him the pre-eminence that he has in philosophy. His biographer has no doubt that Hume is first and foremost a philosopher. On the title page of Ernest Mossner’s splen¬ did Life of David Hume there appears a sentence from the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding: ‘Be a philosopher; but amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.’ Yet obviously Hume was far more than a philosopher. It was not uncommon for the great thinkers of his day to be many-sided. Hume moved from philosophy to history because his philosophical conclusions required it, but no doubt history exercised its own fascination once he had immersed himself in the new activity. He also made acute contri¬ butions to economic and sociological theory; and he was reasonably successful in the practical life of diplomacy. The division of labour has so narrowed the horizons of twentiethcentury scholars that it is hard to think of any single person who is capable of appreciating the whole of Hume’s work (or, for that matter, the whole of the work of his equally versatile contemporaries such as Adam Smith or Lord Karnes). Even if we confine ourselves to philos¬ ophy, there are not many scholars able to take the measure of Hume’s contribution to the subject. The average philosopher, in Britain at least, will be pretty well acquainted with Hume’s theory of knowledge and with his critique of the argument from design in theology, but not with his contribution to ethics, politics, or aesthetics. Of Hume’s ethics our average philosopher will certainly know one thing, that Hume said ought cannot be derived from is. He is not likely to know that this was simply the tailpiece of an extended attack on ethical rationalism. Hume’s critique of ethical rationalism has a very important place in his philosophical development. I go along with the view of Norman Kemp Smith1 that Hume began his philosophizing with Francis Hutche¬ son’s theory of the moral sense, the theory that moral judgement rests on feelings of approval and disapproval. Hutcheson held that moral In



action is motivated by the affection of benevolence and that moral judge¬ ment expresses the feeling of approval experienced by a spectator of benevolence in action. The property of virtue or moral goodness that is attributed to such action is a projection of the spectator’s approval, just as the beauty of a landscape or a work of art is a projection of the spec¬ tator’s admiration. To sustain this theory it was necessary to dispose of ethical rationalism, the contemporary form of natural law theory. According to ethical rationalism, moral judgement is an exercise of reason, discerning an absolute right and wrong, and moral action is motivated by that discernment. Hutcheson was criticized by ethical rationalists and replied with a counter-attack on their position, notably in his Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (1728). Hutcheson’s theory and his attack on ethical rationalism provided Hume with his initial stimulus to philosophy. His position in ethics is a development of Hutcheson’s. His position in the theory of knowledge is a wider application of the moves that Hutcheson had made in ethics. Rationalists talked of a discernment by reason of fundamental prin¬ ciples and properties. These, Hume thought, could be better explained, in the way that Hutcheson explained virtue, as a projection of human reactions to experience. The notion of causal necessity is a projection of the psychological compulsion to expect a repetition of what has in the past been a regular sequence of events. The notion of substance is a projection of the synthesis, made by the imagination, of qualities associ¬ ated in experience. To sustain this novel theory it was necessary, as with Hutcheson’s theory of ethics, to examine critically the claims of ration¬ alism, and that involved an examination of the functions of reason. Hence Hume uncovered the problem of induction and produced a new account of belief. Having worked all this out, Hume wrote his philosophy in logical order, beginning with a classification of experience into impressions and ideas. A theory of judgement in general was not only logically prior to a theory of ethical judgement in particular. It also threw up more prob¬ lems, and in dealing with them Hume displayed more extensive and more profound originality than in simply developing Hutcheson’s theory of ethics. Books 1 and 11 of the Treatise of Human Nature were published first, in 1739. Hume then turned back to ethics and published Book in in 1740. The completed version of Book in is of course affected by what Hume had written in the earlier volumes of the work. Never¬ theless the essential structure of the first part of Book ill, containing the critique of ethical rationalism, is the seed from which grew the whole of Hume’s theory of knowledge. The critique of ethical rationalism has an important place also in the specific development of Hume’s moral philosophy. Book HI of


Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism

the Treatise is divided into three parts. The first of these contains the critique of ethical rationalism and argues that moral distinctions depend on feeling, not reason. The second is concerned with justice and govern¬ ment, its main thrust being the thesis that justice is an ‘artificial’ virtue. Finally the third part deals with the ‘natural’ virtues, such as benevo¬ lence. Now the contention, in the second part of Book ill, that justice is an artificial virtue, is the most striking of Hume’s additions to the ethical theory that he took over from Hutcheson. It is not the only one: Hume’s critique of rationalism adds powerfully to Hutcheson’s similar critique$ and Hume’s explanation of the moral sense in terms of sym¬ pathy likewise enhances the cogency of this whole empiricist approach to ethics. Nevertheless these two features of Hume’s theory are, in principle, elaborations of an initial position that he found in Hutcheson. The doctrine of justice as an artificial virtue is not. I believe it is not wholly original (no philosophical discoveries are) 5 Hume derived it, I think, from Hobbes’s reliance on the distinction between nature and art, his consequent description of law and government as artificial, and his account of promise-breaking as akin to self-contradiction.2 Still, Hume’s thesis is something without any foundation in Hutcheson and to that extent it is the most original aspect of Hume’s moral philosophy. The obvious way for Hume to expound his views would be to begin with the simpler doctrine of natural virtue and then to proceed to the more complex account of artificial virtue. This was certainly the histori¬ cal sequence of his own thoughts and it would make for easier compre¬ hension by the reader. Briefly, his position is this. Some virtues, of which benevolence is the chief example, are motivated by natural ten¬ dencies. They are approved as virtuous because they aim at, and gener¬ ally succeed in producing, happiness for other people. Observers of natural virtue approve of it because they derive sympathetic pleasure from the happiness that it produces. But justice and certain associated virtues such as promise-keeping do not conform to this pattern. They consist in a rigid adherence to rules, and such adherence is approved even though it will obviously at times not lead to an increase of happi¬ ness. So the virtue of justice cannot fit the type of explanation that Hutcheson gave, in which Hutcheson assumed that all virtue is a form of benevolence. Hume agrees that the foundation of the approval of justice is approval of useful consequences, but he says that this approval explains the setting up of the rules of justice. Then, by association of ideas, the approval becomes attached to every instance of keeping these rules, even though some instances do not lead to the useful effects that gave rise to approval in the first place. That is the theory in essence. The latter part is more complicated in its details, because Hume adapts to it his explanation of approval as arising from sympathy, so that his



account, in the Treatise, of the moral obligation of the rules of justice is very subtle and not at all easy to follow. What is more, it goes along with an even more subtle explanation of the obligation of promisekeeping. In consequence the second part of Book in is like a maze, in which one needs the thread of Ariadne to find a linked path from start to finish. To follow the third part, on the natural virtues, is child’s play in comparison. The order looks very odd, especially since Hume’s foun¬ dational concept of sympathy is best understood from its role in the approval of natural virtue. The later Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) adopts the more logical order of explaining benevo¬ lence first and justice second, although Hume in that work says little about the operation of sympathy in forming moral approval and almost nothing about justice as an artificial virtue. Why does he not follow the same sequence in the Treatise, where it appears the more necessary for understanding the complexities of the theory explained there? It cannot be an accident that Hume began the second part of Book III

of the Treatise with the thesis that justice is an artificial virtue. He

was led to it, I suggest, by his critique of ethical rationalism. That critique builds on Hutcheson but is more thorough and more closely argued. In the course of working it out, Hume will have seen where the apparent strength of ethical rationalism lies, and will then have sought an alternative explanation of that apparent strength. Ethical rationalists were fond of comparing moral judgement with mathematical. They could do so because moral rules, or at least certain moral rules, have the necessity and universality that are to be found in mathematics. This is why the rationalists concluded that moral judgement, like mathe¬ matical, is a priori an exercise of rational understanding. The Scottish university tradition of teaching moral philosophy in the eighteenth century began with theology, proceeded to ethics, and ended with jurisprudence (meaning law and government). The idea of justice mediated the transition from the second of these to the third. Having been educated in this tradition, Hume evidently thought that the rationalists’ premise, that moral rules are of necessary and universal application, derives its plausibility from the practice of the law. There indeed it is thought proper to apply rules rigidly and without exception. If that is the strongest card of ethical rationalism, it can be easily trumped. The rationalists themselves distinguished man-made law from what they called 'natural law’, that is, principles of ethics. So (common or garden) law is plainly artificialj and it is there, Hume thought, that the universality of rules is most obviously found. Thus uj2^Y0j*g^bty, far from being evidence of some absolute objective truth, can be the product simply of human artiiice. In Hume s view, appioval of rigid universality is bestowed mainly on adherence to the 1 ules of

Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism


law. In private ethics some flexibility is essential 5 a man who always insisted on telling the truth, for example, would be unfit for human society, as Molifere shows in Le Misanthrope. So the virtues of nature do not require universal adherence. It is the artificial construction, the man-made virtue of justice, that has the universality which so im¬ pressed the rationalists. When Hume talks about justice he is generally thinking of law, indeed a specific part of law, the law concerning property. This is partly because the notion of justice is commonly related to that of rights, and much (though certainly not all) of the traditional concern of law with rights is a concern with rights of property. But I suspect that there is another reason why Hume concentrated on property rights in his con¬ tention that justice was an artificial virtue. The critique of ethical rationalism led him to deny Locke’s idea of a natural right to property. We think of Locke as an empiricist, and indeed he did initiate ‘the way of ideas’ in the theory of knowledge. But he was originally a natural law man in ethics, and he remained one in his political theory. Even in the Essay concerning Human Understanding, where Locke’s view of ethics contains much of an empiricist and conventionalist flavour, he still retains features of the rationalist position, notably in his suggestion (1V. iii. 18) that morality might be placed1 amongst the sciences capable of demonstration: wherein . . . from self-evident propositions, by necessary consequences, as incontestable as those in mathematics, the measures of right and wrong might be made out. . . ’ . Hume must have had Locke in mind (no doubt with others) when he said, in the course of his critique of ethical rationalism ( Treatise of Human Nature, Ill.i. 1): ‘There has been an opinion very industriously propagated by certain philosophers, that morality is susceptible of demonstration ; and tho’ no one has ever been able to advance a single step in those demon¬ strations ; yet ’tis taken for granted, that this science may be brought to an equal certainty with geometry or algebra’ (p. 515). Now Locke him¬ self illustrated his suggestion with two brief examples, both taken from the field of legal and political philosophy. His first example leads straight to Hume’s view of justice as being conceptually connected with property rights. This is what Locke says: ‘ Where there is no property, there is no injustice, is a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid: for the idea of property being a right to any thing; and the idea to which the name injustice is given, being the invasion or violation of that right; it is evident, that ... I can as certainly know this propo¬ sition to be true, as that a triangle has three angles equal to two right ones.’ Hume’s statement ‘no one has ever been able to advance a single step in those demonstrations’ might suggest that he cannot be thinking of



Lock©, for Locke does after all specify such a step. The answer to this objection is twofold. First, the youthful Hume of the Treatise is much given to hyperbole, so that he would be apt to say no one had advanced ‘a single step’ even if this were not absolutely correct. Secondly, Hume would probably consider that Locke’s two examples do nothing to demonstrate morality but (to use a Humean phrase) 'evidently pre¬ suppose it’. To show that property implies rights and justice, presupposes, and does not demonstrate, the more fundamental, moral notions of rights and justice. (A similar criticism can be made of Locke’s second example of the relation between government and liberty.) So there is good evidence for the view that Hume will have had Locke (among others) in mind as a supporter of ethical rationalism. Now ethical rationalism went along with natural law theory, and Locke’s two examples of demonstration in ethics are both taken from political theory. The relevant extracts from Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding can therefore be connected with his Second Treatise, of Civil Government. What doctrines in the Second Treatise stand out as saying something novel and distinctive ? At least this one, that there is a natural right to property. I suggest that Hume’s critique of ethical rationalism, including as it did a rejection of Locke’s demonstrable ethics, led him to the idea of next criticizing Locke’s natural right to property. If Hume could show that property-rights (i.e. justice, accord¬ ing to Locke) are all artificial, this would reinforce the attack on ethical rationalism: it would undermine the natural law theory of the univer¬ sally admired Locke, as well as explain why some moral rules apply universally. The TWO versions of Hume’s moral philosophy that appear in the

Treatise and in the second Enquiry differ, not only in the order of ex¬ position but also in substance. The difference is more marked in Hume’s positive theory than in his critique of ethical rationalism, but there too it is significant and deserves attention. As regards order of exposition: in the Treatise, the critique of ration¬ alism comes first j in the Enquiry, it is briefly mentioned at the begin¬ ning and is then relegated to an appendix. This does not mean that Hume had come to think it of little importance. It occupies the first of four appendices in the Enquiry, showing that he continued to give it priority in his own mind. The reason why the details of the dispute about reason and feeling in morals are moved to an appendix is that the two Enquiries were aimed at a wider audience than the Treatise had reached. A more attractive style and a simpler form of doctrine would do the trick, Hume thought. The argument about reason and feeling had to be conducted in terms of fine distinctions of logic and theory of

Hume's Critique of Ethical Rationalism


knowledge 5 these, if they came in at the start, would put off the kind of reader that Hume was now seeking—not the scholar who had read Locke and Samuel Clarke for himself, but the intelligent layman who enjoyed a taste of philosophy when garnished with literary sauce, as in Shaftesbury’s Characteristics or some of Addison’s contributions to the Spectator. Changes in the content of Hume’s arguments against ethical ration¬ alism may be more indicative of a shift in his own views, or at least of what he thought most persuasive. I shall give the gist of the arguments as they appear, first in the Treatise, then in the Enquiry. First, the Treatise (ill.i. 1): T 1: Morality is practical $ reason alone does not move to action ; ‘an active principle can never be founded on an inactive’. T 2 : The function of reason is to discover truth, and morality differs from truth. For: T 2 a: Morality is predicated of motives and actions, which are matters of fact, while truth is predicated of judgements. T2b: Judgement may be a part-cause of action in directing action so as to satisfy passion, but the truth or falsity of such a judgement is not what makes the action morally right or wrong 5 a mistake of fact is not culpable. T2C: Judgement (in others) may be an effect of action, but the truth or falsity of such a judgement is not what makes the action morally right or wrong 5 the judgement may be caused accidentally, and what matters for morals is intention. T2d: The theory (of William Wollaston), that all morally right or wrong action is a form of declaring truth or falsehood, is circular, because it presupposes the rightness of telling the truth. T 3 : Reasoning is either a priori or empirical, and neither can give us moral distinctions. For: T 3 a: A priori reasoning is concerned with relations between ideas, and there are no relevant relations that apply only where moral attributes apply. The relations, but not the immorality, of, e.g., parricide or incest are found in trees and animals. T 3 b: Even if the required relations could be discovered, it is im¬ possible to prove a priori that such relations (or anything else) have the causal effect of being obligatory on every rational animal; for no causal connections can be discovered a priori. T 3 c: Empirical reasoning discovers matters of fact, and when we call actions or characters virtuous or vicious the only additional matter of fact to be discovered is our own feeling of approval or disapproval.



T 4: Ought cannot be deduced from is. Next, the Enquiry (Appendix i): E 1 : Reason judges either of matters of fact or of relations. Im¬ morality, e.g., the crime of ingratitude, is neither of these. E2: Moral judgement is unlike mathematical judgement. In mathematics we infer unknown relations from known; in ethics we must know all the relations first before we judge. E3: Moral judgement is like aesthetic judgement. When we know all that there is to be known, we experience a feeling. E4: The relations, but not the morality, of moral situations can be found among inanimate objects. E5: A reason for an action is the end to which the action is a means. No reasons can be given for ultimate ends. Having listed these five considerations, Hume concluded Appendix I of the Enquiry with a paragraph summarizing the separate functions of reason and taste. In it he mentioned briefly the two points that occupy the first half of the Treatise discussion: (1) reason is concerned with truth and falsehood 5(2) reason cannot move to action but directs us to means. A comparison of the two lists of arguments has the following result. T 1 (reason cannot move to action) and T2 (truth differs from moral¬ ity), which have pride of place and are elaborately spelled out in the Treatise, are given nothing more than a passing mention at the end of the discussion in the Enquiry. T 3 (reasoning about relations and about matters of fact), which is also fully elaborated in the Treatise, turns into E1-4 in the Enquiry. T4 (ought and is) disappears from the Enquiry. E5 (no reasons for ultimate ends) is not in the Treatise, but it has a prominent place among Hutcheson’s arguments against ethical rationalism in Illustrations upon the Moral Sense. The comparison suggests that when Hume came to write the Enquiry, he put most of his trust in the set of arguments that distin¬ guished a prion from empirical reasoning (T3 and Ei—4)- This may simply mean, however, that he thought these arguments would be more intelligible to his readers. They are certainly explained in a less technical form in the Enquiry, and Hume may have felt that this was not possible for arguments T1, T2, and T4. Those three arguments, which virtually disappear from the Enquiry, might well be regarded today as the most significant elements of Hume’s moral philosophy because they all point to the practical character of moral judgement: moral judgements, it would be said, cannot be true and false in the same way as statements of fact, because they are not descriptive but prescriptive attempts to influence action


Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism

and attitude. Recent ethical theory has emphasized this as the basis of the distinction between normative and positive language, and in parti¬ cular as the root of the difference between ought and is. Hume himself does not seem to have connected all three arguments in this way. His first argument, T 1, refers explicitly to the practical character of moral¬ ity, and he evidently associated that general point with T2, in which moral predication is distinguished from the assertion of truth 5 but there is no suggestion that he saw T4 (ought and is) in the same light. This should not prevent us from acknowledging all three arguments as evidence of his philosophical genius in spotting peculiarities that have profound implications. Equally, however, we should not he prevented from recognizing that all three arguments, as they stand, have only a limited destructive power. Let us look at each of them in turn. T 1 depends on the thesis that reason alone cannot move to action. Why should Hume expect his readers to agree to that? The doctrine of course recalls the dictum of Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, VI ( 1139336), that the understanding (or intellect) itself moves nothing, but obviously Hume would not rely on the authority of Aristotle or any¬ one else. Moreover, the Aristotelian view is not necessarily opposed to that of later rationalists. Aristotle says: ‘Intellect itself moves nothing, but only the intellect which aims at an end and is practical’ (Sir David Ross’s translation). Later ethical rationalists would certainly agree that when reason motivates to action it is practical and is aiming at an end. Hume, but not Aristotle, would deny that reason can properly be called practical or can aim at an end. When Hume argued initially (in Treatise, 11. iii. 3) that reason cannot move to action, he did so by considering the same two functions that he discusses in argument T3, deduction and induction (or, to use his own terms, judging ‘from demonstration or probability’). The first, he said, is concerned with ideas, not matters of fact, and so cannot affect the will, which exists in the world of fact. The second discovers causal connections and can vary the direction of im¬ pulse so as to take effective means to desired ends, but the impulse itself ‘arises not from reason’ (p. 461). Now simply to assert that the impulse itself does not arise from reason is to beg the question. Hume is assum¬ ing that deduction and induction are the only functions of reason. The rationalist says, like Aristotle, that there is also a practical function of reason. Hume denies this but has not given us any argument for prefer¬ ring his view to that of his opponents. Hume’s initial discussion of the matter in Book II is concerned with reason and passion as supposed alternative motives to action. When he returns to it at the beginning of Book ill, his purpose is to discuss moral judgement, not motivation directly. His point in argument T 1 is that since morality, in the form of duty, justice, or obligation, can move to



action, our notions of morality cannot be given to us by reason, because an active principle can never be founded on an inactive’ (p.509). W hen Hume says ‘founded’ here, does he mean logical or causal depen¬ dence? Modern discussion of argument T4, about the impossibility of deriving ought from is, relates that logical point to the practical charac¬ ter of moral judgement: a sentence containing ought is a prescription, intended to affect action, while a sentence containing is is a description, intended simply to state existing facts and not to change them 5 a pre¬ scription has a different logical force from, and therefore cannot be logically implied by, a description. It seems to me that this way of look¬ ing at argument T 4 is not to be found in Hume, and there is nothing to suggest that Hume connected argument T4 with Ti, which does speak of the practical character of morality. By the same token I think we must conclude that in argument T1 Hume is thinking of causal, not logical, dependence when he says ‘an active principle can never be founded on an inactive’. This is confirmed by an alternative phrase that he uses in the same context: ‘Reason is wholly inactive, and can never be the source of so active a principle as conscience, or a sense of morals’ (p. 510). The word source must surely mean causal origin. If so, Hume’s argument here is subject to the following objections. 1. The question at issue is not about causation but about discovery. Hume himself notes the difference that this makes when he discusses argument T 3 c. Having pointed out that incestuous actions and rela¬ tions are immoral only in men and not in animals, he supposes a ration¬ alist to say the difference arises because animals do not have reason to discover the ‘turpitude’. Hume rightly answers that this is to argue in a circle, for the rationalist view implies that the turpitude must already exist if it is to be discovered; it ‘is independent of the decisions of our reason, and is their object more properly than their effect’ (p.519). The same distinction can be applied to argument T1. No doubt an in¬ active principle cannot produce an active, but the question is whether an inactive principle can discern or perceive something that is active or productive of action. Sense perception is ‘an inactive principle’, but that does not prevent us from seeing a volcano. An ethical rationalist might hold (Sir David Ross, for example, did) that we judge what is right by rational intuition although we need the motive force of conscientious desire in order to do what is right. 2. Even if causation were relevant, is Hume entitled to rely on a general causal principle like ‘An active effect cannot be produced by an inactive cause’ ? Descartes and other rationalists can be expected to argue in this way: every change must have a cause, and there must be at least as much ‘reality’ or activity in the cause as there is in the effect. This kind of premise seems reasonable enough so long as it is not


Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism

challenged by Hume’s general critique of notions about causation. Some¬ one may say that Hume’s analysis in Book I need not prevent him from arguing like any other man with unanalysed epistemological concepts in Book III. But this defence of Hume will not do. For he himself refers back to his critique of causation when discussing argument T 5 b: ‘it has been shewn, in treating of the understanding, that there is no connexion of cause and effect . . . which is discoverable otherwise than by experi¬ ence. . . . All beings in the universe, consider’d in themselves, appear entirely loose and independent of each other. ’Tis only by experience we learn their influence and connexion . . . ’ (pp. 517-18). If so, then we are not entitled to accept and argue from the general metaphysical axiom that the active can never be produced by the inactive. According to Hume, for all we can know a priori, anything might be causally con¬ nected with anything ; only experience can tell us whether in fact one thing is or is not causally connected with another. So much for T1. The next argument, T2, about the difference be¬ tween morality and truth, effectively refutes the theory of Wollaston but does not really touch any other rationalist. All the rationalists were ready to say that moral principles are necessary truths, but this is not to identify ethical predicates with truth. The man who says ‘It is neces¬ sarily true that charity is a virtue’ does not say or imply that charity is true. After all, despite the modern view that moral judgements are not statements of fact, any tolerable theory of ethics must allow us to say ‘It is (at least contingently) true that charity is a virtue’, and Hume’s own positive theory of ethics certainly allows us to say it. If so, and if, as Hume argues, the office of reason is to discover what is true, then it is possible for reason to seek, and perhaps to discover, this and similar instances of what is true. The rationalists may well be mistaken to conclude further that ihe facts which underlie such truths are known by rational understanding or inference ; but that is a different issue, taken up by Hume in argument T5. Wollaston, however, connected morality and truth more closely than did other rationalists. He said that many actions can serve as declarations of fact and therefore can be true or false in the same way as verbal statements. He then argued that all wrong actions are false declarations of fact and that this is what constitutes their wrongness. According to Wollaston, if a man uses and disposes of some material good, his action (in the absence of indications to the contrary) declares that he is the owner or the agent of the owner ; and if this is false, he acts a lie. Thus, Wollaston concluded, theft and other forms of wrongdoing are all species of lying, while actions that are right conform to truth. Hume effectively demolishes this theory in arguments T 2 c and T 2 d. An action may indeed produce in others an idea that is true or false, but the



morality or immorality of the action depends, not on that, but on the agent’s intention. Otherwise immorality could he avoided simply by concealment. For instance, Flume says, if the immorality of adultery consists in communicating the false proposition that another man’s wife is your own, you can remove the immorality by drawing the curtains.

In any case,

Hume adds, Wollaston’s theory is circular

by presupposing moral judgement in the attempt to explain it 5 to say that all wrong actions are wrong because they are a kind of lying is to presuppose that lying is wrong in some more fundamental sense. There remains T4, about the ‘deduction’ of ought from is. Hume writes as if the argument had a very wide application so as to ‘subvert all the vulgar systems of morality’ (p.521). Indeed he begins by talk¬ ing of ‘every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with’ (p. 521), but this is undoubtedly another instance of the hyperbole that I mentioned earlier. Hume had certainly ‘met with’ the system of Hutcheson,

and nobody could truly say of Hutcheson’s ethical theory

what Hume alleges of every system he knows, namely that after a time ‘I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought or an ought not’ (p.521). Hutcheson uses the term ought very little indeed and says, in the course of his own critique of ethical rationalism, that it is an ‘unlucky word in morals’.3 The general structure of Hutcheson’s theory is followed in that of Hume himself, and if the argument about is and ought applied to the one it would apply to the other as well. Apart from Hutcheson, Hume had a close acquaintance with much ancient ethical theory, and there too he will have found comparatively little of the Greek and Latin equivalents of ought and ought not. Professor A. C. MacIntyre4 has argued that the common interpreta¬ tion of T 4 is mistaken. Hume writes of authors who proceed from pro¬ positions containing is to propositions containing ought, and asks ‘that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it’ ( Treatise, p. 521). The common interpretation is that Hume means it is impossible to deduce ought from is. MacIntyre puts forward instead the following three theses. (1) The word deduction, as used by Hume, does not mean the conclusion of a strict deductive in¬ ference (for which Hume’s usual term is demonstration) but inference generally. ( 2 ) Hume is not asserting the impossibility of deriving norm¬ ative conclusions from statements of fact, for he does this himself in his own explanation of moral judgement. When he asks that a reason be given for what ‘seems’ inconceivable, he means this seriously and not ironically ; it ‘seems’ inconceivable and is difficult, but it can be done, as he intends to show in his own theory. (5) Hume is not here attacking


Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism

philosophers but popular versions of religious morality such as The Whole Duty of Man. It is true that Hume uses the word deduction to mean inference generally. For example, towards the end of Section I of the Enquiry concerning Morals, he writes of ‘the experimental method’ (what we should call induction) as ‘deducing general maxims from a comparison of particular instances’ (Enquiries, §138). Both there and elsewhere Hume has a clear conception of two, and only two, forms of inference. He is ready to use the word deduction of either or of both together. But this does not imply that he would use the word deduction for any form of derivation, such as the explanation that he gives of moral judgement in relation to human feelings. When Hume explains a judgement of obligation as the expression of a feeling of disapproval towards non¬ performance of an action, he is not showing us how to infer ‘ought1 from ‘is’ by induction. But in T4, where he uses the word deduction, he does refer to inference. So far as the word itself is concerned, he might mean either deductive or inductive inference $ but the context shows that he must mean deductive. For he asks that a reason be given ‘how this new relation can be a deduction from others’. According to Hume, demon¬ strative (i.e. deductive) inference is concerned with relations, and prob¬ able (i.e. inductive) inference with matters of fact.

So, although

Hume’s word deduction need not in other contexts mean strict deduc¬ tion, here it must do so. As for Professor MacIntyre’s suggestion that Hume is not criticizing philosophers, ‘it seems altogether inconceivable’ how such a sudden change of aim should be tacked on to the end of a series of criticisms of rationalist philosophy, or why the final words of the argument should nevertheless revert to the conclusion ‘that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceiv’d by reason’ ( Treatise, p. 521). It has always seemed to me that T 4 is directed primarily against Samuel Clarke. He certainly answers to Hume’s description of an author who ‘proceeds for some time in the ordinary wa} of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, . . . ’ (p. 521) and then moves on to lots of propositions asserting obligation. The first set of Clarke’s Boyle Lectures is A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, while the second is A Discourse concerning the Unchangeable Obligations of Natural Religion. Both for Hume and for his eighteenth-century read¬ ers the phrase ‘establishes the being of a God’ would recall Clarke’s first title, with a touch of mockery in the substitution of ‘a God’ for ‘God’ (especially since Clarke’s conception was peculiarly Unitarian). What is more, Clarke’s second discourse is the one work of the eighteenthcentury British moralists that does explicitly try to deduce statements of obligation from statements of fact. Clarke sets out ‘to prove distinctly’



that the differences between things imply that certain relations are fitting or unfitting, that these do determine the actions of God, that they ought to determine the actions of men, and that one can go on from here to deduce all the several duties of morality or natural reli¬ gion .5 Hume will of course have taken subsequent ethical rationalists, such as Wollaston and John Balguy, to be followers of Clarke (they readily acknowledged this themselves) and therefore to be tarred with the same brush; but I have not found in Wollaston or Balguy any attempt to deduce ought from is. Balguy in particular is quite clear that any inferences about obligation must be grounded on moral principles.® The upshot of this discussion is that arguments T2 and T4 have limited targets. T2 demolishes the theory of Wollaston, T4 that of Samuel Clarke. Against these particular authors they are superb, but they touch no one else. As it happens, some confirmation of the kind of view I have put forward was provided by Hume himself in A Letter from a Gentleman, published in 1745 but lost to sight until a copy turned up in 1966 and was used for the reprint edited by Ernest Mossner and John Price in 1967. The Letter deals with six charges laid against the Treatise of Human Nature, the last of these being concerned with ethical theory. Hume is charged ‘With sapping the Foundations of Morality, by deny¬ ing the natural and essential Difference betwixt Right and Wrong, . . . ’ and with arguing that justice is an artificial virtue.7 I confine myself to the first two paragraphs of Hume’s reply (p. 30), and leave aside his defence of the doctrine that justice is an artificial virtue. Hume first says of the sixth and last charge, ‘destroying all the Foundations of Morality’, that ‘according to the prevalent Opinion of Philosophers in this Age, [it] will certainly be regarded as the severest’, an interesting comment when put alongside the fact that two of the other charges are of atheism. Then, in answer to the general point about the difference between right and wrong, Hume says this of himself: He hath indeed denied the eternal Difference of Right and Wrong in the Sense in which Clark and Woolaston maintained them, viz. That the Propositions of Morality were of the same Nature with the Truths of Mathematicks and the abstract Sciences, the Objects merely of Reason, not the Feelings of our internal Tastes and Sentiments. In this Opinion he concurs with all the antient Moral¬ ists, as well as with Mr. Hutchison Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow, who, with others, has revived the antient Philosophy in this Particular. As Mossner and Price note in their Introduction (p.xxiv), one of the features of A Letterfrom a Gentleman is that it gives the names of rele¬ vant thinkers where the Treatise, in the fashion of the time, had simply


Hume’s Critique of Ethical Rationalism

referred to doctrines. The Treatise does almost name Wollaston at the beginning of a long footnote in which argument T2C is developed (p. 513). The footnote will have been added at a late stage, perhaps when Hume was revising the proofs, and refers to ‘a late author’. Clarke is not named in this volume of the Treatise, and it is significant that, in A Letter from a Gentleman, Hume should single out Clarke along with Wollaston as advocates of the view criticized in Treatise, ill.i. 1.8 By doing so Hume is implicitly aligning himself with Hutcheson, whom he mentions expressly in the next sentence. When Hutcheson attacked ethical rationalism in Illustrations upon the Moral Sense, he followed up a general criticism in Section I by fastening on Clarke in Section II and Wollaston in Section in. Hutcheson was of course persona gratissima with the electors to the Edinburgh Chair of Moral Philosophy, for whom A Letter from a Gentleman was intended, but Hume is stating no more than the bare truth when he claims, both explicitly and implicitly, to follow Hutcheson in opinion on this topic and in identification of authors criticized. Hume is likewise justified in his claim that the opinion of Hutcheson and himself is a revival of a predominant doctrine of ancient philosophy. It is at bottom the view that ethics depends on the constitution of human nature, a notion that can properly be attributed both to Plato and to Aristotle, and one that is undoubtedly the mainstay of Stoicism. Ethical rationalism could also claim to be a revival of ancient, at any rate Platonic, philosophy. Plato was responsible for the comparison between rational and mathematical understanding; Ralph Cudworth in the seventeenth century and Richard Price in the eighteenth both saw themselves as Platonists in epistemological and ethical theory. But Aristotle, although a kind of rationalist, distinguished sharply between theoretical and practical sciences; and he certainly founded ethics on the appetitive nature of man. Not much in philosophy is entirely new. Hume was a philosophical revolutionary, if anyone was, and the critique of ethical rationalism wras where he began. We can see now that certain elements in the critique are more revolutionary than Hume himself knew them to be. Yet Hume was right to say that the ethical theory of Hutcheson and himself revived an old tradition. Revolution can be inspired by reaction.




The Philosophy of David Hume (London 1941) ch. 1—2.


Cf. D.D.Raphael ‘Obligations and Rights in Hobbes’ Philosophy xxxvii (1962) 345-52, especially 351.


Illustrations upon the Moral Sense 11; D.D. Raphael British Moralists 1650-1800 (Oxford 1969) §367.


‘Hume on “is” and “ought”’ Philosophical Review lxviii (1959); re¬ printed in W. D. Hudson, ed. The Is-Ought Question (London 1969) I. Discourse of Natural Religion 1.1—4; D.D. Raphael British Moralists 1650-1800 §§224-45.

5. 6. 7. 8.

Foundation of Moral Goodness II.3—5; Raphael British Moralists §§456—8. A Letter from a Gentleman p. 18 ; cf.pp. i4ff. In a footnote to the Enquiry concerning Morals, Ill.ii (§158), Hume refers to Montesquieu in L'Esp?-it des lois ( 1748) as a supporter of ration¬ alist ethics despite his relativist view of law. Hume then goes on to say: ‘Father Malebranche, as far as I can learn, was the first that started this abstract theory of morals, which was afterwards adopted by Cudworth, Clarke, and others’. But this is no guide to identifying Hume’s targets when he wrote the Treatise.


Hume on Separating the Inseparable Among the distinctions which Hume introduces very early in

the Treatise is that between simple and complex perceptions. Simple perceptions are those which admit of no distinction or separation (p. 50), whereas those which are complex can be distinguished into the simple perceptions of which they are composed,1 through the power that the imagination possesses of producing a separation wherever it perceives a difference.2 A simple perception, therefore, is a perceptual primitive that is not reducible into parts, that is, into other more basic perceptions. The aim of this paper is two-fold. In the first place, an attempt will be made to understand Hume’s treatment of ‘simple per¬ ceptions’ and the distinctions possible within them in the light of his discussion of ‘distinctions of reason’. The topic of distinctions of reason is placed by Hume in Part I of the first Book of the Treatise, which Part is said by Hume at the close of Section iv of Part 1 to contain ‘the ele¬ ments of this philosophy’. Nevertheless, its importance in Hume’s philosophy is usually overlooked. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the expression ‘distinctions of reason’ is employed by Hume in only four passages, all of them being in the Treatise (pp. 72,92,115-16,294), and in these the pivotal role of such distinctions is never enunciated. Now it is my contention that Hume was correct in introducing this topic as an ‘element’ in his philosophy, and as a result the second aim of this paper is to show two areas in Hume’s philosophy where distinctions of reason are centrally involved. One example will be selected from Hume’s moral theory where Hume discusses how it is that we are able to order our moral sentiments so that they can become disinterested and stabi¬ lized, with the result that the same approbation or disapprobation can he given regardless of where the qualities giving rise to our approbation or disapprobation are placed. The second example will be taken from Part II of Book I of the Treatise where Hume discusses the origin of our abstract ideas of space and time. I will attempt to prove that here, too, distinctions of reason must be involved, and that what is unusual in this discussion is the involvement of a multiplicity of perceptions rather than a single perception. Hence, in the case of space and time what is sought is the separation of an aspect of a multiplicity of perceptions from the perceptions which constitute the multiplicity. As such, Hume’s initial account of distinctions of reason in Part I of the first Book of the Treatise will be seen to be misleading as it stands, inasmuch as there is



emphasis on single perceptions with no attention paid to a multiplicity of perceptions. Nevertheless, I will also attempt to show that extending the operation of distinctions of reason to a multiplicity of perceptions can be done entirely within the framework of distinctions of reason as set out by Hume in Part I. Distinctions of Reason

Hume argues that although simple perceptions are not amenable to further distinctions in terms of parts, they are still susceptible to dis¬ tinctions of reason. As examples of this distinction, he speaks of ‘figure and the body figur’d’, ‘motion and the body mov’d’ ( Treatise, p.72), ‘length’ and ‘breadth’ (p. 91), and an ‘action’ and its ‘substance’ (p. 293). The actual example employed in his discussion3 is the distinction between the color and figure in a globe of white marble. Hume points out that when presented with a globe of white marble the color is in¬ separable and indistinguishable from the form or figure. However, if we also observe a globe of black marble and a cube of white marble, and compare them with the globe of white marble we will be able to distin¬ guish the color and figure of the latter through the resemblances it has with the other two objects. That is, the color of the globe resem¬ bles the color of the cube, and the figure of the globe resembles the figure of the black marble. The awareness of these resemblances Hume refers to as ‘a kind of reflection’ or ‘comparison’ (pp.72-3), and that to which we are attending — in this case the color of the figure — he refers to as an ‘aspect’ (p.72). Thus, although simple perceptions lack parts, they do possess aspects —aspects which are discovered through finding resemblances between the perception in question and others: ‘ . . . we consider the figure and colour together, since they are in effect the same and undistinguishable; but still view them in different aspects, according to the resemblances, of which they are susceptible (p.72). The fact that Hume offers a separate name for the operation under dis¬ cussion makes it appear as though it is a separate operation of the mind not yet covered in his discussion. However, this is not the case. Distinc¬ tions of reason are made through comparing an idea with other ideas in order to determine certain resemblances between them. But all com¬ parisons between ideas are regarded by Hume as attempts to establish philosophical relations between them: ‘The word relation is . . . used for that particular circumstance, in which, even upon the arbitiary union of two ideas in the fancy, we may think proper to compare them’.4 The text reveals that by the expression ‘that particular circum¬ stance’ in the preceding quotation Hume is referring to some resem¬ blance or other which enables the two ideas to be compared: ‘ . . . resem¬ blance ... is a relation, without which no philosophical relation can exist 5 since no objects will admit of comparison, but what have some


Hume on Separating the Inseparable

degree of resemblance’.5 What follows from this discussion is that dis¬ tinctions of reason are nothing but the determination of philosophical relations between a certain idea and others. Further refinements on Hume’s view are now in order. In the first place, Hume is extremely misleading in holding that at least two differ¬ ent objects are required for a distinction of reason. Quite clearly, a comparison could take place even if one object were involved so long as some particular change occurred within it, and we were able to retain in memory the original appearance of the object. For example, if the globe of white marble of which Hume speaks were to be painted black, a comparison would still be possible between the object as it was for¬ merly, and as it is now. In such an instance, we could still find a resem¬ blance in shape between the object at two different times. But even this analysis of the matter is misleading, since it lends support to the view that before the philosophical relation required for a distinction of reason is uncovered there must be some qualitative difference between the objects or perceptions involved. In point of fact, however, this need not always be the case. Let us suppose that I acquired a globe of white marble shortly before I left my study yesterday evening, and that I stationed this globe on my desk. Upon returning to my study this morning I see an object on my desk and remark that this is the globe which I received yesterday and that no perceptible change has occurred in it since that time. It is clear that in this case I can distinguish the figure from the color—I know that there has been no change in the color and I know that there has been no change in the shape — even though no qualitative contrast is present. In fact, in this case it is pre¬ cisely because there is no qualitative change in the object that we say the object has remained unaltered. For a distinction of reason to take place, therefore, what is required is the awareness of a resemblance that a simple perception bears to some other perception, or to itself at some other time. The contrast that Hume emphasizes is a necessary condition for a distinction of reason when learning how to make such distinctions. However, once this has been learned, the contrast ceases to be necessary. Up to now I have been assuming that Hume is correct in holding that a distinction of reason is applicable only in the case of simple ideas: ‘ . . . the distinction of ideas without any real difference ... is founded on the different resemblances, which the same simple idea may have to several different ideas’ (pp. 115-16). Our preceding discussion, how¬ ever, has already shown that distinctions of reason do occur with respect to complex ideas in the sense of complex idea discussed earlier.6 Since philosophical relations exist between complex ideas, and since all dis¬ tinctions of reason are nothing but the establishment of philosophical relations, it follows that distinctions of reason can occur with respect to



complex ideas. Nevertheless, this argument is misleading in itself since it obfuscates the very special role which distinctions of reason play. The problem here then is one of determining when a special label is war¬ ranted when we are involved with the comparison of ideas. The notion of a simple idea discussed earlier presupposes that there be some limit to the separations possible within an idea. And Hume holds that there are such limits: . . . the idea, which we form of any finite quality, is not infinitely divisible, but that by proper distinctions and separations we may run up this idea to inferior ones, which will be perfectly simple and indivisible. In rejecting the infinite capacity of the mind, we suppose it may arrive at an end in the division of its ideas . . . the imagination reaches a minimum, and may raise up to itself an idea, of which it cannot conceive any sub-division, and which cannot be diminished without a total annihilation, (p. 76) In the light of this passage it is clear that the very examples which Hume has employed when introducing the notion of distinctions of reason, namely, the globe of black marble and the cube of white marble, cannot be considered examples involving simple ideas: it is possible to imagine, for example, that the globe is split into two equal parts. There¬ fore, not only are distinctions of reason possible in the case of complex ideas, but Hume’s own discussion of the matter employs complex ideas. The equivocation involved in the term ‘simple idea’ can now be made explicit. On the one hand, by a simple idea Hume means one which is such that no distinction or separation is possible with respect to it. The example Hume uses is the idea of a grain of sand: When you tell me of the thousandth and ten thousandth part of a grain of sand, I have a distinct idea of these numbers and of their different proportions 5 but the images, which I form in my mind to represent the things themselves, are nothing different from each other, nor inferior to that image, by which I represent the grain of sand itself, which is suppos’d so vastly to exceed them . . . the idea of a grain of sand is not distinguishable, nor separable into twenty, much less into a thousand, ten thousand, or an infinite number of different ideas, (p. 76) On the other hand, the discussion offered on distinctions of reason points out that Hume is also prepared to call any idea ‘simple’ when con¬ sidered from the point of view of qualities it possesses that we find to be inseparable from each other. That is, since color and figure are always found together, any idea viewed solely in terms of these attributes can be called a simple idea. The important point brought out then is that because of the second sense of simple idea uncovered, Humeis committed to the view that distinctions of reason are possible in the case of complex

Hume on Separating the Inseparable


ideas, when this term is taken as the opposite of simple idea in the first sense. Putting the matter generally, we can say that distinctions of reason are possible in the case of all our ideas with respect to those features of our ideas such as color and figure that are not separable by the imagination alone. Further, although all philosophical relations are based1 on some resemblance between ideas, distinctions of reason are employed solely to establish a resemblance between a simple idea (in the second sense dis¬ cussed) andsome other idea so that an inseparable aspect of the simple idea can be discerned. Accordingly, of the seven different philosophical rela¬ tions discussed by Hume8 distinctions of reason employ only resemblance, and resemblance is employed in order to isolate aspects of simple ideas. The Employment of Distinctions of Reason

Ordering moral sentiments. I now turn to the second part of this paper wherein I shall attempt to show two areas in which distinctions of reason are employed. I am not here suggesting that distinctions of reason have application only in these areas $ rather what follows is included in order to show that this topic ought to be taken more seriously than it has to this point9 in try¬ ing to understand Hume’s philosophy. Moral distinctions, according to Hume, are based on certain senti¬ ments of pleasure and pain, or more strictly, ‘the final sentence’ is based on sentiment. Nevertheless, in arriving at this final sentence much reasoning can take place. Early in his analysis in the second Enquiry, when predicting how his own examination will turn out, he writes: . . . reason and sentiment concur in almost all moral determinations and conclusions. The final sentence, it is probable, which pro¬ nounces characters or actions amiable or odious . . . that which renders morality an active principle and constitutes virtue our happiness, and vice our misery: it is probable, I say, that this final sentence depends on some internal sense or feeling. . . . But in order to pave the way for such a sentiment, and give a proper dis¬ cernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just con¬ clusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general facts fixed and ascertained. (§157) And in the first Appendix this position is affirmed: A speculative reasoner concerning triangles or circles considers the several known and given relations of the parts of these figures, and thence infers some unknown relation, which is dependent on the former. But in moral deliberations we must be acquainted before¬ hand with all the objects, and all their relations to each other 5 and from a comparison of the whole, fix our choice or approbation. (§240)



In this respect morality resembles our pronouncements concerning beauty and deformity: This doctrine will become still more evident, if we compare moral beauty with natural, to which in many particulars it bears so near a resemblance. It is on the proportion, relation, and position of parts, that all natural beauty depends $ but it would be absurd thence to infer, that the perception of beauty, like that of truth in geometrical problems, consists wholly in the perception of rela¬ tions. ... In all the sciences, our mind from the known relations investigates the unknown. But in all decisions of taste or external beauty, all the relations are beforehand obvious to the eye ; and we thence proceed to feel a sentiment. . . . (§242) With the need for the employment of reason and the subsequent appear¬ ance of the moral sentiment both in aesthetics and morality, it follows that for each situation there is an appropriate or ‘proper’ sentiment and a proper judgment, with the result that moral sentiments and judg¬ ments are subject to correction: ... in many orders of beauty, particularly those of the finer arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment 5 and a false relish may frequently be corrected by argument and reflection. There are just grounds to conclude, that moral beauty partakes much of this latter species, and demands the assistance of our intellectual faculties, in order to give it a suitable influence on the human mind. (§137) Although an adequate understanding of a moral situation should yield the proper sentiment, Hume shows some concern for this view because human sentiments are not disinterested, and are variable, whereas we can speak of a proper moral sentiment only where as a result of an adequate understanding of the situation, our sentiments can be disinterested and stabilized. Hence Hume is worried about situa¬ tions where we have an adequate understanding of a situation and yet may err regarding the proper feeling in that situation. In certain instances an act may be vicious and be directed toward me. On both counts, according to Hume, a feeling of uneasiness should arise in me toward the person performing this action. Now, because my own interest is involved the uneasiness will be felt intensely. Nevertheless, in evaluating this action and the person performing it, I must again have recourse to this feeling of uneasiness, but I cannot claim that this action is more vicious than it would be if directed toward someone else. Accordingly, in assessing this person I must somehow adopt a dis¬ interested standpoint (§§222-3). _ . In the second area discussed by Hume in this regard it is his account of sympathy that is to be the source of the problem, for in these cases our

Hume on Separating the Inseparable


own interest is not involved, and we are merely partaking of the pleasure or uneasiness of others through the communication of passions: When any quality, or character, has a tendency to the good of man¬ kind, we are pleas’d with it, and approve of it; because it presents the lively idea of pleasure; which idea affects us by sympathy, and is itself a kind of pleasure. But as this sympathy is very variable, it may be thought, that our sentiments of morals must admit of all the same variations. We sympathize more with persons contiguous to us, than with persons remote from us: With our acquaintance, than with strangers: With our countrymen, than with foreigners. But notwithstanding this variation of our sympathy, we give the same approbation to the same moral qualities in China as in England. They appear equally virtuous, and recommend them¬ selves equally to the esteem of a judicious spectator. The sympathy varies without a variation in our esteem. Our esteem, therefore, proceeds not from sympathy. ( Treatise, pp. 631—2) In both cases mentioned, namely, where our own interest is in¬ volved and where it is not, it is the variability of the moral sentiments which requires that for purposes of accurate evaluation a common or disinterested standpoint be adopted. Hume’s solution as to how such a disinterested standpoint is adopted is far from clear. He says that the disinterested standpoint is achieved through That reason, which is able to oppose our passion; and which [is] . . . nothing but a general calm determination of the passions, founded on some distant view or re¬ flexion’.10 When Hume speaks here of ‘some distant view or reflexion’ he means that in order to standardize the passion I must take into account how the passion would present itself if my own situation were altered: ‘We blame equally a bad action, which we read of in history, with one perform’d in our neighbourhood t’other day: The meaning of which is, that we know from reflection, that the former action wou’d excite as strong sentiments of disapprobation as the latter, were it plac’d in the same position’ (p.634). What still remains to be cleared up is what meaning is to be attached to the ordering faculty, that is, to ‘that reason, which is able to oppose our passion . . . ’. By merely taking into account how a passion would affect me if my position were altered, I am able to see that the feeling or passion is variable, but that does not by itself yield a disinterested standpoint: it only provides information concerning other subjective expressions of my passions. Thus, consider¬ ing the variability of the passion through some ‘distant view or reflec¬ tion’ is a necessary condition for standardizing the sentiment, but not a sufficient one. Hume points out that this ordering faculty into which we are in¬ quiring does not usually make any impact on the passions themselves:



The intercourse of sentiments ... in society and conversation, makes us form some general inalterable standard, by which we may approve or disapprove of characters and manners. And tho’ the heart does not always take part with those general notions, or regulate its love or hatred by them, yet are they sufficient for dis¬ course, and serve all our purposes in company, in the pulpit, on the theatre, and in the schools, (p.655) Accordingly, the ordering faculty we are trying to uncover must be able to operate even when the perceptions themselves are unaffected by the ordering process. Of the senses of reasoning that Hume discusses, we can eliminate demonstrative reasoning as this ordering faculty since it only seeks to apprehend relations existing between ideas.11 Nor is causal reasoning able to do the ordering since it operates on the basis of past uniformities12 and is useful only for predicting or retrodicting. Thus, causal reasoning can inform me how I would feel if I altered my present standpoint but it itself cannot be the source of the order I impose on the passion. I suggest that the only sense of reason that answers to the ordering faculty discussed by Hume is a distinction of reason. In the case of adopting a disinterested standpoint what we must do is to distinguish the content of the passion from its vivacity or manner of presentation. That is to say, in the case of actions denominated virtuous we must attend to the content of the pleasurable sentiment that arises while ignoring its vivacity, whereas with vicious acts we must attend to the content of the sentiment of uneasiness while again ignoring its vivacity. This situation is analogous to that discussed by Hume when he intro¬ duced the topic of distinctions of reason. There we found that color and figure are inseparable, so that in reality no distinction between them can be made by the imagination. Nevertheless, given a globe of white marble and a cube of black we can, through a distinction of reason, establish a philosophical relation or resemblance between these two objects in order to enable us to attend to the color while ignoring the figure. Similarly, in adopting a disinterested standpoint in morals we find that we must attend to the content of certain sentiments, that is, their pleasure or uneasiness, while ignoring their manner of presenta¬ tion or vivacity. In reality this, too, cannot be done since the vivacity of a sentiment or passion is not something which we can separate from its content. Just as color is always attended with figure, so passions are attended with some vivacity or other. If, then, we are to distinguish the content of a passion from its vivacity, this can only be done through a distinction of reason. We must, in other words, call to mind other in¬ stances of the passion wherein there is a difference in its vivacity, and through a distinction of reason attend to the resemblance so far as


Hume on Separating the Inseparable

content is concerned and ignore the differences in its vivacity. Just as ‘a person, who desires us to consider the figure [or colour] of a globe of white marble without thinking on its colour [or figure], desires an impossibility’ (p. 73), so a person who asks us to consider the content of a passion without attending to its vivacity is asking for an impossibility. Nevertheless, through a distinction of reason both are possible concep¬ tually, and in the case of morality, it is ‘sufficient for discourse, and serves all our purposes in company, in the pulpit, on the theatre, and in the schools’ (p. 653). The abstract, ideas of space and time. In the preceding section, I showed how distinctions of reason can be employed in separating an inseparable aspect of a perception from the perception itself. The discussion that follows will show that distinctions of reason are not confined to individual perceptions, since a multiplicity of perceptions may also have an inseparable aspect, which can also be separated or distinguished by a distinction of reason. My discussion here will be taken from Hume’s analysis of how we obtain the abstract ideas of space and time.13 Turning first to space, we find Hume arguing that since every idea is derived from some impression that resembles it exactly, the idea of space must have a correspondent impression (Treatise, p. 82). Our passions, emotions, desires, and aversions exhaust our internal impres¬ sions, and since none of these provides the basis for the idea of space, it follows that it must be from the outer senses that the idea of space is obtained. He claims that the idea of extension or space is obtainable from viewing a table. Hence, some impression presented from the table generates the idea of space. However, upon viewing the table he finds nothing but ‘impressions of colour’d points, dispos’d in a certain manner’ (p. 82). Now, since this is all that is presented to observation, the idea of space must be ‘nothing but a copy of these colour’d points, and of the manner of their appearance’ (p. 83). The idea of the spatial features of the table is apprehended then by taking note of the fact that the various parts of the table are set out in a certain definite order. Since the observation of an extended object yields an awareness of the arrangement of the parts of that object, it is clear that the observa¬ tion of a particular extended object can only give us a particular idea of space. The abstract idea of space, or one that is not confined to a particu¬ lar object, is, according to Hume, obtained from particular awarenesses of space,14 but differs from these latter awarenesses in that it contains the thought of the arrangement of points, but omits, as far as possible, consideration of the color of the points. Since the arrangement of the colored points cannot be observed independently of the points them¬ selves, it follows from what was said at the beginning of the paper in



regard to the imagination, that the latter faculty alone cannot dis¬ tinguish the arrangement from the colored points. Accordingly, if we are to get an abstract idea of space this can only be accomplished through a distinction of reason: Suppose that in the extended object, or composition of colour’d points, fiom which we first receiv’d the idea of extension, the points were of a purple colour; it follows, that in every repetition of that idea we wou d not only place the points in the same order with respect to each other, but also bestow on them that precise colour, with which alone we are acquainted. But afterwards having experience of the other colours of violet, green, red, white, black, and of all the different compositions of these, and finding a resem¬ blance in the disposition of colour’d points of which they are com¬ pos’d, we omit the peculiarities of colour, as far as possible, and found an abstract idea merely on that disposition of points, or manner of appearance, in which they agree, (p. 85) Even though the arrangement of the colored points is inseparable from the points themselves in any such arrangement, we are able to found a philosophical relation on the resemblance existing in the arrangements of points of different colors, and in this way, through a distinction of reason, we arrive at the abstract idea of space.15 The abstract idea of time Hume treats in a manner similar to the abstract idea of space, with these two differences. In the first place, whereas the abstract idea of space is derived from the observation of colored points that have similar arrangements, the abstract idea of time is derived from the succession of our perceptions of every kind: The idea of time, being deriv’d from the succession of our percep¬ tions of every kind, ideas as well as impressions, and impressions of reflection as well as of sensation, will afford us an instance of an abstract idea, which comprehends a still greater variety than that of space. . . . (p. 83) Secondly, the parts involved in the succession of perceptions in regard to the abstract idea of time are not co-existent, whereas in the case of space they are co-existent: ’Tis evident, that time or duration consists of different parts: For otherwise we cou’d not conceive a longer or shorter duration. ’Tis also evident, that these parts are not co-existent: For that quality of co-existence of parts belongs to extension, and is what distin¬ guishes it from duration, (p. 84) In showing the origin of the abstract idea of time Hume begins by discussing particular awarenesses of time. He first shows that the idea of time cannot be obtained without an awareness of a succession of changeable objects:


Hume on Separating the Inseparable As ’tis from the disposition of visible and tangible objects we re¬ ceive the idea of space, so from the succession of ideas and impres¬ sions we form the idea of time, nor is it possible for time alone ever to make its appearance, or be taken notice of by the mind. A man in a sound sleep, or strongly occupy’d with one thought, is insen¬ sible of time j and according as his perceptions succeed each other with greater or less rapidity, the same duration appears longer or shorter to his imagination. . . . Wherever we have no successive perceptions, we have no notion of time, even tho’ there be a real succession in the objects. From these phaenomena, as well as from many others, we may conclude, that time cannot make its appear¬ ance to the mind, either alone, or attended with a steady un¬ changeable object, but is always discover’d by some perceivable succession of changeable objects, (pp. 83—4)

The preceding passage shows that a perceivable succession of change¬ able objects is a sine qua non of the idea of time, and that therefore time in its first appearance to the mind is always conjoined with a succession of changeable objects. What the preceding passage does not show is that the idea of time cannot be derived from an impression that is separable from the succession of changeable objects. The conjunction of the idea of time with an observable succession of changeable objects does not by itself establish the inseparability of the two, but only that without the observable succession there can be no awareness of time. Hence, it may be that without the succession of changeable objects there is no impres¬ sion of time, even though the impression of time is a perception addi¬ tional to those involved in the succession of changeable objects. Hume’s next argument proves that this is not the case, and that consequently, the awareness of time is inseparable from the succession of changeable objects required for an awareness of it: In order to know whether any objects, which are join’d in impres¬ sion, be separable in idea, we need only consider, if they be different from each other 5 in which case, ’tis plain they may be conceiv’d apart. Every thing, that is different, is distinguishable; and every thing, that is distinguishable, may be separated. ... If on the contrary they be not different, they are not distinguishable; and if they be not distinguishable, they cannot be separated. But this is precisely the case with respect to time, compar’d with our successive perceptions. The idea of time is not deriv’d from a particular impression mix’d up with others, and plainly distin¬ guishable from them, but arises altogether from the manner, in which impressions appear to the mind, without making one of the number. Five notes play’d on a flute give us the impression and idea of time; tho’ time be not a sixth impression, which presents



itself to the hearing or any other of the senses. Nor is it a sixth impression, which the mind by reflection finds in itself, (p. 85) Again, therefore, as in the case of space, since the manner in which perceptions present themselves to us is not distinguishable from the perceptions presented, it follows that the imagination alone cannot dis¬ tinguish the manner of presentation from what is presented. Accor¬ dingly, if we are to obtain the abstract idea of time, this can only be done by comparing different successions of changeable objects, and through a distinction of reason attend to their resemblance in terms of their manner of presentation: ... it [i.e. the mind] only takes notice of the manner, in which the different sounds make their appearance 5 and that it may after¬ wards consider without considering these particular sounds, but may conjoin it with any other objects, (p. 85) Hume’s analyses of the origin of particular awarenesses of space and time and of the abstract ideas of space and time do not commit him to the view that space and time are ‘fictions’ or in some sense ‘unreal’. On the contrary, in this connection space and time may be compared to the figure or color of an object (as, for example, in his discussion of the globe of white marble), or to the content of a moral perception when contrasted with its vivacity. There is for Hume no more problem about the ‘reality’ of space and time than there is about the ‘reality’ of these other matters.

Part of this paper appears in my forthcoming book Reason and Conduct in Hume and his Predecessors which is being published by Martinus Nijhoff, 1.

The Hague. ‘Complex ideas may, perhaps, be well known by definition, which is nothing but an enumeration of those parts or simple ideas, that compose


them.’ inquiries, §49. ‘Wherever the imagination perceives a difference among ideas, it can


easily produce a separation.’ Treatise, p.57. His only discussion of this topic occupies a mere one and a quarter pages


in the Mossner edition, pp.72-3. Treatise, p.61. Hume also discusses a second sense of the word ‘relation’,

5. 6. 7. 8.

but this need not concern us here. Ibid. Thus, Hume’s list of philosophical relations (pp.61-2) enumerates the different kinds of resemblances which enable us to compare ideas. See note 1. Just what more is involved is beyond the scope of this paper to investigate. Resemblance, Identity, Space and Time, Proportions in Quantity and Number, Degrees in any Quality, Contrariety, Cause and Effect. The one exception to this with which I am familiar is in the work of Professor Ronald J. Butler, who first brought the doctrine of distinctions of reason in Hume’s philosophy to my attention.

42 10.

11. 12.

Hume on Separating the Inseparable Treatise, p.634. In the passage itself, Hume regards this reason as some¬ thing which he has already discussed. Thus, he speaks of ‘that reason, which is able to oppose our passion ; and which we have found to he nothing but a general calm determination of the passions, founded on some distant view or reflexion’. I have, in quoting this passage above, omitted the words which I now italicize because, to the best of my knowledge, Hume has not in any previous section discussed a reason which can oppose passion in the sense of being a calm determination of the passions founded on some distant view or reflexion. In fact, up to now Hume has been arguing that reason cannot oppose the passions and that in such situations what are commonly regarded as the dictates of reason are nothing but the im¬ pulses of certain calm passions (see pp.464—5). In the index to his edition (p.686), Selby-Bigge errs in thinking that the reason mentioned in his text on p. 583 (Mossner, p. 634) must be the calm passions mentioned on p.417 (Mossner, p.464), when Hume discusses the alleged opposition between reason and passion. The calm passions often oppose the violent passions and Hume points out not that the calm passions can serve as a general calm determination of a passion founded on some distant view or reflexion, but rather that ‘in general, we may observe, that both these principles operate on the will; and where they are contrary, that either of them prevails, according to the general character or present disposition of the person’ (p.465, italics in text omitted). Accordingly, if there is to be a general calm determination of the passions founded on some distant view or reflexion this can not be carried out through the calm passions. See, for example, pp. 118, 460-1. See Treatise I.iii. Sect. 14.


Hume’s most extensive discussion of space and time is given in Book 1, Part ii of the Treatise.


Treatise, pp. 64-71. This is so since for Hume all abstract ideas are always in themselves particular. See his proof in this passage.


Treatise, p.83. Hume further argues that tactile impressions also yield the material for generating the abstract idea of space: ‘ . . . even when the resemblance is carry’d beyond the objects of one sense, and the impres¬ sions of touch are found to be similar to those of sight in the disposition of their parts ; this does not hinder the abstract idea from representing both, upon account of their resemblance.’



Kant and Hume on Reason and Experience in Ethics The Philosophers of the Enlightenment recognized the universal

and particular aspects of human nature in epistemological and moral problems, but rationalists and empiricists assessed each of these aspects differently. Hume and Kant were equally impressed by the great achievements of Newtonian science and its synthesis of Galileo’s and Kepler’s universal laws of terrestrial and celestial motion. Hume was eager to apply the experimental method of Newton to moral and social problems. Kant was determined to establish a priori metaphysical grounds for a morality that would be consistent with a universal and necessary principle of duty in his categorical imperative. Both Hume and Kant assumed, as did many thinkers of the Enlightenment, that human nature was fairly uniform despite diverse biological, geograph¬ ical, political, and historical backgrounds. Thus the constant elements for Hume were psychological: impressions and ideas (copies of impres¬ sions), habits acquired through the constant conjunction of impressions and through the association of ideas by similarity and contiguity. For Kant, on the other hand, the constant elements in human nature were the logical structure of the mind in its a priori forms of sensibility (Space and Time), the Categories of the Understanding, the Ideas of pure Reason (God, immortality, and free will), and the moral law within. Both Hume and Kant, despite the textbook opposition of British empiricism and Continental rationalism, shared a common rejection of dogmatic metaphysics and extreme skepticism in their theories of know¬ ledge and moral philosophy, and also in their views of the relation of knowledge to moral belief. I wish to call attention, first, to some unclear translations of Kant’s often quoted statement of the relation of universal knowledge to moral belief $ secondly, to analyze Kant’s examples of his application of the categorical imperative in order to show how Hume would differ fiom Kant’s arguments and yet agree in the main with some of Kant s con¬ clusions about moral values. The often quoted statement in English translates only the first part of Kant’s longer sentence in German: Ich musste also das Wissen aufheben, um zum Glauben Platz zu bekommen, und [denn, according to Erdmann] der Dogmatismus

Kant and Hume on Reason and Experience in Ethics


der Metaphysick, d.i. das Vorurtheil, in ihre ohne Kritik der reinen Vernunft fortzukommen, ist die wahre Quelle alles der Moralitat widerstreitenden Unglaubens, der jederzeit gar sehr dogmatisch its.1 The Oxford philologist F.MaxMuller renders the first clause as a com¬ plete sentence: ‘I had therefore to remove knowledge in order to make room for belief ’.2 J. D. Meiklejohn translates ‘aufheben’ even more drastically by ‘abolish’.3 Norman Kemp Smith’s translation, the one most commonly used today, reads: ‘I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith\A It is not only inaccurate but very misleading to translate ‘aufheben’ by ‘remove’, ‘abolish’, or ‘deny’, since Kant is not in this passage con¬ cerned with the removal, abolition, or denial of knowledge, but is criticizing the dogmatism of metaphysics, the source of skeptical un¬ belief in morality, as the rest of the sentence clearly indicates: For the dogmatism of metaphysics, that is, the presumption that it is possible to achieve anything in metaphysics wdthout a previous criticism of pure reason, is the true source of all that unbelief which is always very dogmatical, and wars against all morality.5 JVissen is not knowledge ( Wissenschaft) in any systematic or war¬ ranted sense5 in this context Kant is referring to the kind of knowledgeclaims made by dogmatic metaphysics such as the Leibniz-Wolff school and scholastics had made in ontology and theological ethics.6 After the Critique of Pure Reason showed the impossibility of basing ontology or cosmology on pure reason or dogmatic metaphysics, Kant proceeded to establish systematically the kind of knowdedge of formal principles that ‘pure practical reason’ must employ in ethics. It is also misleading to translate ‘Glauben’ in this sentence by ‘faith’, which is usually associated with religion, whereas Kant is discussing in this context belief in moral principles as against dogmatic skeptical un¬ belief or denial of moral knowledge. With regard to emotivist and cog¬ nitive theories of ethics, it is clear that Kant and Hume are not excluding knowledge from ethical judgments or prescriptions, but are offering the kinds of instrumental knowledge ( experimental reasoning in Hume’s case, and logical analysis in Kant’s case) that can be and should be used in arriving at ethical decisions. Hume and Kant certainly opposed the nihilistic extreme of rejecting all moral principles as the only alternative to dogmatic metaphysical foundations of ethics. It is all too common to find an easy way out of moral commitment and responsibility by declaring that there are no demonstrable absolute values but only subjective valuations which hold only for oneself, regardless of anyone else’s needs. Personal experiences of pleasure and pain are so contingent and variable that the dogmatic



skeptic claims it is futile to seek any universally valid moral principles or criteria for knowing what is right or wrong, good or bad, apart from one’s own subjective reactions. In fact, what Kant aimed to accomplish in his examples or ‘hard cases’ of moral reasoning was to refute such dogmatic skepticism and nihilism by eliminating from the moral law and sense of duty all empirical considerations and subjective inclinations to seek pleasure, personal profit, or glory as contrary to man’s free inner rational nature and moral dignity. Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morats proclaims that the fundamental commanding principles of morality are not or should not be empirical but must originate entirely a priori and thereby obtain their com¬ manding authority $ they can expect nothing from the inclination of men but everything from the supremacy of law and due respect for it. Otherwise they condemn man to self-contempt and inner abhorrence. Thus everything empirical is not only wholly un¬ worthy to be an ingredient in the principle of morality but is even prejudicial to the purity of moral practices themselves. For, in morals, the proper and inestimable worth of an absolutely good will consists precisely in the freedom of the principle of action from all influences from the contingent grounds which only experience can furnish.7 There is for Kant only one ‘categorical imperative’ which can formally establish this a priori conception of virtue: ‘Act only according to that maxim by (or through) which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law’.8 If we confront Kant’s formal moral rule (which has the negative virtue of not prescribing any specific duties) with Hume’s famous (or should a Kantian say ‘notorious’ ?) statement that ‘reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions’,9 we are bound to be puzzled, for Hume and Kant were both highly civilized defenders of very similar moral values which they both believed to be universally grounded in human nature. The apparent contrasting opposition between Kant’s formal ethics and Hume’s empirical mode of enquiry concerning morals can be ex¬ plained by considering their different conceptions of knowledge. For Kant there are a priori (universal and necessary) conceptions which make it possible for science and morality to achieve indisputable cer¬ tainty. For Hume, it is also possible to obtain certainty, but only from impressions and ‘relations of ideas’ (e.g., formal logical necessity and contrariety) whereas all general empirical knowledge (of ‘matters of fact’) can only be contingent or probable. Furthermore, for Hume, all ideas are copies of impressions or feelings, whereas for Kant, universal

Kant and Hume on Reason and Experience in Ethics


ideas, for example, laws of nature or of prescribed morality, cannot be merely copies of particular impressions. Hume’s moral principles are utilitarian hypotheses concerning the most probable ways of enjoying felicitous, congenial relations with one’s fellow beings, whereas Kant’s formal imperative prescribes the disinterested motivation or intentions (‘good will’) that will make one certainly worthy of happiness, even if one fails to carry out one’s intentions effectively because of contingent circumstances. Let us review Kant’s four examples of his application of the cate¬ gorical imperative, in order to see how Hume would have argued for a more empirical analysis of the same four cases. 1. The case of suicide. Is a person in extreme distress morally justified in taking his own life, because it would be intolerably painful to continue living? Kant argues that such a person cannot logically will or wish that this reason or maxim be adopted universally, since it would contradict the essence of the will to live that is inherent in all rational human beings. Hume could adopt Kant’s formal rule but would argue on empirical grounds that all rational human beings desire to avoid intolerable and longlasting pain and some would prefer suicide to such extreme distress, as, for example, the enduring pain of some incurable disease or mental torture in compulsory isolated confinement. Furthermore, Hume would agree with Kant that we should not appeal to the Church’s dogmatic rule against suicide, namely, that we cannot morally take the life we have not created (quod tibi non vis fieri-. Kant, p. 55, n. 14). If it were argued that we cannot be sure that a disease regarded as incurable may not some day be cured, Kant could not accept such an argument against suicide, because it appeals to unknown future empiri¬ cal consequences; his own argument against suicide in this case is that it violates the absolute nature of the will to live and is therefore self¬ contradictory or irrational. Hume, on the other hand, would not reject the consideration of the future cure or relief from extremely painful distress or disease, but would ask that the probability of such a cure or relief be thrown into the balance before the will decides. 2. The case of a broken promise. A person in dire need of money makes a promise to a lender that he will repay a loan, knowing that unless he promises to do so, he will not re¬ ceive the money, and knowing too that he cannot repay the loan. Kant condemns such a person’s maxim of conduct because the categorical imperative would require that he cannot will all human beings to make promises that will not be honored, since that would be contradictory to the inherent nature of reason to be truthful, and therefore contrary to the nature of man as a rational being. Hume would also disapprove of



making promises that knowingly will be broken, because we have been educated to learn the social consequences of disturbing ‘the rule for the stability of possession’, a rule which, if broken, would bring society back to a ‘state of nature’.10 If we permit empirical considerations, as Hume would, a person under torture, or forced by police brutality, may promise to confess to a crime he has not committed, but he would not be considered immoral if he breaks his promise in court. He is not subject in our courts to legal prosecution for confession under such circumstances. Kant would agree, not, however, for social reasons, but simply because the tortured person’s will was not completely free to act or to choose in accord with the cate¬ gorical imperative. 3. The case of neglected talent. Should we not condemn as immoral the conduct of a person with a known talent who neglects to cultivate his talent by practice or hard wTork when ‘he finds himself in comfortable circumstances and prefers indulgence in pleasure to troubling himself with broadening and im¬ proving his fortunate natural gifts’ (Kant, p.46). He has ‘a talent which could, by means of some cultivation, make him in many respects a useful man.’11 Kant’s remark here has slipped into utilitarianism. Surely neither Kant nor Hume would encourage the neglect or waste of talent in any person, but their reasons would differ. Kant claims that a talented person who prefers a life of indulgence in pleasure ‘can¬ not possibly will that this should become a universal law of nature or that it should be implanted in us by a natural instinct. For, as a rational being, he necessarily wills that all his faculties should be developed, inasmuch as they are given to him for all sorts of possible purposes’ (Kant, pp.46 —7). Hume might well point to the empirical assumptions hidden in Kant’s argument. First, Kant assumes that a cultivated talent makes one ‘in many respects a useful man’; a Humean would have to remind Kant that the truth of this assump¬ tion rests on common social experience, especially in specifying in which respects a talent is useful. Obviously, a talent for robbing or murdering people would certainly not be regarded as socially useful by Hume or by Kant. Secondly, whether a maxim of indulgence in pleasures ‘should be implanted in use by a natural instinct’ can only be decided in the light of the harmful consequences to self-development, as known by common experience, the Humean again would remind Kant. 4. The case of ‘ every man for himself \ Why should anyone be concerned about others’ welfare or need of help? Kant admits that if everyone would look out for his own happiness and leave others to do the same (live and let live), the human race could


Kant and Hume on Reason and Experience in Ethics

exist, according to the maxim based on a universal law of nature (selfpreservation) 5 ‘it is nevertheless impossible to will such a principle should hold everywhere as a law of nature. For a will which resolved this would conflict with itself since instances can often arise in which he would need the love and sympathy of others, and in which he would have robbed himself, by such a law of nature springing from his own will, of all hope of the aid he desires’ (Kant, p. 47). Even if people believe in following a maxim of self-preservation, Kant maintains ‘it is still impossible to will that their maxim should be raised to the universality of a law of nature, because such a will would contradict itself’. It is unclear how any act of will can contradict itself. For Hume, and for most philosophical analysts today, contradiction is what Hume called, in agreement with Leibniz’s distinctions, a ‘relation of ideas’.12 Kant recognized that conflicts or antagonisms within oneself or among people, resulting from clashes of one will with another, are not impossible, since it is a matter of fact that they do occur within one¬ self and among people. Whether or not such conflicts should be overcome is a matter of what style of life is desirable and feasible. I should agree with Hume that only experience can help us learn what is desirable and feasible with respect to one’s choice of objects and style of life. Reason is and should be the slave of our passions, but one of the leading moral passions for Hume (as for Rousseau and Kant) is the social sentiment of the ‘approbativeness’ that is linked to universal respect for human dignity. Now, Kant’s intelligible world—-under inner laws which, in¬ dependent of nature, are not empirical but ‘founded only on reason’ (Kant, pp. 47-8) — is peopled by human beings who are ends in them¬ selves, so that our social sentiments are a recognition or feeling that people should be treated not merely as means for our own gratification but as worthy of respect as ends in themselves. This universal regard for the inherent moral dignity of individuals above the accidents of race, nationality, or religion was one of the intellectual ideals of the Enlight¬ enment, of which the moral philosophies of both Hume and Kant re¬ present two aspects: the universal passions of mankind and the universal reason which is the passions’ best servant and liberator. Historically, Kant’s concern for formal principles and certainty in ethics came out of his Leibnizian and pietistic background, whereas Hume’s psychological approach stems from the emphasis on individual experience typical of British thought in Francis Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Shaftesbury, and Francis Hutcheson. Kant was among the few contemporaries of Hume to recognize his greatness as a critical thinker, and he repudiated James Beattie’s attack on Hume, as Ernest C.Mossner has pointed out {Life, p.581). We owe to Professor Mossner also the recognition that Hume belongs with the



few philosophers of our own century ‘-notably Earl Russell and John Dewey

[who] have attempted to retain the universality of the man

of letters of the Enlightenment’ (Life,

p. 5). This universal approach to

man was based upon the belief in the essential dignity of his nature, a conviction held by Hume as fundamental to his moral philosophy. Kant s similar belief reveals a profounder agreement in their moral values than their different approaches to ethics would suggest. Kant’s insistence on maintaining consistency with one’s rational nature and dignity is not, or should not be, in my opinion, incompatible with Hume’s concern for the passions. Kant paid tribute to Hume13 as well as to the maturity represented by the Enlightenment.14 Kant made a sharp distinction between the categorical imperatives of pure practical reason (reine praktische P ernunft) and the hypothetical imperatives of pragmatic (pragmatische) and technical (technische) means-ends rules of conduct. Kant assigned moral value only to the categorical impera¬ tive because it alone expressed the freedom of the will or internal con¬ science, which he regarded as a manifestation of the noumenal self. Since, in Kant’s critical philosophy, we have no scientific knowledge of the noumenal world of the soul or self as a thing-in-itself, Kant’s view of the phenomenal (observable) self in action and Hume’s view of the self as a ‘bundle of habits’ are not incompatible. Consequently, Hume’s pragmatic or utilitarian ethics, which regards the rule of reason as in¬ strumental to desired ends (‘reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions’), would come under Kant’s hypothetical, pragmatische imperative. Hume would agree with Kant that pure theoretical reason cannot demonstrate rules of practical conduct, but would not reject the empirical consequences of hypothetically stated moral rules as irrelevant to their validity. In my opinion, some of Kant’s examples of ethical decision-making reveal a utilitarian aspect that goes counter to his sharp separation of pure practical reason from empirical pragmatic considera¬ tions. Consider his example of the man who is tempted to yield to his passion for sexual intercourse with a woman who excites him ‘beyond reason’. Kant indicates that if that man were told he could satisfy his sexual impulse on condition that he be hanged to die immediately after the act, then reason would lead him to reconsider yielding to his sexual passion. Clearly the utilitarian Hume would say, as Spinoza would have said, that reason in this case was being stirred by the fear of death, and was therefore being used as a means to overcome the initial emotion by invoking a stronger emotion, the fear of death. A romantic lover might prefer death to denial of access to his beloved, but only when and because his passion of love is stronger than his fear of death. Now, reason serves the instrumental role of assaying the relative strength of the emotions, and there is no evidence that reason can perform any other role in

Kant and Hume on Reason and Experience in Ethics


making moral decisions than that of deducing the consequences of alter¬ native hypotheses, and deciding which are compatible with one’s desires. However, reason can reflect on the internal harmony of one’s desires with respect to one’s other emotional needs and especially in relation to the needs and desires of other human beings without whom no individual can realize his own needs. This larger humanistic or social role of reason seems to be what Kant intended or should have intended by his stress on the universal goal of a rational will in ethics, and by his passionate concern for a rational categorical imperative to preserve our humanity. If our humanity and rationality are deserted when we resort to lying, cheating, or preferring immediate personal pleasures to the public welfare, then we are acting against our own rational nature and our own good. Kant’s formal categorical imperative and Hume’s moral senti¬ ments would then not be incompatible in the end, though their prem¬ ises and their arguments are quite different. Perhaps this result may suggest a common problem and goal for current schools of ethical theory, namely, the so-called cognitivist and emotivist views of ethics. The common problem would be to consider the instrumental role of reason in recognizing the conflicts of emotions within the individual and within society, and to what extent reason is capable of modifying immediately-felt desires by considering the emotional and social con¬ sequences of any moral decision. The common goal is to discover which moral judgments are fruitful hypotheses for the possible attainment of a desired harmony within the self and within the society in which the self can develop. However, this proposal to treat moral principles as regulative or as hypotheses does commit one to accept Hume’s utili¬ tarianism and Kant’s categorical imperative as necessary even though not sufficient means for the realization of their enlightened liumanitarianism.


Kant Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 2d ed. (Riga 1787) B xxx. Hereafter translated, and cited as ‘Kant’.


Critique of Pure Reason (bp) Immanuel Kant, 2d ed. rev., trans. F. Max Muller (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday 1961) p. 512.


Critique of Pure Reason bp Immanuel Kant, trans. J.M. D.Meiklejohn (New York: Wiley, n.d.) p.34.

4. g.

Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: Macmillan 1963) p.29. Loc. cit., note 2 above.



IV dr ter buck






Kroner 1931) p.464. Santayana misinterprets Kant’s statement as pro¬ fessing Kant’s dogmatic faith in Calvinism: ‘Kant came, he himself said, to remove knowledge in order to make room for faith, which in his case



meant faith in Calvinism’. [Winds of Doctrine (New York 1915) reprint of his California lecture of 1911: ‘The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy’. ] Santayana thus ignores the higher kind of knowledge which Kant found in his ‘pure practical reason’ and certainly not in Calvinistic theological dogmas. 7.

Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Lewis White Beck, with Critical Essays, ed. Robert Paul Wolff (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill 1969) p.50. I agree with Professor Beck’s view that all categorical imperatives are either apodeictic or ‘elliptical assertoric hypo¬ thetical imperatives’ (p. 155).


Ibid., p.44. Kant saw only the unity of moral obligations in the three formulations of his categorical imperative: universalizing the principle of one’s chosen action, treating humans as ends in themselves, and doing one’s duty from disinterested motives. Treatise, 11. iii. 3, p.762. Professor Mossner {Life, pp.75—6) attributes the origination of the maxim to the ancient ‘sentimentalists’ and remarks also that Hume was indebted above all to Francis Hutcheson for basing Morality on ‘the Sentiment or mental Taste of each particular Being’. Treatise, Ill.ii. 1. This section discusses the same problem as Kant’s example, although Hume’s aim is to show the psychological motivation of honesty in man’s natural inventiveness when he creates rules of legal obligation to repay a loan, in line with Hume’s dictum: ‘Our sense of duty always follows the common and natural course of our passions’







(P-555)Kant, p. 46. Cf. Jonathan Harrison, ‘Kant’s examples of the first formula¬ tion of the Categorical Imperative’ Philosophical Quarterly vii (1957) 50-62. Harrison concludes that Kant’s first formulation ... is similar to the principle of utilitarianism’. An Abstract of a Treatise of Human Nature, 1740: A Pamphlet hitherto unknown, by David Hume, reprinted with an introduction by J. M. Keynes and P.Sraffa (Cambridge 1938). Hume here stated his agreement with Leibniz in distinguishing sharply between verites de fait (matters of fact) and verites de raison (true relations of ideas). Kant Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, ed. Paul Carus (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court 1945) p.7, for Kant’s tribute to Hume’s criticism of the idea of necessity in causation, arousing Kant from his dogmatic slumber . Kant Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklarung? in Immanuel Kants Sdmtliche Werke (Leipzig 1921) 1, 161-71.



Michotte and Hume on Mechanical Causation Foreword. Some years ago Professor Oldfield, who was then professor of psy¬

chology at Oxford, invited me to attend a demonstration of Professor Andre Michotte’s experiments in the Department of Experimental Psychology, which was at that time housed in a small building in South Parks Road. I have recorded my impressions in the following dialogue, which will be more intelligible if I give a brief description of the experi¬ ments. White discs, marked with pairs of endless coloured bands in irregular orbits that touch one another at certain points, are rotated at determin¬ able speeds behind a screen pierced by a horizontal slot. Seen through the slot the coloured bands present an abstract appearance of objects in motion and collision. A class of spectators record their verbal reactions. It is claimed that the results show that the use by most subjects of certain causal terms, for example, ‘push’, ‘drag’, ‘impel’, release’, etc., is directly dependent on certain controllable features of the visual stimulus, is independent of repetition, and sometimes contrary to the lessons of experience. Professor Michotte infers the existence of an ‘Impression of Causality’ which is an immediate response to purely visual stimulation. The experiments are described in his book La Per¬ ception de la Causalite (Publications Universitaires de Louvain, 2d ed., 1954). An English translation, The Perception of Causality by T.R. and Elain Miles, was published in 1962 (Methuen’s Manuals of Modern Psychology). In the notes I refer to these books as La Perception and The Perception respectively, and to Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and Enquiry concerning Human Understanding as Treatise and Enquiry respectively. The Dialogue: Michotte and Hume

Michotte: It’s David Hume! I recognise you from your portraits. What on earth are you doing here ? Or rather, what are you doing here on earth? Hume: After close on 200 years of blameless annihilation, the powers that be not have granted me a few weeks’ holiday. I have em¬ ployed the time in examining the question how far mankind has advanced in the knowledge of his own nature since I left him. In pursuit of the answer, I visited, among others, the University of Oxford, which I found improved in many particulars since my



lifetime. The northern part of that university is given over to the Experimental Sciences, and there among many towering labora¬ tories employed in the Physical Sciences, I found a modest but well appointed institute devoted to the Experimental Science of Human Nature. I assumed the appearance of an undistinguished student and entered to join a class which was just then beginning. The subject of discussion proved to be your book on The Percep¬ tion of Causality, of which I was lent a copy in the English tongue, and whether your most ingenious experiments were sufficient to overthrow my system, either in whole or in part. Michotte: I had heard this had been planned. I shall be most interested to hear what took place and what opinions you formed of my work. Hume: We could, I am sure, my dear sir, spend many days and nights discussing the many subtle and sublime questions which are raised by your researches. But as my time is short I would suggest that we confine ourselves to three questions, so far as the demands of Truth allow. The first question I would raise is, what is the precise nature of that impression which you claim is produced by your experiments in the minds of your subjects? The second question is whether the existence of this impression either refutes my account of our reasoning concerning natural events, or provides a foun¬ dation for a more satisfactory hypothesis. The third question is whether this impression can be accounted for in conformity with any of the principles and operations of the mind whose existence I have already acknowledged. Michotte: As regards your first question, I should have thought that the experiments themselves, and the explanations of them in my book, would make the answer as plain as it can be ? Hume: I had indeed the pleasure of witnessing a demonstration of some of your experiments, and I must confess I was most sensible of the force and vividness of the impression which in some cases they produced. That very motion which, before the contact, was in the first object, seemed to leap across into the second and to carry it along. But what principally amazed me in this affair was that I should find this impression so very obvious in these artificial in¬ stances, where the objects were only represented by coloured areas of flat surfaces, whereas when I watched the real impacts of solid billiard balls, whose shape and bulk betrayed itself to the eye by lights, shading, texture, and I know not what other signs com¬ pletely lacking in your experiments 5 when, I say, I watched the impact of these real solids with the utmost attention, I could find nothing but the contact of the balls and the succession of one

Michotte and Hume on Mechanical Causation


motion upon another. I confess that I know not how to account for this strange contrariety. Michotte: I suspect that for most people there is no such contrariety. They do receive the impression I speak of in the real as well as in the arti¬ ficial case. But in the former it is so overlaid by other impressions and responses, evoked by the many factors which you mention, that it may escape notice, and certainly cannot be isolated so that its causes can be ascertained. In your own case I suggest that the analytical frame of mind in which you watched the billiard balls (if you ever did seriously watch them), together with your conviction (with which I agree) that the movements are logically- independent one of another, combined to alter the character of your experience, so that the impression I speak of did not occur. To borrow an analogy of your own,1 you are like the anatomist who can find no beauty in a picture of the human form. In view of all this it tells the more strongly in my favour that even you, when your love of analysis engages you to an unprejudiced observation of my experiments, and in these experiments every factor except the sizes and motions of the objects is removed, even you then admit to the same impres¬ sions as the majority of my subjects. Hume: What you say of me may well be true ; perchance the savour of life is not for a philosopher the same as it is for other men. But I now feel a new doubt aroused by your mention of the enjoyment of the fine arts. Suppose a philosopher were to determine by ex¬ periment which precise tones and intervals and orders of sound are necessary to cause a man to describe a tune as ‘sad’, ‘triumphant’, ‘regretful’ or the like, could he then conclude that such a pattern of sounds is the origin of the idea, say, of sorrow, and that it pro¬ vides the marks by which instinct teaches us to recognise the sorrowful? Such reasoning would surely be parallel to yours, but inconclusive. Michotte: I suspect that you reason on an imperfect analogy; but per¬ haps I might be allowed to reserve my reply to this argument, and we might meanwhile go on to consider your next main question? Hume: Agreed. My second question is this: admitting that we do, in the fashion you demonstrate, see mechanical causation, am I thereby bound to withdraw my account of our knowledge of matters of fact, either as disproven, or as superseded by a superior hypothesis? It seems to me that I am not. There was an opinion common in my time, which had been accepted by Locke,2 that the conjunction of objects implies a power that connects them. If wax melts in the sun, there must be a power in the sun by which it melts wax. To this I answered3 that even granting that the conjunctions of cer-



tain particular objects implied a power in those particular objects, there is no manner of necessity that similar objects should possess similar powers, or indeed that those particular objects should retain their power one moment after I had ceased to observe it. The implied power is of no use for the enlargement of our knowledge. For that we shall require the evidence of experience to show us what powers are always or frequently conjoined with what objects. The necessary connexion between objects and powers must be in¬ ferred from their constant conjunction 5 and this inference is no easier to explain than the inference from the constant conjunction of objects to a necessary connexion between them. Now I believe that this argument has as much force against your opinion, accord¬ ing to which we perceive power, as it has against the opinion that we infer powers. Though I feel this bow now pulling at my hand, or see that billiard ball knock another out of its path, what assurance, I beseech you, do I have, that other bows and other balls will show similar powers, or even that this bow will continue its tension one moment after I have ceased to feel it ? Michotte: I willingly concede that only experience can teach us what events are connected by physical laws. But I maintain that even prior to such experience, certain events seem to be causally con¬ nected, or as I prefer to put it, are connected by phenomenal causality. This I say in my book.4 But you explicitly deny that any events even seem to be connected $ you say they seem to be con¬ joined but not connected.5 Hume: Would you then say that Adam could have guessed by instinct what course the billiard balls would take on their first impact? Michotte: In the absence of experimental evidence, I would not like to say. But even if he could not, this would not disturb me. My posi¬ tion is that the whole sequence of impressions in such a case takes on what I call a form-quality or, in German, ‘Gestalt’. A tune is another example of a gestalt, with regard to which the same ques¬ tion might arise. To one who has heard a certain tune, the earlier bars seem to require the later for completion, by a kind of struc¬ tural necessity. But from this it does not follow that anyone who heard the first three bars for the first time could say in advance what the rest must be. To do so would indeed be to invent a tune, rather than to predict its course. Hume: So your impression of causation does not include that kind of necessity on which inference from the known to the unknown is based? It was this I principally sought. Michotte: You are right ^ it does not. But on three other points I would suggest you are mistaken.

Michotte and Hume on Mechanical Causation


First, no impression, whether internal or external, can be an impression of necessity in your sense. The internal impression from which you say the idea of necessity is derived is no more able to yield such an idea than the external impression of which I speak. Your impression, if I understand you, is a certain feeling that characterises the transition of the mind from the impression of an object to the idea of its usual attendant. This you call a ‘determina¬ tion’ of the mind. Now, on your own account, and on your own admission, this does not and cannot amount to a real necessary connexion between the impression and the idea ■, for they are what you call ‘distinct existences’. How then can it be the origin of the idea of necessary connexion? If neither a regular conjunction be¬ tween the objects, nor an impression of productive power in them can afford the idea of necessity, how can regular conjunction be¬ tween perceptions, or a feeling of productivity in them give rise to it? Hume: I know not how to answer you. I must admit that when I speak of a feeling of determination in the mind, I seem to admit into the mental world that apparent and phenomenal causality which I exclude from the physical. ’Twas perhaps when I said that the necessary connexion depends on the inference rather than the inference on the necessary connexion, that I best expressed my meaning. My principal contention is that, just as to judge that an action is vicious is simply to feel disapproval of it, so to judge that two events are necessarily connected is simply to infer the one from the other. To infer is to feel the unhesitating transition of the mind from the lively perception of the one to the lively perception of the other. This feeling is in my view the origin of the idea of necessity, as the feeling of disapprobation is the origin of the idea of vice. Michotte: It seems to me possible that we have here to consider a use of language which does not fit well your doctrine of impressions and ideas. Such terms as probable, possible, necessary, good, bad, right, wrong perhaps no more describe experience or express feeling than does the verb to promise,6 according to your own account of it. But we are straying too far from our subject. I would like to pass on to the second of the three points on which I think you are mistaken. That is, that you regard ‘necessity’ as nearly synony¬ mous with ‘power’, ‘force’, ‘energy’, ‘production’. It seems to me that ‘necessity’ is connected with the justification of inference, it is a formal term belonging to the province of logic, and stands for nothing that could ever be felt or seen 5 ‘power’ and ‘force’ and ‘energy’, on the other hand, if used technically belong to mechan¬ ics and physics, if used colloquially stand for impressions which we



feel. We feel the weights and pressures of things, the tensions of cords. Even if these qualities be 'nothing in the objects’, like colours and smells, and though we have to consult experience to learn what to expect of them, the fact remains that we perceive them. Hume: Tis true we speak of feeling them 5 but I had imagined this was an idiom derived from our habit of projecting our own expectations onto the objects. Michotte: If you pursue this suspicion you may find it difficult to say what we do literally feel 5 ‘hardness’, ‘pressure’, ‘temperature’ 5 is there not in all these cases as good reason to say that really they stand for ideas of possible movements and other expected effects, projected upon the actual sensations to which they are applied? Hume: I would gladly think more upon this question. Michotte: My third difference with you is on the nature of experience, and the manner in which we learn from it. Your official view is that experience gradually gives rise to assurance by the repetition of similar conjunctions, and that it is only after long experience has convinced us of the uniformity of nature that we are willing, under certain conditions, to attribute a cause to a phenomenon on the strength of a single experi¬ ment. It seems clear to me, on the contrary, that in the first place children and others who know nothing of the triumphs of natural science form the most unhesitating convictions on the basis of a single experiment $ for instance Clapardde’s example of the child clawed by the cat.7 And in the second place, unless we had some instinct which guided us in the search for causes, and directed us to the time immediately before and a place near to their effect, we should never be able to discover any regularities in the infinite variety of natural events. As to the part played by subsequent ex¬ perience, it seems to me that the value of this lies more in its power to show us our mistakes than to confirm and strengthen our convictions. The nature of our perceptions, I should say, tells us at once what things seem to be causally connected, experience un¬ masks those cases in which they are not really so. Hume: I have already heard of this kind of view since my return. I am willing to admit that I did not say enough of the refutation of hypotheses by contrary experiments. But it still seems to me that I had good reason to emphasise rather the confirmation by con¬ cordant experiments, for you must surely grant me that an hypo¬ thesis which has survived one or two tests has less title to our con¬ fidence than one which has survived many tests?

Michotte and Hume on Mechanical Causation


Michotte: But it is the variety rather than the number of the experi¬ ments that counts. Each experiment shows that in a different situation the hypothesis is not refuted. Hume: But this would have no tendency to increase our confidence in the general rule, did we not believe that an hypothesis which has not been refuted in many various conditions is less likely to be refuted in others, and that if one or more instances of a certain kind of case agree with the hypothesis, other instances of that kind of case are likely to do so too. For this belief logic can produce no warrant, and I claim the liberty to ascribe it to custom. Michotte: My view is that in the case of mechanical causation, our con¬ fidence in a connexion, which has not been experimentally dis¬ proved, rests on the appearance it presents to the senses. For this I have experimental evidence, and something similar may hold with regard to the other types of connexion. Hume: It is at least equally possible that in some other cases constant conjunction is absolutely requisite to a belief in causal connexion, and that in all cases it serves to increase our confidence. We have here a plain question of fact which nothing can resolve except further experiments. Yet, in spite of these differences between us, I must own that I am pleased to find you in agreement with me on one point, on which I could convince no-one in my lifetime. And that is that our assurance of causal relations, and with it our ability to foresee and control the course of nature, is not founded on any train of reason¬ ing, but on a natural instinct. On the nature of this instinct we have proposed rival hypotheses 5 I ascribe to the imagination an innate propensity to depict the future on the model of the past, and anti¬ cipate most confidently what it has been accustomed to find most often 5 you ascribe to the sense of sight an innate tendency to see as one single unbroken movement such successive displacements of objects as present not too great an appearance of discontinuity. Michotte: One might say, it is a choice between a habit-ridden imagina¬ tion to match a liabit-ridden world, and an impression of impul¬ sion to match a world in which momentum is of great moment to us. Hume: I see no reason why we should not be endowed with both. And I am the more inclined to admit that your hypothesis may be a part of the truth, because it seems to me that the principle of the mind which you call ‘ampliation’,8 and to which you ascribe the impression of causality, is one which I also have recognised5 it is in fact the very principle to which I ascribe our belief in the con¬ tinuous and distinct existence of material things. There are differ-



ences m our choice of terms, and you ascribe the operation of this principle to sense, whereas I ascribe it to the imagination. But at bottom, we have both of us this notion — that where we perceive a series of different objects so related to one another that the action of the mind in surveying them is indistinguishable from what we feel in surveying a single unchanging object, there, by some fiction of the imagination or impression of the sense, we ascribe contin¬ uity and identity to the series. I have said that in this way we ascribe an unbroken existence to the shifting and interrupted objects of sense, and so come by our idea of external material things.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 I am willing to admit that in a similar way, we may ceive from the successive but related displacements of different objects the impression of a single continuous movement. Michotte: I am pleased to learn that my hypothesis of ampliation had such an unexpected and such a distinguished anticipator. Hume: The East grows pale and my vacation is almost over. To be caught non-existent in this world gives rise, as a philosopher and playwright of your time and tongue has maintained, to a most dis¬ tressing nausea. On all points on which we still differ, as on all other questions relating to Human Nature, Experience must be our Sovereign Authority; and at her court I am content to leave you my most expert and trusted ambassador. I shall be obliged beyond measure for any written reports of your researches which you may send me. Write my name upon them and commit them to the flames. They will find me in due season. Michotte: I have just been recalling what you wrote about the idea of external existence. I am not altogether sure there is as much re¬ semblance as you make out between your principle and—-—-Hume! Hume! Where are you? He is gone. Alas, poor soul! — £Le bon David’ — ‘animula vagula blandula’. If only he had the slightest idea what a real experiment is!

1. 2.

Treatise, m.iii. 6. Essay concerning Human Understanding,

3. 4.

Treatise, I.Hi.6. The Perception, p.265.



6. 7.

Treatise, III. ii. 5E.Claparede La Genese de VHypothese (Geneva: Kundig 1934) p. 103.


La Perception, ch.8.


Treatise, 1. iv. 2.



xxi. 1—4.

ii. para. 1.



Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume ‘Truth is the most powerful thing in the World, since even fiction

it-self must be governed by it’: thus Shaftesbury in one of the noble aphorisms of his Char act eristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions,


(i, 45 1737 ed.). It is an agreeably mischievous effect of reading David Hume that afterwards one cannot be entirely sure of priorities like that asserted by Shaftesbury. We are perhaps even ready to reverse the author of the Characteristicks and be persuaded that fiction is one of the more powerful things in the world, since what we take to be truth is governed by our capacity for creating fiction. Such a reversal of a tradi¬ tional priority invites a consideration of what fiction is, when it is thought of as a part of reality, as well as a way of testing reality. All of us imagine things and people and events and states that correspond in varying ways to the features of the world of public existence. Some of us embody these imaginings or fictions in words of peculiar force, arranged with distinctive sensitivity. In consequence, it is possible to reason about the fictions of everyday life and relate them to that fiction in another sense, art assuming the form of the novel and its variants, which is felt to express essential truth about the human condition.1 It is in the light of this and similar considerations that philosophy and literature are found to be not ‘reciprocally illuminating’, which is too large a claim, but ‘supplementary’.2 If the writings of the great philos¬ ophers are examined, they are likely to reveal the themes treated by great art, although presented from a refreshingly different point of view, together with insights into the strategies and techniques of art. Conversely, literature among other benefits offers clues to those who seek to understand fully the development and transformation of human thought. Alfred North Whitehead reminds us that ‘every philosophy is tinged with the colouring of some secret imaginative background, which never emerges explicitly into its trains of reasoning’.3 In the interest of apprehending that ‘secret imaginative background’, students of Plato do well to read the Greek tragedies 5 students of medieval philosophy, the Divine Comedy; and students of Kierkegaard and Heidegger, the creative writings of Dostoevsky and Sartre. For the purposes of this essay, certain aspects of the teaching of David Hume are discussed, as they appear in the Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), most seminal of all his works, which was published at a



critical stage in the emergence of the novel. Hume exemplifies the con¬ tention that reference to philosophy can supplement the criticism of fiction, and he is forthright about the importance of literature in his career: ‘[I] was seized very early with a passion for Literature which has been the ruling Passion of my Life, and the great Source of my Enjoyments (Life, p. 611). In this context, Literature has to be under¬ stood as extending to many more forms of expression than is the custom today, although Hume certainly enjoyed fiction and championed it against more abstract works, as in the case of La Nouvelle Heloise: T think this Work [Rousseau’s] Masterpiece; tho’ he himself told me, that he valu’d most his Contrat sociale; which is as preposterous a Judgement as that of Milton, who preferd the Paradise regained to all his other Performances’ (Letters, ii. 28). In a somewhat similar mood, Hume spoke out in favour of Tristram Shandy : ‘The best Book, that has been writ by any Englishman these thirty Years (for Dr Franklyn is an American) is Tristram Shandy, bad as it is’ (ii. 269). As for philosophy, some inquiry into its broader meaning will help establish guidelines for the discussion to follow. The Greek root words mean, literally, love of wisdom but acquaintance with classical usage suggests that ‘wisdom’ was understood in the sense of the ‘exercise of curiosity and intelligence.4 The powerful mind of Socrates as creatively interpreted by Plato turned that curiosity and intelligence principally towards questions concerning the nature of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Whitehead has suggested playfully that Western philosophy exists as a series of footnotes to Plato, but it might be allowed to Aris¬ totle that, in addition to writing some of these footnotes, he refined and systematised the methods of philosophy. His aim was to bring to the test of rational inquiry intuitions about the nature of things, so that these intuitions could be harmonised and justified. When Descartes founded modern philosophy, he stressed the ‘way of ideas’ and un¬ shackled the critical intelligence in an effort to achieve certainty of knowledge, but the scepticism which he invoked could not be stilled by the empiricism of Locke nor by the idealism of Berkeley. In coming to Hume, we find that in the Treatise he declares himself to be animated by the pleasure he finds in philosophy—that ‘love of exercising curiosity and intelligence’ celebrated by the Greeks. As for his great work, it is organised along the following lines: attention is given to the true in Book 1, ‘Of the Understanding’; to the good, in Book ill, ‘Of Morals’; and to the beautiful, mostly in Book II, ‘Of the Passions’, but piecemeal elsewhere. A promise is made in the Advertise¬ ment that, depending on the reception of the Treatise, an examination of ‘criticism’ would follow. In our terms, this means that Hume proposed to deal with aesthetics. As the author put it himself, however, the

Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume


Treatise ‘fell dead-born from the press’, and amid the recasting of this work and the writing of other books, no account of aesthetics was com¬ pleted. As a result, we are reduced to dealing with Hume’s fragments on this subject.5 It is in Book II of the Treatise that Hume reveals that he has broken with the Platonic-Aristotelian conception of man which identified him as a possessor of reason. Hume sees man as a creature driven by his appetites, with reason operating to satisfy these: ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them’ (p.462). Although overstated in this form for the sake of rhetorical emphasis, here is the central doctrine of the Treatise, and it leads to some disturbing conclusions. Allied to this doctrine, Descartes’ doubt rides again and the arguments of Locke and Berkeley are relentlessly pursued. In sum, reason is shown to negate reason; our metaphysical systems are revealed as structures of dogmatism $ the causal nexus of the world erodes before scrutiny ; and the mental universe is exposed as lacking a secure relationship with the external one, as well as an identifiable self. It would appear, according to Hume, that our reasoning together with our morality and aesthetic criticism must be understood as being founded on sentiment, while our actions are those of creatures of custom and habit. Our virtues, such as justice, are ‘artificial’, arising from the needs and pressures exerted upon us through our history of social existence. At best, in connexion with matters of fact, we form conclusions on the basis of probability, and our defence against superstition, error, and dogmatism lies in miti¬ gated scepticism. The negative aspects of Hume’s philosophy leave him with a sense of metaphysical despair, similar to that felt by Crusoe marooned upon his island, or Gulliver with his eyes opened to human corruption as a result of his contact with the Houyhnhnms: I am at first affrighted and confounded with that forelorn solitude, in which I am plac’d in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expell’d all human commerce, and left utterly abandon’d and disconsolate. Fain wou’d I run into the crowd for shelter and warmth; but cannot prevail with myself to mix with such deformity. I call upon others to join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will hearken to me. . . . When I look abroad, I foresee on every side, dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny and detraction. When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; tho’ such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by



the approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesitation, and every new reflection makes me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning. ( Treatise, pp.311—12) This predicament is forced on Hume in large measure because of his penetrating consideration of three themes that have their counterpart in certain novels of the eighteenth century and succeeding periods. These themes are consciousness, causation, and personal identity. Their analysis will serve as a demonstration of how philosophy and literature ‘supplement’ each other in a critical sense. The centrality of the theme of consciousness in the novel is apparent at once on considering, for example, the fascinating difference between Moll Flanders and Clarissa. Defoe presents a world of objects to be acquired or stolen which have a precise equivalent in hard cash, thereby allowing the reader to share the consciousness of a woman battling to survive in an acquisitive society: I walk’d several times by the Window to observe if I could see whether there was any Body in the Room or no, and I could see no Body, but still I was not sure 5 it came presently into my Thoughts to rap at the Glass, as if I wanted to speak with some Body, and if any Body was there they would be sure to come to the Window, and then I would tell them to remove those Rings, for that I had seen two suspicious Fellows take notice of them: This was a ready Thought, I rapt once or twice and no Body came, when seeing the Coast clear, I thrust hard against the Square of Glass, and broke it with very little Noise, and took out the two Rings, and walk d away with them very safe, the Diamond Ring was worth about 31. and the other about 9s.6 The stress in such passages is on perceptions of a hostile universe. Moll’s consciousness of existence is that of someone in Hobbes s state of mei e nature’, with life ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ (Leviathan, pt. I, ch. 13). Richardson, by contrast, vivifies the subjective world of a woman’s feelings, when she is at once frightened and secretly attracted by a man’s sexual desire. The details of dress and gesture and nuances of expression intricately chart shades of feeling, stirrings of erotic drive, and subsequent repulsion of the arouser and repression of the drive. Focusing on the flight to St Albans, for instance, it is apparent that Clarissa perceives the clothes Fovelace provides: ‘a velvet hood, and a short cloak trimmed with silver’, as part of the scheme to entrap and possess her. A subsequent play of glances reveals her divided mind over Lovelace’s sexual advances, disguised in the form of a marriage pro^

He looked at me with great confidence 5 as if (notwithstanding his

Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume


contradictory bashfulness) he would look me through; while my eye but now and then could glance at him. He begged my pardon with great humility: he was afraid I would think he deserved no other answer but that of a contemptuous silence. True love was fearful of offending. (Take care, Mr Lovelace, how yours is tried by that rule.) Indeed so sacred a regard (foolish man ! ) would he have to all my declarations before I honoured him. . . . I would hear him no further; but withdrew in a confusion too visible, and left him to make his nonsensical flourishes to himself. I will only add that, if he really wishes for a speedy solemniza¬ tion, he could never have had a luckier time to press for my consent to it. But he let it go off; and indignation has taken place of it: and now it shall be a point with me to get him at a distance from me.7 Of course, Richardson has far kinkier business in hand than scruples over entering into married life, and he goes on to dramatise the fears women have about the ravisher who takes advantage of such calamities as fire, as well as the stupor of drugs, to work his will. On turning to Tom Jones, we find there a genial variation in the mode of representing consciousness, for we are introduced to the im¬ pressions and ideas of a high-spirited, knowing, and ironic narrator who comments on the consciousnesss of the characters he has created and the world in which he has placed them. This procedure is readily illus¬ trated from the opening of the sixth chapter of the sixteenth book: It is almost impossible for the best parent to observe an exact im¬ partiality to his children, even though no superior merit should bias his affection; but sure a parent can hardly be blamed when that superiority determines his preference. As I regard all the personages of this history in the light of my children, so I must confess the same inclination of partiality to Sophia; and for that I hope the reader will allow me the same excuse, from the superiority of her character. This extraordinary tenderness which I have for my heroine never suffers me to quit her any length of time without the utmost reluctance. I could now, therefore, return impatiently to inquire what hath happened to this lovely creature since her departure from her father’s, but that I am obliged to pay a short visit to Mr Blifil. Mr Western, in the first confusion into which his mind was cast upon the sudden news he received of his daughter, and in the first hurry to go after her, had not once thought of sending any account of the discovery to Blifil. . . . Equally high-spirited, to be sure, is the culmination of the portrayal of consciousness, its gleeful reductio ad absurdum, even, in The Life and



Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. In this case, the contents of the hero s mind become the subject of the novel. The techniques adopted by the author-guide to explore these contents, we note, antici¬ pate some of the most modern experiments in surrealism and stream of consciousness writing. In Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne, we have encountered, strikingly energised, the epistemology of Hume as adumbrated in the opening words of the Treatise: All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call impressions and IDEAS. The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveli¬ ness, with which they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or consciousness. Those perceptions, which enter with most force and violence, we may call impressions; and under this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images of these things in thinking and reasoning, (p. 49) It is strange and puzzling at first sight, however, that in the novels dis¬ cussed so far the theme of consciousness is worked out in richly satisfy¬ ing ways, whereas in Hume its development leads to the despairing words quoted from the conclusion of the first book of the Treatise. In the history of the novel, we have to move to the Existential tradition to experience anguish similar to Hume’s. One parallel is to be found in Dostoevsky’s ‘underground man’ in his wretched, horrid room in a house on the outskirts of town on a disgusting Petersburg night, who is ‘firmly persuaded that a great deal of consciousness, every sort of con¬ sciousness, in fact, is a disease’.8 Another parallel occurs in Sartre’s Roquentin, meditating on the black root of a chestnut tree and naus¬ eated by the contingency of the world: ‘I was the root of the chestnut tree. Or rather I was entirely conscious of its existence. Still detached from it — since I was conscious of it — yet lost in it, nothing but it.’9 For Hume, despair arises when he presses relentlessly his analysis of the relations of causation and identity which systematise the inner world of the mind and the external universe on which consciousness feeds. The knottier problem is that concerning identity: how are we to justify the inference that objects continue the same when they aie not perceived hy us, or even the inference that the same objects ai e per¬ ceived after each interval in perception? Hume realises that such an inference is justifiable only if there are causes operating in the intervals to maintain the existence of the objects. But the nature of causation is itself extraordinarily difficult to establish. The most careful inspection reveals nothing in objects themselves that gives rise necessarily to a causal connexion with other objects.


Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume

Constancy of conjunction among objects, however, engenders a custom or habit whereby the mind is conditioned to pass from one object, con¬ sidered the cause, to another object, considered the effect. Through this process, there comes about a feeling of necessary connexion, and it is this feeling which makes up the impression and, therefore, the idea of causation. From this feeling comes belief with respect to a necessary and, in consequence, a causal connexion, belief being ‘a more vivid and intense conception of an idea, proceeding from its relation to a present impression’ ( Treatise, p. 153), If we accept that only in connexion with the arrangement of ideas, as in mathematics and logic, is certainty reached, and that with regard to matters of fact we have to content ourselves with probabilities, it follows on Hume’s view [that] all probable reasoning is nothing but a species of sensation. ’Tis not solely in poetry and music, we must follow our sentiment, but likewise in philosophy. When I am convinc’d of any principle, ’tis only an idea, which strikes more strongly upon me. When I give the preference to one set of arguments above another, I do nothing but decide from my feeling concerning the superiority of their influence. Objects have no discoverable connexion together; nor is it from any other principle but custom operating upon the imagination, that we can draw any inference from the appearance of one to the existence of another, (p. 155) The implication of what Hume has to say about cause and effect, to¬ gether with his rehearsal of sceptical arguments pointing to the weak¬ ness or even imbecility of the reason, as well as the contradictory deliverances of the senses, is that man’s intellectual constructs interpret¬ ing the world are open to grave doubts indeed. The mood induced by such a recognition again seems to be far from that prevailing in the great eighteenth-century novels. In Tom Jones, for example, the stance adopted towards the world is that of a humorous ironist, rather than that of someone who despairs of making sense of the world. Amid the subtleties of that novel, however, is the balancing of reason against ‘human nature’ as Fielding calls it, instantly recalling to us the title of Flume’s Treatise. Fielding’s art encompasses the struggle between in¬ stinct in Tom and others against the calculating shrewdness of Blifil and his mentors. Tom’s own intellection lets him down, as when he schemes on behalf of Black George and his daughter, and similarly Squire All¬ worthy’s ethical niceties betray him into misjudgments and even tyrannical actions. Throughout the novel, too, Fielding has a heyday with cause and effect, revealing the one and masking the other, until in the end Tom’s essential good nature wins for him the love and accept¬ ance he deserves. This reference to the organisation of Tom Jones is in no way meant



to suggest that Fielding is influenced by Hume. The point is simply that Fielding presents his hero’s education in cause and effect as a matter of experience. Hume subjects the relation itself to critical in¬ quiry in the tradition of philosophy, while Fielding’s portrayal of human nature in terms of the novelist’s art leads to a similar understanding of causation. If we cast another glance at the history of the novel, it can be claimed that Fielding’s type of sangfroid about the durability of the cause and effect relation persists until the nineteenth-century masters and their successors in the Existential tradition perceive at the heart of the human condition, not good or had nature but 'contradiction, ambivalence, irrationality’.10 With dark Irish humour, Beckett manifests this sense of the world in Watt, especially in the sequence where the central figure struggles to be a faithful servant in the house of Mr Knott. Like Hume in one phase, Beckett and others of his school are possessed by a com¬ pelling vision of an unintelligible world, they would call it 'absurd’, confronted by the feeble attributes of man. For Hume these attributes seem at their feeblest in wrestling with the crux in philosophy which is greater than that of causation, namely, self-identity: ’Tis certain there is no question in philosophy more abstruse than that concerning identity, and the nature of the uniting principle, which constitutes a person. So far from being able by our senses merely to determine this question, we must have recourse to the most profound metaphysics to give a satisfactory answer to it 5 and in common life ’tis evident these ideas of self and person are never very fix’d nor determinate. ’Tis absurd, therefore, to imagine the senses can ever distinguish betwixt ourselves and external objects. ( Treatise, p. 240) As Hume’s analysis goes, 'self or person is not any one impression, but that to which our several impressions and ideas are suppos d to have a reference’ (p.299). Introspection always yields individual perceptions, never the elusive self: ‘when I enter most intimately into what I call myself.j I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any¬ thing but the perception.’ A metaphysician may be found who believes he perceives something simple and continued which he is pleased to call himself, but according to Hume: ‘[the rest of mankind] are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement’. This way of thinking results in Hume creating a bold image of the mind:

Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume


a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance 5 pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an in¬ finite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different5 whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only, that constitute the mind. (p.


On the issue of personal identity, Hume’s conclusion is that it is ‘fictitious’, arising from the operation of the imagination. The mind’s identity is never able to run together the different perceptions that constitute the mind, for every distinct perception is a distinct existence. Even if it is supposed that the mind’s perceptions are united by identity, a question arises concerning this relation: is it something that truly binds the distinct perceptions together, or is it something that associates their corresponding ideas in the imagination? It cannot be the former because the same objection made to any real connexion between objects is ten¬ able: the understanding observes no such thing. It follows, then, that identity is similar to cause and effect, a customary association of ideas. Identity does not belong to the different perceptions, uniting them in some fashion, but ‘[it] is merely a quality, which we attribute to them, because of the union of their ideas in the imagination, when we reflect upon them’ (p.307). In Hume’s view, memory is to be considered the chief source of personal identity, because it alone acquaints us with the ‘continuance and extent of this succession of perceptions’ and, conse¬ quently, that ‘chain of causes and effects, which constitutes ourself and person’. Once we have acquired the notion of causation from mem¬ ory, we extend the chain of causes and, in turn, personal identity beyond memory, and ‘can comprehend times, and circumstances, and actions, which we had entirely forgot, but suppose in general to have existed’ (p. 309). The best illustration of these doctrines is perhaps to be found in Tristram Shandy. It will be remembered that Tristram’s answer to the question ‘And who are you?’ was, ‘Don’t puzzle me’ (vol.VII, ch. 33).11 Considered in one way, the novel is a sustained exercise in resolving the puzzle of Tristram’s identity, tracing matters back to the moment of his conception and through the memories of the gloriously varied members of his family. Throughout, the barriers of time and space are annihi¬ lated by acts of the imagination in pursuit of manifestations of Tris¬ tram’s self. A particularly good example occurs when mention of Auxerre evokes a multiple consciousness of time: ‘I am this moment walking across the market-place of Auxerre with my father and my uncle Toby, in our way back to dinner—and I am this moment also



entering Lyons with my post-chaise broke into a thousand pieces—- and I am moreover this moment in a handsome pavillion built by Pringello, upon the banks of the Garonne, which Mons. Sligniac has lent me, and where I now sit rhapsodizing all these affairs’ (vol.vil, ch.28). In the modern era, when the psychological and philosophical investi¬ gations of William James and Henri Bergson again raised questions about the status of the self in relation to the ‘stream of consciousness’12 and ‘duration as the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances’,13 novelists evolved ways complementary to those of Sterne for dealing with the theme of per¬ sonal identity. In The Sweet Cheat Gone, for example, Proust intro¬ duces the complex meditations of Marcel as he dwells on the progress and decay of the intense moments of his consciousness of Albertine through the history of a dead ‘former self’ and a ‘new self’: ‘It was not Albertine alone that was simply a series of moments, it was also my¬ self. ... I was not one man only, but the steady advance hour after hour of an army in close formation, in which there appeared, according to the moment, impassioned men, indifferent men, jealous men — jealous men no two of whom were jealous of the same woman’.14 In a fashion curiously reminiscent of Hume’s formulation concerning mankind, Albertine for Marcel was a ‘bundle of thoughts’, and existed in his memory ‘only in the state in which she had successively appeared to me in the course of her life, that is to say subdivided according to a series of fractions of time[5] my mind, reestablishing unity in her, made her a single person’ (p. 135). That the mind has a positive role in ‘making’ a ‘single person’ of fleeting perceptions is also a central doctrine in Hume. He is aware of the labyrinth entered seeking a clue to personal identity, and he is gravelled by the two principles he can neither renounce nor reconcile: ‘all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences’ and, ‘the mind never perceives any real connexion among distinct existences (p.638). Yet, Hume is not condemned thereby to the nausea of the Sartrean hero or the silence of the Beckettian. He transcends metaphysical despair and formulates a constructive philosophy on the basis of naturalism: Experience is a principle, which instructs me in the several con¬ junctions of objects for the past. Habit is another principle, which £[0-£0j'j]3jn.0s me to expect the same for the future , and both of them conspiring to operate upon the imagination, make me form certain ideas in a more intense and lively manner, than others, which are not attended with the same advantages. Without this quality, by which the mind enlivens some ideas beyond others (which seem¬ ingly is so trivial, and so little founded on reason) we cou’d never assent to any argument, nor carry our view beyond those few

Philosophy and Fiction. The Challenge of David Hume

objects, which are present to our senses. Nay, even to these objects we cou’d never attribute any existence, but what was dependent on the senses 5 and must comprehend them entirely in that succes¬ sion of perceptions, which constitutes our self or person. Nay, farther, even with relation to that succession, we cou’d only admit of those perceptions, which are immediately present to our con¬ sciousness, nor cou’d those lively images, with which the memory presents us, be ever receiv’d as true pictures of past perceptions. The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas, (pp. 512-


In this passage, Hume narrows the meaning attached to the imagina¬ tion to the quality of the conception of ideas, but elsewhere in the Treatise he acknowledges that there is a formative or creative side to imagination. Thus he posits that the imagination Transposes and changes’ its ideas (p. 132), and can ‘join, and mix, and vary them in all the ways possible’ (p. 146). These activities, of course, bring diffi¬ culties in their train: a ‘lively imagination very often degenerates into madness or folly’ (p. 172), and there is a similarity between ‘poetry’ and ‘madness’ in that the vivacity they give to ideas arises not so much from the situations or connexions of the objects of the ideas, as from the ‘present temper or disposition’ of the poet or madman. Hume is also troubled by the difficulty of distinguishing between fact and fiction, conceived as Those whimsies and prejudices, which are rejected under the opprobrious character of being the offspring of the imagination’ (p. 167, note).15 Yet, even when it is conceded that the status of certain fictions is problematic, Hume’s teaching in the Treatise asserts that these crea¬ tions of the imagination are encountered at all levels of mental life. With respect to consciousness, causation, and self-identity, fictions meet the needs of ordinary existence. At the level of the speculations of scientists and philosophers, fictions meet the need of explaining and ordering the world. At the level of the creations of artists and poets, fictions give us aesthetic pleasure through the discovery of significant forms that present an understanding of the world and reflect the deeper needs of our emotional lives.16 It would seem, in the last analysis, that all of us are crypto-philosopliers and novelists in our daily lives, forging in our imaginations fables of the self, and endlessly seeking associative links of cause and effect in our relations with other persons and the external world of objects. By the same token, novelists are those among us who can most sensitively distinguish between the fictitious and factitious in organising fables of the self, and can express with most eloquence the self’s negotiations with the world. Along such lines, then,



disturbing and positive elements in Hume’s philosophy can be related to enduring themes handled by novelists, and his revolutionary account of the imagination points to a more searching understanding of the aesthetics of the novel.



5. 4.


6. 7. 8.

The first version of this essay was read as a paper to the General Litera¬ ture Section, Philological Association of the Pacific Coast, at the Annual Meeting held on 24 November 1972 in San Francisco. Compare the discussion of the parallel problem of the relationship between the study of literature and that of art history in F. P. Pickering Literature and Art in the Middle Ages (London: Macmillan 1970) Part One. A.N.Whitehead Science and the Modern World (New York: Mentor 1958) p.8. John Passmore ‘Philosophy’ in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York/London: Macmillan and the Free Press/ Collier-Macmillan 1967) vi, 216. For reconstructions of Hume’s aesthetics, see Oliver Brunet Philosophie et esthetique chez David Hume (Paris: A.-G. Nizet 1965) and E. C.Mossner ‘Hume’s “Of Criticism” ’ in Studies in Criticism and Aesthetics, 1660— 1800: Essays in Honor of Samuel Holt Monk, ed. H. Anderson and J. S. Shea (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1967) 232—48. Daniel Defoe Moll Flanders (1722 edn.) ed. J. Paul Hunter (New York: Crowell Critical Library 1970) p. tgg. Samuel Richardson Clarissa, abgd. and ed. George Sherburn (Boston: Riverside paperback 1962) pp. 154—5. F.M. Dostoevsky ‘Notes from Underground’ in Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, ed. Walter Kaufman (New York: Meridian 1957)


P-56J.-P. Sartre Nausea, trans. Lloyd Alexander (New York: New Directions


1969) P-131William Barrett Irrational Man (Garden City, New York: Doubleday


Anchor paperback) p. 136. The citations are from Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy, ed. J. A. Work


(New York: Odyssey Press 1940). William James The Principles of Psychology (1890), quoted in The Modern Tradition: Backgrounds of Modern Literature, ed. R.Ellmann


and C.Feidelson (New York: Oxford University Press 1965) p.717. Henri Bergson Creative Evolution (1907; English trans. 1911) quoted in


Ellman and Feidelson, op.cit., p.725. Marcel Proust The Sweet Cheat Gone,



C.K. Scott Moncrieff

(London: Chatto & Windus 1969) p. 101. On the question of Hume’s views concerning the imagination in the Treatise and his subsequent revisions, see Norman Kemp Smith The Philosophy of David Hume (London: Macmillan, reprinted 1949) pp. 439-63. This essay is also indebted to the discussion of causation and selfidentity in Jonathan Bennett Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Some Central


Themes (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1971). This formulation of the threefold role of the imagination is based on Brunet, op.cit., p.445.



Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume David Hume’s works must be replete with radical inconsistencies

and contradictions — or so one might believe after reviewing the diver¬ sity of schools of contemporary philosophy that claim to find in Hume the source of their original insight or a defense of their philosophical position. This is nowhere more true than in the field of ethics. Hume’s philosophy is named as the basis of arguments and errors on many issues in contemporary ethics. Examples of this phenomenon are too num¬ erous to list, but the following few should illustrate the point. The emotivists, for instance, assert that they are merely adopting Hume’s methods and fulfilling his directives. ‘Apart from my emphasis on language’, says Stevenson, ‘my approach is not dissimilar to that of Hume.’1 On the other hand, the intuitionists discover in Hume a rebut¬ tal of naturalism; according to Prior, Hume has already said it all.2 R.M. Hare refers to Hume’s discussion of the concept of ‘is-ought’ as ‘Hume’s law’ at the same time that P. H. Nowell-Smith finds in the identical passages a thorough refutation of naturalism and intuitionism.3 The naturalists, however, also cite Hume for support, and John Rawls points out, our most contemporary utilitarianism has at its base Hume’s distinctions between artificial and natural virtues.4 It would not be surprising, consequently, if in the face of so many diverse views claiming support from the wrorks of the same man, one should begin to think that the man’s work is fundamentally inconsis¬ tent or self-contradictory. A thorough reading of Hume’s works, of course, dismisses the idea entirely. His work, while not absolutely con¬ sistent in all detail, displays a remarkable similarity of texture and design, and contradictions are exceedingly rare. One must span more than a quarter century of his writings to discover anything close to a substantial self-contradiction. There persists, however, the fact of contemporary reliance upon Hume’s works by philosophical schools which proclaim their adversary relationships to one another. From what circumstances have these claims arisen? It could be that Hume is being misread or purposely quoted out of context$ but that hardly seems plausible when one con¬ siders the serious nature of the scholarship and the scholarly status of the authors in question. It may be that Hume’s stance as a sceptic and his apparent positionless philosophizing have occasioned the reliance



of so many diverse views 5 but Hume has been read as a sceptic (even as an unmitigated sceptic) for nearly two centuries, and it hardly seems possible that his various literary and philosophical poses are not under¬ stood by his students. Looking further, one may blame the present fashion in philosophy of dealing with small problems. There are a great number of articles, notes, and even books on such questions as the place of reason, free will and determinism, and so on, and their authors use Hume as a source of ready-made arguments and insights. Taken in this kind of isolation, the positions in Hume’s reasoning can seem contradic¬ tory. Hume is studied piecemeal, and much of his writing is simply unread. Most of the great philosophers are studied within the frame¬ works of their systems while Hume was the great rejector of systems. The reasons suggested above do not fully explain why Hume is so readily called upon by adherents of diverse philosophical schools to support their various positions. I have proposed elsewhere that Hume is essentially a rhetorician in his j>ost-Treatise works, and that one must look to biography and history to understand his rhetorical purposes.5 I continue to maintain that thesis, most especially in the light of the evidence submitted below. Hume engaged in empirical linguistic analysis, and he did so in the contemporary sense of those words. This position will not garner much support from current publication; to the contrary, virtually all com¬ mentary argues in the opposite direction. But as will be seen, an acceptance of this position leads to a better understanding of why readers of Hume come away from his writings with widely diverse views of what he is saying. Fashionable opinion is as follows. Hume is a philoso¬ phical analyst, but not a linguistic analyst; he is similar to contemporary positivists, but he does not share their belief that philosophical enigmas are essentially grammatical or linguistic enigmas. Possibly the most precise statement of this belief can be found in Professor Hendel’s introduction to his edition of Hume’s Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals. He says of Hume’s investigations into verbal disputes: ‘Surely that philosopher who was professing to be guided by experience would be the last to deny the possibility of novel insights and therefore the need of further inquiry into the usage of language. Nevertheless . . . we are under the scholar’s obligation not to attribute to him interests and theories of ethics which he manifestly did not have. . . . The main part of his investigation advances far beyond any study of language and usage.’6 A more succinct denial of the possibility that Hume was a linguistic analyst is found in Professor Hampshire’s statement ‘Hume dismissed any fine investigation of the meanings of words as of no philosophical importance’.7 Regretfully, Hampshire does not present any

evidence for







Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume


Passmore states that ‘Hume’s positivism, then, is not linguistic’, and that Hume relegates insoluble philosophical problems to the realm of psychology rather than linguistics. Passmore’s assertions are assump¬ tions that are for the most part unquestioned.8 In one manner of thinking, Professors Hendel, Hampshire, and Passmore are correct in their attitude that their statements need no support. Hume is not a twentieth-century philosopher, and one might ask what good is it to mull over the extent to which he might have been a gram¬ matical positivist. Certainly no one should bother to trace influences from Hume to Wittgenstein. The influences are too obvious to the casual observer, and at the same time they are too tenuous to be sus¬ ceptible of substantiation. Compared even to the works of Hobbes, Locke, or Berkeley, the works of Hume are clearly lacking in any highly visible examination of language. It is, however, precisely because Hume has not been thought of as a philosophical linguist that it is necessary now to do so. That his writings are lacking in a highly visible examina¬ tion of language is a reason for scholars to use extraordinary care in determining how Hume viewed the relationship of linguistic to philo¬ sophical questions. There are really three questions to be answered: ( 1) Did Hume pay substantial attention to the linguistic aspects of philosophical problems ? (2) Are the linguistic commentaries of Hume of serious import to his philosophical conclusions ? ( 5) Are the linguistic commentaries of Hume essentially similar or dissimilar to those of contemporary linguistic analysts ? Some of the answers can be found in Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. It was written by a mature Hume, and it withstood his self-criticisms and revisions over a quarter century. It is also one of Hume’s most controversial works. From the time of its first posthumous publication until today readers have argued about who in the dialogue speaks for Hume.9 Some of the revisions made by Hume in 1776, just before his death, not only provide insights into Hume’s final thoughts on the question of natural religion, but they show one kind of interest that Hume had in what he termed ‘verbal disputes’. He says, for ex¬ ample, on the concluding sheet of the manuscript: All men of sound reason are disgusted with verbal disputes, which abound so much in philosophical and theological enquiries ; and it is found, that the only remedy for this abuse must arise from clear definitions, from the precision of those ideas which enter into any argument, and from the strict and uniform use of those terms which are employed. But there is a species of controversy, which, from the very nature of language and of human ideas, is involved in perpetual ambiguity, and can never, by any precaution or any



definitions, be able to reach a reasonable certainty or precision. 1 hese are the controversies concerning the degrees of any quality of circumstances. . . . The disputants may here agree in their sense and differ in the terms, or vice versa ; yet never be able to define their terms, so as to enter into each other’s meaning. . . . That the dispute concerning theism is of this nature, and consequently is merely verbal, or perhaps, if possible, still more incurably ambi¬ guous, will appear upon the slightest enquiry, (pp. 217—18) The words come from the mouth of Philo, but they are certainly Hume’s. On the dispute between theist and atheist, Philo echoes what Hume has already said in the final paragraph of his Natural History of Religion. Philo says, ‘Where then, I cry to both these antagonists, is the subject of your dispute?’ He continues, ‘Consider then, where the real point of controversy lies’, suggesting that recognition of the verbal basis of the dispute will enable the disputants to avoid it. Hume’s resolution of the dispute between sceptic and dogmatist parallels that which he works between atheist and theist. ‘It seems evident’, says Philo, ‘that the dispute between the sceptics and dog¬ matists is entirely verbal. . . . And such disputes are commonly at the bottom, verbal, and admit not of any precise determination’ (p.219, n. 1). He says further on in a more general statement, ‘The whole of natural theology . . . resolves itself into one simple, though unambig¬ uous, at least undefined proposition’ (p.227). What Hume does in the Dialogues is precisely the opposite of what Professor Hendel suggests in his introduction to Hume’s Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals. Hendel describes Hume’s process as one which ‘advances far beyond any study of language and usage’. As is clear, however, from Philo’s summation at the close of the Dialogues, the essential and cen¬ tral observation made by Hume is upon language and usage. The work moves from metaphysical to linguistic disputes. What Philo terms ‘verbal disputes’ are essentially grammatical or linguistic problems similar to those discussed by contemporary empiricists. The whole ques¬ tion of the Dialogues is resolvable into one of definition, and Hume allows Philo to ask the supreme question: Does our language even permit definitions in the area of natural theology ? What the limits of language are is a question central to the Dialogues. Philo shows clearly that the words habitually used to describe God are inherently equivalent to the attitudes and human limitations of men. Philo says, in attacking the validity of likening God’s attributes to those of men: ‘Wisdom, thought, design, knowledge 5 these we justly ascribe to him 5 because these words are honourable among men, and we have no other language or other conceptions, by which we can express our adoration of him’ (p. 142). It is of little consequence that Hume may


Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume

have seen the problem as one of philosophical rather than linguistic import. The methodology by which he approaches philosophical prob¬ lems through an examination of basic terminology, indicates his interest in grammatical or linguistic analysis. The Dialogues is not alone in exemplifying Hume’s tendency to resolve philosophical disputes by reducing them to verbal disputes. For example, Hume’s definition of certain kinds of syllogistic reasoning in Part 5 of Section 12 of his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding is a preamble to the following verification principle: ‘A sentence has literal meaning if, and only if, the proposition it expresses is either analytic or empirically verifiable.’10 In paragraph 4 of that Section Hume states: It seems to me that the only objects of the abstract sciences or of demonstration, are quantity and number, and that all attempts to extend this more perfect species of knowledge beyond these bounds are mere sophistry and illusion. ... Or if there be any difficulty in these decisions, it proceeds entirely from the undeterminate mean¬ ing of words, which is corrected by juster definitions. That the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the square of the other two sides, cannot be known let the terms be ever so exactly defined, without a train of reasoning and enquiry. But to convince us of this proposition, that where there is no property there can be no injustice, it is only necessary to define the terms, and explain in¬ justice to be a violation of property. This proposition is, indeed, nothing but a more imperfect definition. This paragraph and the attendant reasoning thereafter is a persistent theme in Hume’s writing. It is surprising that modern commentators have not noted it in relation to Hume’s other grammatical comments. In the two paragraphs immediately following it Hume develops the position that ‘No negation of fact can involve a contradiction. The non¬ existence of any being, without exception, is as clear and distinct an idea as its existence. The proposition which affirms it not to be, how¬ ever false, is no less conceivable and intelligible, than that which affirms it to be.’ This is the same argument he uses in Section 11 of the Enquiry. He uses it again in the Dialogues when he allows Cleanthes to demolish Demea’s a priori proofs for the existence of God. Cleanthes begins with observing that there is ‘an evident absurdity in pretending to demon¬ strate a matter of fact’, or to prove it by any argument a priori. He continues, using almost the same phrasing as in the Enquiry: ‘Nothing is demonstrable unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no Being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction’ (p. 189).



Consequently, there is no being whose existence is demonstrable $ and Cleanthes has rebutted Demea’s version of the rationalist theologian’s proofs for a Supreme Being. Can the above argument be described fairly as an example of lin¬ guistic or grammatical analysis? It is surely positivistic. Hume’s des¬ cription of the nature of the knowable made the type of metaphysics that preceded him seem impossible. But where is the emphasis? Did Hume make the impossibility of metaphysics depend on what could be known or upon what could be said? Examine the last paragraph of the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Hume attacked meta¬ physicians because they broke rules of utterance (that is, they broke rules of grammar or linguistics that had to be followed if sentences were to have meaning): When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it con¬ tain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames 5 for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. Clearly, one measures here by means of linguistic yardstick. In measur¬ ing the value of a statement one looks first to classify the utterance. The emphasis is on the classification of the statement. Hume’s linguistic message to philosophers, and the philosophical import of his linguistic classifications is, of course, far too easily over¬ stated. Even the least inference, however, leads to the conclusion that his interest in what he calls ‘verbal disputes’ is not dissimilar to that of contemporary positivists. The whole of his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding displays a pattern by which Hume resolves (or dissolves) philosophical disputes by turning them into verbal disputes. As an example, take the way in which he handles the question of free will versus determinism (Section 8, Part 1). It is his hope, he says in para¬ graph 3, to make it appear, ‘that all men have ever agreed in the doc¬ trine both of necessity and liberty, according to any reasonable sense which can be put on these terms, and that the whole controversy has hitherto turned merely on words’. This is the same technique that is found when Philo discusses the differences between sceptic and dog¬ matist, and theist and atheist, in the Dialogues. The positions appear opposed according to Hume because men have not heretofore seen that the disputes are ‘merely verbal’. One of the functions of the philosopher is to ferret out and identify the merely verbal sources of disputes. The questions of whether Hume paid substantial attention to lin¬ guistic aspects of problems of serious import to his philosophy, and


Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume

whether his approach may be labelled linguistic or grammatical in a contemporary sense, are difficult to answer by way of simple, unmodi¬ fied affirmation. It would be, however, a mistake to deny that Hume’s interest in language and verbal disputes did not take the form of what might be termed a primitive linguistic analysis. Hume asserted that he had answered some important philosophical questions by paying atten¬ tion to the definitions of key words and phrases. Perhaps the best light in which to see what this means is found in the introductory material of the Treatise. Hume argues that the arts and sciences cannot go ‘beyond experience’, or estabhsh any ‘principles which are not founded on that authority’. Men ought to sit content when they have seen that they have ‘arrived at the utmost extent of human reason’. Hume’s point here is that when men note that they have reached the limits of experiencebased reason, they should not go further. Beyond lies the realm of verbal dispute wherein utterances carry the wrong type of proposition. These verbal disputes are not within the purview of philosophy. They are the objects of grammar. Their identification, however, is the job of the philosopher. How else will he know what works of divinity or school metaphysics ‘contain nothing but sophistry and illusion’ and should be committed to the flames? The significance of the observation that Hume was engaged in lin¬ guistic analysis will not be lost on students of eighteenth-centurv rhetoric and literature. The form that the analysis takes is parallel to rhetorical patterns in Hume’s writings. The form of the analysis, like the other forms of Hume’s rhetoric, tends to produce a dispassionate frame of mind in the reader. Reflect, for example, on Hume’s creation of a detached and clinical narrator for his works. The narrator is appar¬ ently removed from the heat of controversy. This is a trait of Hume’s style that most readers remark upon (but few have attempted to explain).11 The effect on the audience is intentional. Hume, in a 1759 letter to Francis Hutcheson, explained his dispassionate air as a result of stylistic forethought. Hutcheson had commented on what appeared to be Hume’s lack of warmth in urging the virtuous life. Hume replied, ‘I must own, this has not happen’d by Chance, but is the Effect of a Reasoning either good or bad. There are different ways of examining the Mind as well as the Body. One may consider it either as an Anato¬ mist or as a Painter. . . . Where you pull off the Skin, & display all the minute Parts, there appears something trivial, even in the noblest Attitudes. . . . Any warm Sentiment of Morals . . . wou’d have the Air of Declamation amidst abstract Reasonings’ (Letters, i. 52-3). The narrator is an anatomist, a clinical observer unaffected by ima¬ ginative visions and prejudice. This is the attitude of mind that Hume attempts to create. Linguistic analysis becomes a tool of the stylist. The



method, linguistic analysis, parallels the message, mitigated scepticism, and both create in the reader the proper frame of mind: dispassion. What is the end of philosophical enquiry? Hume tells us in the last paragraph of his Natural History of Religion: The whole is a riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty, suspence of judgment appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject. But such is the frailty of human reason, and such the irresistible contagion of opinion, that even this deliberate doubt could scarcely be upheld; did we not enlarge our view, and opposing one species of superstitition to another, set them a quarrelling; while we ourselves, during their fury and contention, happily make our escape, into the calm, though obscure, regions of philosophy. The discovery and elimination of ‘verbal disputes’ becomes an impor¬ tant adjunct of the proper mental attitude. Verbal disputes are not worth the energy spent in their pursuit. They detract from the calm air of deliberate doubt which suits philosophers. The first function of the mitigated sceptic, as Hume says, is to make dogmatic men hesitate and balance their thoughts. ‘To hesitate or balance perplexes their Understanding, checks their Passion, and suspends their Actions.’ The second function of scepticism is ‘the Limitation of our Enquiries to such Subjects as are best adapted to the narrow Capacity of human Under¬ standing’. The discovery and elimination of verbal disputes limits enquiries to the proper subjects. The observation that Hume engages in linguistic analysis in no way explains, by itself, the variety of diverse views that are traceable in his writings. Linked, however, to other details of Hume’s style and purpose, the element of linguistic analysis is significant. It is another source of an effect toward which much in Hume’s writing aims. As readers of Hume acknowledge, a clear summary of his doctrines in any particular work can be made easily. But the purpose of Hume’s work is not best served by such a presentation. It is not the conclusions of Hume’s reasonings that make him interesting to read today. They are available in abbre¬ viated but fair form in several histories of philosophy; and, for the most part, his philosophical method is accurately described. What is lost in the summaries and descriptions, however, is the process by which Hume transforms abstract philosophical subject matter into a mental experi¬ ence. In a word, what is missing in the summary or description is style. In some forms of literature, the novel, the short story, or the familiar essay, for examples, the reader does not ordinarily equate the reading of the work with its content. But in philosophy, readers have tradition¬ ally equated content with summary. Style was merely that which helped or hindered understanding the content. One read through a


Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume

work to get at its content. The sequence of words, the structure of sen¬ tences, the superstructure of the work, all were for the most part avoided—except when they caused substantial

discomfort in the

reader, and then they were condemned as intrusive. Where the expres¬ sion of content was unobtrusive, as in Hume, it was virtually ignored. To the extent that Hume was interested in belles lettres, he has been ignored by modern students of philosophy. Their mistake in thinking of Hume’s interest in eloquence and diction as an aberration in an otherwise brilliant philosopher has led to much confusion in the reading of Hume. It must be stressed that the confusion is in the reading of Hume and not in the understanding of his conceptual content. The summaries are accurate, but they are not Hume. The arguments of the summaries are precisely that: the arguments of the summaries. They do not reflect the mind of Hume. Only his writing does. When passages are pulled from the writings to support the theses of other men, the selections taken from Hume reflect more the thought of the borrowers than that of Hume. Undeniably, the selections — often his most abbre¬ viated and concise statement of an abstract point— are from Hume, but the intellectual movement of Hume’s mind is absent. There is in Hume’s works a pattern of linguistic analysis, and the pattern is a part of the total movement of Hume’s writing. It helps create the attitude of mind which Hume desired to instill in his audi¬ ence. The linguistic analysis is symptomatic of a larger stylistic develop¬ ment. In the final analysis the development may be characterized as rhetorical. But rhetoric in this instance must be defined with extreme caution. The rhetorical devices are not those that we associate with declamation or bombast or even with the wide range of devices found in Ciceronian oratory. They are those which lead away from declama¬ tion and aroused emotion. As Hume observed, they are those of the anatomist who pulls off the skin and observes the minute parts. One might term it the rhetoric of science. Problems of analysis and applica¬ tion of Hume’s thought have arisen because the content and not the manner of his work has been stressed. As a corrective, the emphasis ought to be on the total structure of Hume’s works and the relations of the parts to the whole. Just as literature students are told to eschew the plot summaries of novels and read to discover the mechanism of the writing, so students of philosophy might be asked to look to Hume as a writer first and a philosopher second. The misreadings of Hume have not been misreadings of particular arguments in his works, but the arguments are not equivalent to Hume’s philosophy. Readers must look to the total literary context.




Charles L. Stevenson Ethics and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press 1944) p.vii. Stevenson makes similar pronouncements in his ‘The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms’ in Readings in Ethical Theory, ed. W. Sellars and J. Hospers (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts !952).


A. N. Prior Logic and the Basis of Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1949) p. x. He asserts on the same page that ‘Almost all that can be said from a purely logical point of view, on the issue between naturalism and anti¬ naturalism, has already been said in . . . Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature . . . and in . . . Reid’s Essay on the Active Powers'.


R.M.Hare The Language of Morals (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1952); P.H.Nowell-Smith Ethics (Baltimore: Penguin Books 1954). John Rawls ‘Two concepts of rules’ The Philosophical Review lxiv (1955) 61-89.



7. 8.



Michael Morrisroe, Jr, ‘Hume’s rhetorical strategy: a solution to the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' TSLL xi (1969) 963—74; ‘Rhetorical methods in Hume’s works on religion’ Philosophy & Rhetoric ii (1969) 121-38; ‘Characterization as rhetorical device in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , Enlightenment Essays i (1970) 95-107. Charles W. Hendel, ed., Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1957) pp.xxi-xxii. At the same place he says: ‘Hume himself does treat of language, but it is instrumental, as a means of diagnosis. It is used in order to detect those moral qualities marked “in common life” as possessing merit or otherwise.’ Stuart N. Hampshire ‘Hume’s Place in Philosophy’ in David Hume, A Symposium, ed. D.F. Pears (London: Macmillan 1963) p. 6. John A. Passmore Hume's Intentions (Cambridge: University Press 1952) p. 74. Passmore does treat of Hume’s verbal disputes in some detail. He categorizes three types of verbal dispute, but finds only five examples in all of Hume’s work to support the logic of his categories. An interesting exception to the general rejection of Hume as linguistic analyst is Donald F.Henze ‘The linguistic aspect of Hume’s method’ JHI xxx (1969) 116-26. The modern round of discussions began with Professor Mossner’s ‘The enigma of Hume’ Mind xlv (1936) 334—49. Mossner’s article was prompted by Norman Kemp Smith’s 1935 edition of the Dialogues and a review of it under the caption ‘The Enigma of Hume’ in the Times Liter¬ ary Supplement (2 Nov. 1953). Over twenty articles and books have taken up the question since Professor Mossner’s article. A.J.Ayer Language, Truth and Logic (London: Gollancz 1936) p.31. A similar statement is found in Ayer’s Logical Positivism (Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press 1959) p.228: ‘It will simplify our undertaking if we can draw a distinction between those empirical propositions whose truth or falsehood can be determined only by ascertaining the truth or false¬ hood or other propositions and those whose truth or falsehood can be determined directly by observation. To the former class belong all uni¬ versal propositions’. The latter are, of course, his famous ‘Basic proposi¬ tions’ which ‘need not wait upon other propositions for the determination of their truth or falsehood, but are such that they can be directly con¬ fronted with the given facts’.

82 11.

Linguistic Analysis as Rhetorical Pattern in David Hume The important exception is John V.Price The Ironic Hume (Austin. University of Texas Press 1965), who takes the position that much of Hume’s post-Treatise writing exhibits a subtle tone of irony.



Hume’s Argument from Design Narrator: Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion were pub¬ lished in 1779 after his death. Virtually completed in the 1750s, they were still being revised in 1776, the year of his death. At the same time, he was taking elaborate precautions to ensure their publication. There are three characters who take part: Cleanthes, who is well versed in experimental science, and who thinks that God’s nature and existence can be inferred from the facts of Nature 5 Demea, the mystical representative of orthodox Christianity 5 and Philo, whose cool and ingenious arguments dub him as a sceptic (or, as we would now say, an agnostic). There is little doubt that Philo’s arguments are the closest to Hume’s own. Cleanthes’ resemble those of Bishop Joseph Butler in the Analogy of Religion. Demea’s, in part, resemble those of Dr Samuel Clarke, in part, those of the average parish priest. The Dialogues begin with a discussion about the religious educa¬ tion of children and the stage at which they should be introduced to theology as distinct from religious instruction. This leads to an examination of the scepticism which is often associated with the study of philosophy. Cleanthes is speaking, and the books of his own library provide a fitting background to his civilized, erudite, and cautious approach. . . . Cleanthes: ... I shall never assent to so harsh an opinion as that of a celebrated writer, who says that the sceptics are not a sect of phil¬ osophers : They are only a sect of liars. I may, however, affirm (I hope without offence) that they are a sect of jesters and raillers. . . . And it is now, in a manner avowed by all pretenders to reasoning and philosophy, that atheist and sceptic are almost synonymous. And as it is certain that no man is in earnest when he professes the latter principle; I would fain hope that there are as few, who seriously maintain the former. In an earlier form this redaction, from part 1 of the Dialogues, was presented in the bbc’s Third Programme 10 December 1956 and at the Edinburgh Festival in i960. The version now given is that further adapted by E.C.Mossner for presentation at the University of Texas, 26 April 1961.

Hume's Argument from Design


Philo: Don’t you remember the excellent saying of Lord Bacon on this head? Cleanthes: Which one, my dear Philo? That a little philosophy makes a man an atheist: a great deal converts him to religion? Philo: That is a very judicious remark, too, Cleanthes. But what I have in my eye is another passage, where having mentioned David’s fool, who said in his own heart that there is no God, this great philosopher observes that the atheists nowadays have a double share of folly: for they are not contented to say in their hearts there is no God, but they also utter that impiety with their lips, and are thereby guilty of multiplied indiscretion and imprudence. Cleanthes: And surely nothing can afford a stronger presumption that any set of principles are true, and ought to be embraced, than to observe that they tend to the confirmation of true religion, and serve to confound the cavils of atheists, libertines, and freethinkers of all denominations. Is it not so, Demea? Demea: One would imagine that you were maintaining the being of a God, against the cavils of atheists and infidels 5 and were neces¬ sitated to become a champion for that fundamental principle of all religion. But this, I hope, is not by any means a question among us. No man; no man, at least of common sense, I am persuaded, ever entertained a serious doubt with regard to a truth so cer¬ tain and self-evident. ... Or would you maintain the contrarv, Philo? Philo: Assuredly not. For nothing exists without a cause; and the original cause of this universe (whatever it be) we call God, and piously ascribe to him every species of perfection. Demea: The question, therefore, is not concerning the being but the nature of God. This, I affirm, from the infirmities of human under¬ standing, to be altogether incomprehensible and unknown to us. The essence of the supreme mind, his attributes, the manner of his existence, the very nature of his duration; these and every particular, which regards so divine a Being, are mysterious to men. Finite, weak, and blind creatures, we ought to humble ourselves in his august presence, and, conscious of our frailties, adore in silence his infinite perfections, which eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to con¬ ceive them. Philo: And as all perfection is entirely relative, we ought never to imagine that we comprehend the attributes of this divine Being, or to suppose that his perfections have any analogy or likeness to the perfections of a human creature. Wisdom, thought, design, knowledge; these we justly ascribe to him; because these words



are honourable among men, and we have no other language or other conceptions by which we can express our adoration of him. But let us beware, lest we think that our ideas any wise correspond to his perfections, or that his attributes have any resemblance to these qualities among men. Our ideas reach no further than our experience: we have no experience of divine attributes and opera¬ tions : I need not conclude my syllogism: you can draw the infer¬ ence yourself. Cleanthes: But look around the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: you will find it to be nothing but one great machine subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance ; of human design, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble ; and that the Author of nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man though possessed of much larger facul¬ ties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work, which he has executed. By this argument a posteriori, and by this argument alone, we do prove at once the existence of a Deity, and his simi¬ larity to human mind and intelligence. Demea: What! No demonstration of the being of a God! No abstract arguments! No proofs a priori\ Are these, which have hitherto been so much insisted on by philosophers, all fallacy, all sophism? Can we reach no farther in this subject than experience and prob¬ ability ? Philo: What I chiefly scruple in this subject is not so much that all reli¬ gious arguments are by Cleanthes reduced to experience as that they appear not to be even the most certain and irrefragable of that inferior kind. That a stone will fall, that fire will burn, that the earth has solidity, we have observed a thousand and a thousand times ; and even when any new instance of this nature is presented, we draw without hesitation the accustomed inference. But wher¬ ever you depart, in the least, from the similarity of the cases, you diminish proportion ably the evidence 5 and ma\ at last bring it to be a very weak analogy, which is confessedly liable to error and uncertainty. If we see a house, Cleanthes, we conclude with the greatest

Hume’s Argument from Design


certainty that it had an architect or builder 5 because this is precisely the species of effect, which we have experienced to proceed from that species of cause. But surely you will not affirm that the universe bears such a resemblance to a house that we can with the same certainty infer a similar cause, or that the analogy is here entire and perfect. The dissimilitude is so striking that the utmost you can pretend to is a guess, a conjecture, a presumption con¬ cerning a similar cause $ and how . . . Cleanthes: But is the whole adjustment of means to ends in a house and in the universe so slight a resemblance? The economy of final causes? The order, proportion, and arrangement of every part? Steps of a stair are plainly contrived that human legs may use them in mounting 5 and this inference is certain and infallible. Human legs are also contrived for walking and mounting; and this infer¬ ence, I allow, is not altogether so certain, because of the dissimi¬ larity which you remark 5 but does it, therefore, deserve the name only of presumption or . . . Dema: Good God! Where are we? Zealous defenders of religion allow that the proofs of a Deity fall short of perfect evidence! And you, Philo, on whose assistance I depended in proving the adorable mysteriousness of the divine nature, do you assent to all these extravagant opinions of Cleanthes ? Philo: You seem not to apprehend that I argue with Cleanthes in his own way $ and by showing him the dangerous consequences of his tenets, hope at last to reduce him to our opinion. Now according to this method of reasoning, Demea, it follows that order, arrange¬ ment, or the adjustment of final causes is not, of itself, any proof of design 5 but only so far as it has been experienced to proceed from that principle. For aught we can know a priori, matter may contain the source or spring of order originally, within itself, as well as mind does. By experience we find (according to Cleanthes) that there is a difference between them. Throw several pieces of steel together, without shape or form; they will never arrange themselves so as to compose a watch: stone, and mortar, and wood, without an architect, never erect a house. But the ideas in a human mind, we see, by an unknown, inexplicable economy, arrange themselves so as to form the plan of a watch or house. Experience, therefore, proves that there is an original principle of order in mind, not in matter. From similar effects we infer similar causes. The adjustment of means to ends is alike in the universe, as in a machine of human contrivance. The causes, therefore, must be resembling. Have I not made a fair representaof the argument, Cleanthes ?



Cleanthes: Yes, indeed, Philo. As I have already said, the effects re¬ semble each other and so we are led to infer that the Author of nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man. Philo: But can you think, Cleanthes, that your usual phlegm and phil¬ osophy have been preserved in so wide a step as you have taken, when you compared to the universe houses, ships, furniture, machines; and from their similarity in some circumstances inferred a similarity in their causes ? Thought, design, intelligence, such as we discover in men and other animals, is no more than one of the springs and principles of the universe, as well as heat or cold, attraction or repulsion, and a hundred others which fall under daily observation. It is an active cause, by which some particular parts of nature, we find, produce alterations on other parts. But can a conclusion, with any propriety, be transferred from parts to the whole ? From observing the growth of a hair, can we learn anything concerning the generation of man ? Demea: Mark well this point, Cleanthes. For the ingenious Philo is using your own principle on your own argument. ®

Philo: And even allowing, Cleanthes, that we were to take the opera¬ tions of one part of nature upon another for the foundation of our judgment concerning the origin of the whole (which can never be admitted) yet why select so minute, so weak, so bounded a prin¬ ciple as the reason and design of animals is found to be upon this planet ? What peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call thought, that we must thus make it the model of the whole universe ? And if thought, as we may well suppose, be con¬ fined merely to this narrow corner, and has even there so limited a sphere of action; with what propriety can we assign it for the original cause of all things? The narrow views of a peasant, who makes his domestic economy the rule for the government of kingdoms, is in comparison a pardonable sophism. Cleanthes: To prove by experience the origin of the universe from mind is not more contrary to common speech than to prove the motion of the earth from the same principle. Philo: When two species of objects have always been observed to he joined together, I can infer by custom the existence of one whereever I see the existence of the other: And this I call an argument from experience. Cleanthes: But what of Copernicus? Did he not . . . Philo: But will any man tell me with serious countenance that an orderly universe must arise from some thought or art like the human5 because we have experience of it? To ascertain this reasoning, it were requisite that we had experience of the origin


Hume’s Argument from Design

of worlds5 and it is not sufficient, surely, that we have seen ships and cities . . . Cleanthes: But a caviller might raise all the same objections to the Copernican system, which proves the motion of the earth from the same principle. Have you other earths, he might say, which you have seen to move? Have . . . Philo: But we have! Is not the moon another earth? which we see to turn round its centre? Is not Venus another earth, where we observe the same phenomenon? Are not the revolutions of the sun also a confirmation, from analogy, of the same theory? All the planets, are they not earths, which revolve around the sun? These analogies and resemblances, with others, which I have not men¬ tioned, are the sole proofs of the Copernican system. Cleanthes: But are you not aware . . . Philo: Then Galileo, beginning with the moon, proved its similarity in every particular to earth 5 its convex figure, its natural darkness when not illuminated, its density, its distinction into solid and liquid, the variations of its phases, the mutual illuminations of the earth and moon, their mutual eclipses, and so on. After many instances of this kind, with regard to all the planets, men plainly saw that these bodies became proper objects of experience$ and that the similarity of their nature enabled us to extend the same arguments and phenomena from one to the other. In this cautious proceeding of the astronomers you may read your own condemnation, Cleanthes. Can you pretend to show any such similarity between the fabric of a house, and the generation of a universe? Cleanthes: Are you not aware, Philo, that it became necessary for Coper¬ nicus and his first disciples to prove the similarity of the terrestrial and celestial matter; because several philosophers, blinded by old systems, and supported by some sensible appearances, had denied this similarity? But that is by no means necessary that theists should prove the similarity of the works of nature to those of art; because this similarity is self-evident and undeniable. Philo: Admirable conclusion! Stone, wood, brick, iron, brass have not, in this minute globe of earth, an order of arrangement without human art and contrivance: therefore the universe could not originally attain its order and arrangement, without something similar to human art. Cleanthes: The same matter, a like form. What more is requisite to show an analogy between their causes, and to ascertain the origin of all things from a divine purpose and intention? Suppose that an articulate voice were heard in the clouds, much



louder and more melodious than any which human art could reach: suppose that this voice were extended in the same instant over all nations, and spoke to each nation in its own language and dialect : suppose that the words delivered not only contain a just sense and meaning but convey some instruction altogether worthy of a bene¬ volent Being, superior to mankind. Could you possibly hesitate a moment concerning the cause of this voice? And must you not instantly ascribe to it some design or purpose? Or would you say that all conclusions concerning fact were founded on experience, and consequently that a rational, wise, coherent speech proceeded, you know not whence, from some accidental whistling of the winds, not from divine reason or intelligence ? Philo: Is nature in one situation a certain rule for nature in another situation vastly different from the former ? And can you blame me, Cleanthes, if I here imitate the prudent reserve of Simonides, who being asked What God was desired a day to think of it, and then two days more; and after that manner continually prolonged the term, without ever bringing in his definition or description. Could you blame me if I had answered at first that I did not know and was sensible that this subject lay vastly beyond the realm of my faculties ? Cleanthes-. The declared profession of every reasonable sceptic is only to reject abstruse, remote, and refined arguments; to adhere to common sense and the plain instincts of nature; and to assent, wherever any reasons strike him with so full a force, that he can¬ not, without the greatest violence, prevent it. Now the arguments for natural religion are plainly of this kind; and nothing but the most perverse, obstinate metaphysics can reject them. Consider, anatomize the eye: survey its structure and contriv¬ ance ; and tell me, from your own feeling, if the idea of a contriver does not immediately flow in upon you with a force like that of sensation. The most obvious conclusion surely is in favour of design; and it requires time, reflection and study, to summon up those frivolous, though abstruse objections, which can support infidelity. Who can behold the male and female of each species, the correspondence of their parts and instincts, their passions and whole course of life before and after generation, but must be sen¬ sible that the propagation of the species is intended by nature? Millions and millions of such instances present themselves through every part of the universe; and no language can convey a more intelligible, irresistible meaning than the curious adjustment of final causes. Narrator: The argument so far has centred on the implications of the

Hume’s Argument from Design

accepted principle of experimental science that like effects follow from like causes. Cleanthes has had to defend his contention that the world is sufficiently like an object of design to make probable the hypothesis of a designer. Philo has interpreted this principle rigor¬ ously and has forced Cleanthes to admit that, in a strict experimen¬ tal sense, the argument is very weak. But he has saved his position by appealing to common sense conviction rather than more precise experimental reasoning. When we contemplate the wonderful arrangement of the natural world, he says, the idea of a contriver flows in on us with a force like that of sensation. All the careful arguments tell against the hypothesis of design, but nevertheless we naturally pass to the idea of a designer when we contemplate the wonders of the world. But Cleanthes’ troubles are not yet over. He now has to meet another sort of objection from Demea, the implications of which Philo takes up and explores in a much more rigorous and ingenious manner. . . . Demea: Your instances, Cleanthes, have some force$ but is there not some danger too in this very circumstance, and may it not render us presumptuous by making us imagine we comprehend the Deity, and have some adequate idea of his nature and attributes ? His ways are not our ways. By representing the Deity as so intelli¬ gible and comprehensible, and so similar to a human mind, we are guilty of the grossest and most narrow partiality, and make our¬ selves the model of the whole universe. Cleanthes: It seems strange to me that you, Demea, who are so sincere in the cause of religion, should still maintain the mysterious, in¬ comprehensible nature of the Deity, and should insist so stren¬ uously that he has no manner of likeness or resemblance to human creatures. The Deity, I can readily allow, possesses many powers and attributes, of which we have no just comprehension. But if our ideas, so far as they go, be not just and adequate, and correspon¬ dent to his real nature, I know not what there is in this subject worth insisting on. Is the name, without any meaning, of such mighty importance? Or how do mystics, who maintain the absolute incomprehensibility of the Deity, differ from sceptics or atheists, who assert that the first cause of All is unknown and unintelligible? Demea: Who could imagine that Cleanthes, the calm, philosophical Cleanthes, would attempt to refute his antagonists by affixing a nickname to them; and like the common bigots and inquisitors of the age, have recourse to invective and declamation instead of reasoning? Or does he not perceive that these topics are easily retorted and that anthropomorphite is an appellation as invidious,



and implies as dangerous consequences, as the epithet of mystic, with which he has honoured us ? In reality, Cleanthes, consider what it is you assert when you represent the Deity as similar to human mind and understanding. What is the soul of man? A composition of various faculties, passions, sentiments, ideas $ united, indeed, into one self or person, but still distinct from each other. New opinions, new passions, new affections,

new feelings arise, which continually diversify the

mental scene and produce in it the greater variety and most rapid succession imaginable. How is this compatible with the perfect immutability and simplicity which all true theists ascribe to the Deity? By the same act, say they, he sees past, present, and future: His love and His hatred, His mercy and His justice are one indivi¬ dual operation: He is entire in every point of space 5 and even complete in every instant of duration. No succession, no change, no . . . Cleanthes: I can readily allow that those who maintain the perfect simplicity of the supreme Being, to the extent in which you have explained it, are complete mystics. They are, in a word, atheists without knowing it. For though it be allowed that the Deity pos¬ sesses attributes of which we have no comprehension, yet ought we never to ascribe to him any attributes which are absolutely in¬ compatible with that intelligent nature, essential to him. Philo: Pray consider whom you are at present inveighing against. You are honouring with the appellation of atheist all the sound, ortho¬ dox divines almost, who have treated of this subject 5 and you will, at last, be, yourself, found, according to your reckoning, the only sound theist in the world. Cleanthes: But the temerity of the mystics must be very great, if, after rejecting the production by a mind—I mean a mind resembling the human (for I know of no other) —they pretend to assign, with certainty, any other specific, intelligible cause. Philo: How therefore shall we satisfy ourselves concerning the cause of that Being, whom you suppose the Author of nature, or, according to your system of anthropomorphism, the ideal world, into which you trace the material ? Have we not the same reason to trace the ideal world into another ideal world, or new intelligent principle ? But if we stop and go no farther, why go so far? Why not stop at the material world? Cleanthes: Even in common life, if I assign a cause for any event, is it any objection, Philo, that I cannot assign the cause of that cause, and answer every new question which may incessantly be started ? Philo • But when you go beyond the mundane system you only excite

Hume's Argument from Design


an inquisitive humour which it is impossible ever to satisfy. We have indeed experience of ideas, which fall into order, of them¬ selves, and without any known cause; but, I am sure, we have a much larger experience of matter, which does the same $ as in all instances of generation and vegetation, where the accurate analysis of the cause exceeds all human comprehension. We have also experience of particular systems of thought and of matter, which have no order 5 of the first in madness, of the second in corruption. Why, then, should we think that order is more essential to one than the other ? And if it requires a cause in both, what do we gain by your system, in tracing the universe of objects into a similar universe of ideas ? Cleanthes: The order and arrangement of nature, the curious adjust¬ ment of final causes, the plain use and intention of every part and organ ; all these bespeak in the clearest language an intelligent cause or author. The heavens and earth join in the same testi¬ mony. The whole chorus of nature raises one hymn to the praises of its Creator: you alone, or almost alone, disturb the general harmony. You start abstruse doubts, cavils, and objections: you ask me, what is the cause of this cause? I know not; I care not: that concerns not me. I have found a Deity $ and here I stop my enquiry. Narrator: Philo steadfastly refuses to answer Cleanthes’ appeal to the common sense conviction that the immediate impression made by nature upon the mind irresistibly conjures up the idea of a designer. He reiterates his point that little is gained by postulating a mind to account for the order of nature. For an ideal system, arranged of itself, without a precedent design, is no more explicable than a material system which attains order in like manner. If the one possesses order without design, why cannot the other? He then presses home further detailed implications of the principle which Cleanthes claimed to accept. . . . Philo: But I will show you still more inconveniences in your anthropo¬ morphism 5 please to take a new survey of your principles. Like effects prove like causes. This is the experimental argument 5 and this, you say too, is the sole theological argument. Now it is certain that the liker the effects are, which are seen, and the liker the causes, which are inferred, the stronger is the argument. All the new discoveries in astronomy which prove the immense grandeur and magnificence of the works of nature are so many additional arguments for a Deity, according to the true system of theism. But according to your hypothesis of experimental theism, they become so many objections, by removing the effect still



farther from all resemblance to the effect of human art and con¬ trivance. The discoveries by microscopes, as they open up a new universe in miniature, are still objections, according to you ; arguments according to me. The farther we push our researches of this kind, we are still led to infer the universal cause of all to be vastly diff¬ erent from mankind, or from any object of human experience and observation. And what do you say to the discoveries in anatomy, chemistry, botany— Cleanthes: These surely are no objections. They only discover new instances of art and contrivance. It is still the image of mind re¬ flected on us from unnumerable objects. Philo: Add a mind like the human. Cleanthes: I know of no other. Philo: And the liker the better. Cleanthes: To be sure. Philo: Now mark the consequences. First, by this method of reasoning you renounce all claim to infinity in any of the attributes of Deity. For as the cause ought only to be proportioned to the effect, and the effect, so far as it falls under our cognizance, is not infinite. Secondly, you have no reason, on your theory, for ascribing per¬ fection to the Deity, even in his finite capacity 5 or for supposing him free from every error, mistake, or incoherence in his under¬ takings. There are many inexplicable difficulties in the works of nature, which, if we allow a perfect Author to be proved a priori, are easily solved, and become only seeming difficulties, from the narrow capacity of man, who cannot trace infinite relations. But according to your method of reasoning, these difficulties become all real 5 and perhaps will be insisted on, as new instances of like¬ ness to human art and contrivance. And what shadow of an argument can you produce, from your hypothesis, to prove the unity of the Deity ? A great number of men join in building a house or ship, in rearing a city, in framing a commonwealth 5 why may not several Deities combine in contriv¬ ing and framing a world? This is only so much greater similarity to human affairs. Demea: It must be a slight fabric indeed which can be erected on so tottering a foundation. While we are uncertain whether there is one Deity or many; whether the Deity or Deities be perfect or imperfect, subordinate or supreme; what trust or confidence can we repose in them ? What devotion or worship address to them ? Philo: In a word, Cleanthes, a man who follows your hypothesis is able,

Hume's Argument from Design


perhaps, to assert, or conjecture, that the universe, sometime, arose from something like design; but beyond that position he can¬ not ascertain one single circumstance, and is left afterwards to fix every point of his theology by the utmost licence of fancy and hypothesis. This world, for aught he knows, was only the first rude essay of some infant Deity, who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance; it is the work only of some dependent, inferior Deity 5 and is the object of derision to his superiors: it is the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated Deity — Demea: What! But this is blasphemy! Philo: But these, and a thousand more of the same kind, are Cleanthes’ suppositions, not mine. Cleanthes: These suppositions I absolutely disown. They strike me, however, with no horror 5 especially when proposed in that ram¬ bling way in which they drop from you. On the contrary, they give me pleasure, when I see that, by the utmost indulgence of your imagination, you never get rid of the hypothesis of design in the universe. Demea: To all purposes of life, this theory of religion becomes altogether useless: and even with regard to speculative consequences, its un¬ certainty, according to you, must render it totally precarious and unsatisfactory. Narrator: Philo has used the principle that like effects are produced by like causes to show how weak the argument is for a designer of the world, and that, if there is a designer, he must be very unlike the God of the Christian religion. Cleanthes, however, still clings dog¬ gedly to Philo’s admission that perhaps the universe arose some¬ time from something like design, which he regards as a sufficient foundation for religion. Philo now shifts the ground of his attack. . . . Philo: To render your argument still more unsatisfactory there occurs to me another hypothesis, which must acquire an air of probability from the method of reasoning much insisted on by Cleanthes. Cleanthes: I must confess, Philo, that of all men living, the task which you have undertaken of raising doubts and objections suits you best, and seems, in a manner, natural and unavoidable to you. What new hypothesis is this ? Philo: That like effects arise from like causes: this principle you suppose the foundation of all religion. But there is another principle of the same kind, no less certain, and derived from the same source of experience. Cleanthes: And what, pray, is this principle? Newton himself could not prove more ingenious than you.



Philo: lhat where several instances are observed to be similar, the un¬ known will also be found similar. Thus, if we see the limbs of a human body, we conclude that it is also attended with a human head, though hid from us. Demea: And how, pray, does this principle concern Cleanthes’ argu¬ ment? Philo: If we survey the universe, so far as it falls under our knowledge, it bears a great resemblance to an animal or organized body, and seems actuated with a like principle of life and motion. A continual circulation of matter in it produces no disorder ; a continual waste in every part of it is incessantly repaired; the closest sympathy is perceived throughout the entire system; and each part or member, in performing its proper offices, operates both to its own preserva¬ tion and to that of the whole. The world, therefore, I infer is an animal, and the Deity is the soul of the world, actuating it, and actuated by it. Cleanthes: This theory, I own, has never before occurred to me, though a pretty natural one; and I cannot readily, upon so short an exam¬ ination and reflection, deliver any opinion with regard to it. Philo: You are very scrupulous indeed. Were I to examine any system of yours, I should not have acted with half that caution and reserve in starting objections and difficulties to it. However, if anything occur to you, you will oblige us by proposing it. Cleanthes: Why then, it seems to me that, though the world does, in many circumstances, resemble an animal body; yet is the analogy also defective in many circumstances the most material: no organ of sense; no seat of thought or reason; no one precise origin of motion and action. In short, it seems to bear a stronger resem¬ blance to a vegetable than to an animal. Philo: But if the universe bears a greater likeness to animal bodies and to vegetables than to the works of human art, it is more probable that its cause resembles the cause of the former than of the latter, and its origin ought rather to be ascribed to generation or vegeta¬ tion than to reason or design. Demea: Pray open up this argument a little farther. For I do not rightly apprehend it, in that concise manner in which you have expressed it. Philo: Our friend Cleanthes, as you have heard, asserts, that since no question of fact can be proved otherwise than by experience, the existence of a Deity admits not of proof from any other medium. The world, says he, resembles the works of human contrivance: therefore its cause must also resemble that of the other. I affirm that there are other parts of the universe (besides the machines of

Hume’s Argument from Design


human invention) which bear still a greater resemblance to the fabric of the world, and which therefore afford a better conjecture concerning the universal origin of their system. These parts are animals and vegetables. The world plainly resembles more an animal or a vegetable, than it does a watch or a knitting-loom. Its cause, therefore, it is more probable, resembles the cause of the former. The cause of the former is generation or vegetation. The cause, therefore, of the world, we may infer to he some thing similar or analogous to generation or vegetation. Demea: But how is it conceivable that the world can arise from any thing similar to vegetation or generation? Philo: Very easily. In like manner as a tree sheds its seeds into the neighbouring fields, and produces other trees; so also the great vegetable, the world, or this planetary system, produces within itself certain seeds which, being scattered into the surrounding chaos, vegetate into new worlds. A comet, for instance, is the seed of a world. Or if, for the sake of variety, we should suppose this world to be an animal 5 a comet is the egg of this animal 5 and in like manner as an ostrich lays its egg in the sand, which — Demea: I understand you. But what wild, arbitrary suppositions are these? What data have you for such extraordinary conclusions? And is the slight, imaginary resemblance of the world to a vege¬ table or an animal sufficient to establish the same inference with regard to both ? Philo: Right! This is the topic on which I have all along insisted. I have still assented that we have no data to establish any system of cos¬ mogony. But if we must needs fix on some hypothesis 5 by what rule, pray, ought we to determine our choice? Is there any other rule than the greater similarity of the objects compared? And does not a plant or an animal, which springs from vegetation or genera¬ tion, bear a stronger resemblance to the world than does any arti¬ ficial machine, which arises from reason or design ? Demea: But what is this vegetation and generation of which you talk? Can you explain their operations, and anatomize that fine internal substance, on which they depend? Philo: As much, at least, as Cleanthes can explain the operations of reason, or anatomize that internal structure, on which it depends. These words generation, reason mark only certain powers and energies in nature, whose effects are known but whose essence is incomprehensible 5 and one of these principles, more than the other, has no privilege for being made a standard to the whole of nature. Nor is it less intelligible or less conformable to experience to say, that the world arose by vegetation from a seed shed by



another world, than to say that it arose from a divine reason or contrivance, according to the sense in which Cleanthes under¬ stands it. Demea: But methinks, if the world had a vegetative quality, and could sow the seeds of new worlds into the infinite chaos, this power would still be an additional argument for design in its Author. For whence could arise so wonderful a faculty but from design? Or how could order spring from any thing which perceives not that order which it bestows? Philo: You need only look round you to satisfy yourself with regard to this question. A tree bestows order and organization on that tree which springs from it, without knowing the order: an animal, in the same manner, on its offspring: a bird on its nest. To say that all this order in animals and vegetables proceeds ultimately from design is begging the question. But farther, Demea 5 this objection which you urge can never be made use of by Cleanthes without renouncing a defence which he has already made against one of my objections. When I enquired concerning the cause of that supreme reason and intelligence into which he resolves everything, he told me that the impossibility of satisfying such enquiries could never be admitted as an objection in any species of philosophy. We must stop somewhere, says he 5 nor is it ever within the reach of human capacity to explain ultimate causes, or show the last connections of any objects. It is sufficient if the steps, so far as we go, are supported by experience and observa¬ tion. Now, that vegetation and generation, as well as reason, are experienced to be principles of order in nature is undeniable. If I rest my system of cosmogony on the former, preferably to the latter, it is at my choice. The matter seems entirely arbitrary. And when Cleanthes asks me what is the cause of my great vegetative or generative faculty, I am equally entitled to ask him the cause of his great reasoning principle. Judging by our limited and imper¬ fect experience, generation has some privileges above reason: for we see every day the latter arise from the former, never the former from the latter. Compare, I beseech you, the consequences on both sides. The world, say I, resembles an animal, therefore it is an animal, there¬ fore it arose from generation. The steps, I confess, are wide 5 yet there is some small appearance of analogy in each step. The world, says Cleanthes, resembles a machine, therefore it is a machine, therefore it arose from design. The steps are here equally wide, and the analogy less striking. And if he pretends to carry on my hypothesis a step farther, and to infer design or reason from the


Hume’s Argument from Design great principle of generation, on which I insist; I may, with better authority, use the same freedom to push farther his hypothesis, and infer a divine generation or theogony from his principle of reason. For reason, in innumerable instances, is observed to arise from the principle of generation, and never to arise from any other principle. The Brahmins assert that the world arose from an infinite spider who spun this whole complicated mass from his bowels, and anni¬ hilates afterwards the whole or any part of it by absorbing it again and resolving it into his own essence. Here is a species of cosmo¬ gony which appears to us ridiculous $ because a spider is a little contemptible animal whose operation we are never likely to take for a model of the whole universe. But still, here is a new species of analogy, even in our globe. And were there a planet wholly in¬ habited by spiders (which is very possible) this inference would there appear as natural and irrefragable as that which in our planet ascribes the origin of all things to design and intelligence, as explained by Cleanthes. Why an orderly system may not be spun from the belly as well as from the brain, it will be difficult for him to give a satisfactory reason.

Cleanthes: I must confess, Philo, that your fertility of invention is so great that I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself unable, in a sudden, to solve regularly such out of the way difficulties as you incessantly start upon me 5 though I clearly see, in general, their fallacy and error. You must be sensible that common sense and reason is entirely against you, and that such whimsies as you have delivered may puzzle, but never can convince us.



Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters In MY ARTICLE ‘Hume and Isaac de Pinto’1 I mentioned that, while attacking Hume’s

economic theories,

Pinto had

noted that


services essentiels qu’il [Hume] m’a rendus depuis a Londres, lui donnent sur ma reconnoissance les droits les plus legitimes.’2 I suggested that this might refer to Hume’s role in obtaining a pension from the East India Company in 1767. Documents found in the records of the India Company, the British Library and the archives of the Duke of Bedford make clear what these services were, and provide an interest¬ ing picture of British affairs concerning the government and the East India Company. Hume had met the Dutch Jewish economist and philosopher Isaac de Pinto in Paris in 1764. Pinto (1717—87) was a member of one of the richest Portuguese Jewish families in Amsterdam. He received an excellent secular education, and then began as an adviser to King William iv, a leader of the Dutch West India Company, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Amsterdam Synagogue. He lent huge sums to both the Dutch and the English states. After the death of King William IV and the financial crisis of the Dutch West India Company, Pinto was in financial difficulties, and went to Paris. There he wrote three important works, Essai sur luxe (1762 and 1764), an answer to Voltaire’s anti-Semitic views, Reflexions critiques sur le premier chapitre du VIIe volume des oeuvres de M de Voltaire (1762), and the basic draft of his Traite de la circulation et du Credit, which was passed around in manuscript until published in 1771. While in Paris, Pinto had helped the British government in the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris the year before, and he was trying to get a pension or reward from the British government. Hume’s letter of 14 March 1764 (Letters, i. 423-4) indicates Pinto had been severely badgering Hume about the matter. As I have shown in the previous article, in spite of this they became good friends, and discussed their disagreements about economics frequently. Documents I found in 1970, including four unpublished letters of Hume and the original of a fifth, show how it happened that Pinto eventually was awarded a pension by the East India Company. There are quite a few versions of the nature of Pinto’s contribution to British diplomacy, including Pinto’s ‘Memoriale’ of 1776 (which I think is a quite unreliable account, differing significantly from the

1 00

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters

available facts). In recent studies by Lucy Sutherland and Cecil Roth it is said that at a crucial moment in January 1763, when the negotia¬ tions between England and France were on the verge of breaking down, Pinto gave certain information and advice to the Duke of Bedford, which led to changes being made in the treaty. These changes were very important in determining what areas of India came under the control of the East India Company. These sources led, according to Sutherland, to Pinto’s earning ‘a lavish reward from the English Com¬ pany some years later’.3 Roth stated that ‘his services in effecting a favorable arrangement regarding India in the Treaty of Paris was so considerable that he was lavishly rewarded by the East India Company’ .4 Pinto himself, as we shall see, held that he had done almost as much for British India as had Lord Clive. Two separate chains of events which came together in 1767 ended in Pinto receiving a pension from the India Company. Within the India Company there was a tremendous struggle going on between Clive and Sulivan, its then chairman, for control. Part of the battle centered on who was at fault in botching the negotiations up to January 1763. Lucy Sutherland has detailed the struggle in which Clive won out over Suli¬ van in 1764, and went back to India with all the authority he wanted.5 The great ‘civil war in the company’ left its wounds, and in 1767 Pinto’s arrival in London, along with Clive’s return from India, threat¬ ened to reopen the fray.6 Involved in all this was the British govern¬ ment’s attempt to gain control of the India Company’s activities, which I believe in good measure accounts for the support Pinto received from so many important government officials. The other chain of events was what was happening in Pinto’s life. Hume’s letter indicates that in

1764, Pinto continued badgering

British officials for a reward, and got nowhere.7 Apparently, Pinto, who had been enormously rich, had suffered great financial losses in the troubles of the Dutch India Company, and was on his uppers.8 He seems to have given up the struggle to get his reward from the British Em¬ bassy in Paris, and to have returned to Holland in 1765. There, a chance meeting with the British ambassador, Sir Joseph Yorke, started up the quest for a pension again. Pinto excitedly wrote to his friend, Count Bentinck, on 20 July 1765, that he had met Sir Joseph Yorke on the Langevoorhaut in The Hague, and that the ambassador wanted to see what he had written on the subject of the finances of England. Pinto let him read the manuscript and Yorke ‘m’a proteste en etre enchante’. The manuscript was Pinto’s Traite de Circulation et de Credit, in which he developed the theory of what modern commercial capitalism was about. They spent two hours together in Yorke’s office, an d Pinto told him of the services he had rendered to the British govern-



merit in Paris. Yorke offered to help, feeling that the recent changes in the British government would make it a propitious moment to try to get compensation. Yorke suggested Pinto write to Hume’s former superior in Paris, Lord Hertford, to get him to recommend his case to his brother, Hume’s next employer, General Conway, the Secretary of State. Pinto urged Count Bentinck, who was related to the Duke of Portland, to write to his friends in England.9 He sent Count Bentinck an extravagant memorial stating his version of what he had done for England,10 and asked his advice as to whether he [Pinto] should go to England right away for he did not want to go unless there were a very good chance of success. A year later Pinto wrote Count Bentinck men¬ tioning the changes in the British government, and his hopes that Lord Shelburne, whose brother he knew in Paris, would help him.11 (This letter also indicates that though Pinto was going broke, he had just held an elegant dinner party for the Moroccan ambassador.) Pinto finally left for England in June 1767. Apparently it was Sir Joseph Yorke who arranged the affair. In a letter to his oldest brother, the Earl of Hardwicke, on 25 June 1767,12 he wrote, ‘I shall take the liberty too to throw the author of those papers (tho’ a Jew) wch I sent formerly to Ld. Rockingham in your way. He will amuse you.’13 Two days later Sir Joseph wrote out a formal letter of introduction of Pinto to the Earl, mentioning that Pinto understood English, and ‘is well acquainted (perhaps better than most people) with the Interior of our Finances & our Commercial Interests’. He also mentioned Pinto’s claim on England, his role in the Treaty of 1765.14 Pinto was in England by early July. The first mention of him that I have found is in a letter of 12 July 1767 of Richard Neville (who had been the Duke of Bedford’s secretary in the Paris negotiations and was now an MP)15 to Joseph Salvador, a leading English Jewish merchantbanker. Salvador had been involved with a huge loan of £6,600,000 Pinto had made in 1759. During the 1760s, Salvador was an agent of the British Treasury in arranging its finances. He became the first Jewish director of the East India Company, and there functioned as the representative of the government’s interest. Like Pinto, his economic fortunes were sinking, partly as a result of the Lisbon earthquake (he owned a good deal of Lisbon real estate) and partly as a result of the troubles of the Dutch India Company.16 Neville reported that he had learned from a letter of Salvador’s of 8 July 1767 ‘that Mr- de Pinto is arrived in England, and that now that the E. I. Company are rewarding those who have done eminent services, it is the Time for that Gentleman to make his known’.17 For the next couple of weeks the only sign of Pinto’s activities appears in Sir Joseph Yorke’s letters to his brothers, the Earl of Hardwicke, and

1 02

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters

Charles Yorke, the Attorney-General, later Lord Chancellor. In spite of the introductions, Pinto could not make contact with the Earl, who was in and out of London at the time, and apparently reported this to the British ambassador at The Hague. On 14 July 1767, Sir Joseph wrote aeain to the Earl and told him that Pinto’s ‘Services, which are more than I told, as he can prove under Mr. Neville’s hand, by order of the D. of Bedford, without him the whole world would have been imper¬ fect’.18 A week later Sir Joseph told the Earl that since Pinto could not locate him, Pinto was now banking on Lord Clive, who had just returned from India, for help.19 Soon thereafter Pinto found Charles Yorke who, along with David Hume, was to be his great benefactor and supporter. A letter from Sir Joseph to Charles Yorke of 31 July 1767 indicates Pinto had already become a great nuisance to the Attorney-General. Sir Joseph explained that he had tried to keep Pinto away from Charles, but Pinto insisted on a letter from the British ambassador to his brother. So Sir Joseph wrote that ‘Mr- Pinto is a lively ingenious Man’ who had done great things for England, was promised a reward, and got nothing. ‘He & his family but a few years since were in the greatest opulence at Amsterdam, & lived like Princes whom they received & entertained. Misfortunes in funds affected their fortunes & reduced them. They have however kept up a decency & regard which does them honor.’ Sir Joseph’s letter goes on to indicate that his brother Charles was already working on the case. Then Sir Joseph offered what was apparently Pinto’s saving grace; that is, no matter how much of a nuisance he was about his demand for a pension— ‘if I was at the head of the Treasury I don’t know a Man I should like to Converse with more than this Gentleman.’20 The campaign to get Pinto a pension from the India Company went into high gear in August 1767. Pinto marshalled his allies, starting with Salvador and Neville, who got Lord Clive and the Duke of Bedford in¬ volved. Neville prepared testimonials for the Duke of Bedford to send.21 Salvador arranged for Pinto to see Clive, and finally for Clive to write a testimonial. Charles Yorke played the principal role at this point, and throughout the whole subsequent development of the case. By 5 August Salvador had sent Clive a copy of the letter Charles Yorke was planning to send to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the India Company, Thomas Rous.22 On 12 August 1767, after meeting with Rous and another Director, Charles Yorke personally transcribed Pinto’s then version of his Memoire of his services, and sent it to Rous, with the advice that it should not be shown around widely.23 The letter is the first sign of some touchy problems involved, one that the issue of who botched the treaty negotiations might rise again, the next that Clive was a supporter of Pinto (and hence Clive’s enemies had better beware),


and the third, a minor motif in the affair, that rewarding Pinto might result in other foreigners helping Britain and the India Company. This document was sent soon by Pinto to Clive.24 Pinto’s frenetic letters to Charles Yorke give a blow-by-blow account of the affair, and when correlated with the India Company’s records and the archives of the Duke of Bedford, unravel the drama that en¬ sued. After Charles Yorke sent Pinto’s Memorial to the India Com¬ pany, Pinto started getting the Foreign Office (the Secretaries of State) into the affair. He went to see Hume’s superior, General Conway, on 12 August 1767 and got General Conway to involve his brother, Lord Hertford, who had been the British ambassador in Paris in 1764.25 A few days later Pinto was back to see General Conway, and also had support from the Dutch ambassador, Count Welderen.26 By 20 August 1767, Pinto was confident enough that he asked the Duke of Bedford what he should ask for from the India Company.27 His supporters from the highest ranks of the British government and society were sending in their testimonials to the India Company.28 At this point in late August 1767, Hume (probably still recovering from the Rousseau affair which had just ended) enters the story. Hume, in a later letter we shall produce below, told the Duke of Bedford that since he had known Pinto well in Paris, and since he was recommended by Lord Hertford and Neville ‘he naturally address’d himself to me’.29 In a gossipy letter of Pinto’s to Charles Yorke of 26 August 1767, Pinto said he had received a letter from Hume reporting that General Con¬ way had spoken to the other Secretary of State, Lord Shelburne. So Pinto went to see the Lord, whose brother, like Hume, was ‘fort de mes amis’. Then he went to see the Duke of Bedford. He discussed strategy with the Duke and Lord Shelburne. The problem was whether to air the case by asking for a General Court examination of Pinto’s claim (where the stockholders could participate) or more discreetly to let the matter be handled by the Directors of the India Company. Lord Shelburne favoured a General Court, regardless of the fur that might fly if the mess of the negotiations of 1762-3 were aired. The Duke of Bedford had already received a letter from Chairman Rous of the India Com¬ pany, saying the Company wanted to avoid the publicity of a General Court. The Duke was most concerned that Wood, who had been a secret adviser in the India Company’s negotiations in 1762, not be blamed for what had ensued. Finally Pinto reported he had a lot of Dutch supporters to throw into the fray, including the late Stadhouder and his widow, the daughter of George ill.30 With the case reaching such proportions, Pinto went the next day to see General Conway, and ‘il avoit meme deja donne order a Mr Hume (qui est fort de mes amis) de minuter une lettre energique pour Mr

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters


Rous’.31 The following day, 28 August 1767, Hume sent this letter (hitherto unpublished) to Chairman Rous. Dear Sir Allow me to recommend to your Patronage, M. Pinto, whom I venture to call my Friend, tho’ a Jew. dhis Descendant of Abra¬ ham, Isaac, and Jacob happened to be at Paris when the Duke of Bedford was negotiating the Treaty of Peace, and he was very useful to his Grace on that Occasion, particularly in Points that regarded the East India Company. This is a Fact I am [proof deleted] well acquainted with; and the Duke is very ready to acknowledge it. Mr. Pinto is now solliciting a Reward from the Company for his Services, an Annuity wou’d he most proper and his Friends, for many Reasons, think that the Affair had better pass by the Directors than by the General Court. I am perswaded that M. Pinto was the means of saving to the Company a Revenue of 700.000 Pounds a Year. Wou’d it be too much to proffer him the 1400th Part of that Sum? Lord Hertford from his Knowledge of Mr. Pinto’s Services, interests himself very much in his behalf. I am Dear Sir Your most obedient and most humble Servant David Hume Little Warwick Street 28 Aug. 176732 Hume’s letter included all the crucial points; what Pinto had done, the need for discretion, who his supporters were, and how much he should be awarded. (It is curious that in all the correspondence in the case, only Pinto’s two good friends, Hume and Sir Joseph Yorke, ever mentioned that he was Jewish.) The same day Hume sent in his letter, Pinto wrote Charles Yorke that Neville had told him that he did not want any accusations raised against Mr. Wood. Pinto professed to be ignorant of what was at issue. Pinto also reported that Neville suggested that he [Pinto] be made the agent for the India Company in Holland, and that the Duke of Bedford would like this too.33 This possibility will loom larger later on inthe story. On the basis of all these activities in August 1767 the Pinto documents and all the testimonials were formally submitted to the India Company, including a very flowery letter by Pinto in English and a Secret Mem¬ orial.34 The Secret Memorial goes over the whole ‘Prejudical Mistake which had crept into the Preliminaries’ of the treaty, and claimed the problem ‘is known to all the World’. English India would have been ceded back to France. The Directors tried to do something, but never made clear what was at issue, so as not to alert the French. Everyone thought the Directors were exaggerating a small matter. Then Pinto



appeared. Neville, then Secretary of the embassy, had much reliance on him from his knowledge of India, and consulted him. Pinto showed him that the alternative was ‘either to see the Peace absolutely en¬ tangled, or to sacrifice the Interests of the Company’. From this the Duke of Bedford came to see what the India Company was agitated about. ‘Pinto opened the Eyes of the Ministers who consulted him.’ He showed them from French documents what was involved and pre¬ pared a memorandum on the subject, explaining that £700.000 yearly was at stake, and offering a way to change the treaty, and to get the French to accept the changes. ‘Before Pinto’s Memorials everything seemed impossible, yet after the Method he pland everything became easy.’ Neville told many that the government and the East India Com¬ pany ‘could not enough repay Pinto the Zeal and the Services he had rendered them. . . . Pinto had unravelled this chaos and facilitated the great Work of peace.’ Therefore Neville and the Duke of Bedford were providing testimonials so that Pinto would be properly rewarded. At the end of the Secret Memorials, four ‘Essential Remarks’ are added which go over some of the same ground. One point Pinto adds is ‘I proved that if the Court of France did not satisfy the English East India Company on this Article, there was great fear that the War in Indostan would begin again.’35 On 13 September 1767 Pinto wrote Charles Yorke that he had seen Chairman Rous and two other Directors, and had seen the effects of Yorke’s efforts. Sir Joseph, he said, was in favor of obtaining a twentyfive-year annuity as the reward. Also, Pinto now had some Dutch testimonials to send on too.36 The confusion about whether to appeal to a General Court or the Directors, whether to keep Wood’s role in the negotiations out of the argument, came to a head the next day. Chairman Rous wrote Charles Yorke, who was then on vacation: Sir The sincere desire I have to act in obedience to your inclination made me willing to look on Mr Pinto’s demand in the most favour¬ able light, & should be glad was it in my power consistent with my duty to promote his expectation 5 with this view I had recourse to the proceedings in respect to the Negotiation of Peace, so far as it regards the India Company; by which it seems to appear that Mr. Pinto can have no claim on the Company, as no attention was paid to the Memorial (Copies of which I desired Mr.

Dudley [a

Director] to put into your hands) if any reward is due, it must be from from [sic] Government. The Persons immediately concerned in that dark transaction, and Author of the difficulties created, I understand have now taken up this affair as a party matter, and

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters


would be the first to impeach us, were we to do what they seem to desire upon no other principle than doing mischief. Happy I should be in an opportunity of explaining myself farther on this subject to you, as I shall on all occasions in giving the most substantial proof in my power that I have the Honor to be with the most profound respect Sir Your most devoted Obedient Humble Servant Tho. Rous37 Rous’s letter, full of innuendo, suggests that he saw a plot. Clive appears to be the villain behind it all, trying to overthrow the Directors. And if Pinto were given the pension, all sorts of trouble could result. In spite of Rous’s rejection of Pinto’s claim, the bureaucracy of the India Company started processing it two days later. The Court Minutes of 16 September 1767 acknowledge receipt of Pinto’s papers.38 Sir Joseph Yorke, from Holland, not knowing the case had been rejected, wrote Charles Yorke that Pinto should be given £400-500, and this would encourage other foreigners to help Britain. He also mentioned that Pinto needed the money. ‘He has no Children, but his Brother has some amiable Daughters whose fortune he wishes to mend, & that makes him sollicitous, for as to himself he could rub on the Dregs of Life with4 troubling anybody.’ This may have been Sir Joseph’s view. Meanwhile, however, Pinto had become apoplectic in London. Charles Yorke was still on vacation. Pinto wrote him on 22 September 1767 that Hume had seen several Directors, including Sir George Colebrooke, who soon looms large in the story (Lucy Sutherland described him as ‘the very rich and enterprising (though reckless) banker’).40 They all held that Pinto’s services were to the government, not the India Company. (It was to be the India Company’s contention that Wood had found the problem in the draft of the treaty more than a month before Pinto arrived on the scene, and had explained it to Lord Egremont, the then Secretary of State, and pressed for the needed changes.) Pinto saw Neville and tried to improve his memory of what happened to buttress his case. He also mobilized the Duke of Grafton, the Duke of Portland, and Lord Shelburne into action on his behalf.41 By 28 September 1767 Pinto reported to Charles Yorke that the problem was that the India Company was afraid of being blamed for mishandling the Treaty. By now Pinto had many noblemen, British and Dutch, pushing his case, including an admiral. One of the Direc¬ tors came to see Pinto, and this seems to have resulted in Pinto’s writing an ‘Eclairissement’ (elucidation) as to what had happened in 1765, and his role in it. This document somewhat alters the description



of the negotiations before Pinto rescued them from disaster.42 It was submitted to the Directors the next day, with a letter to Rous.43 The India Company’s Court Minutes acknowledged receipt on 50 September 1767, noting that the matter had been referred to the Committee on Correspondence.44 Rous wrote Pinto that his Memorial would be pre¬ sented to the Directors45 on the same day the India Company lists having fourteen documents about Pinto, starting with Charles Yorke’s letter of 12 August 1767, Pinto’s Memorial, a translation of same, a letter from the Duke of Bedford g August 1767, a letter from Joseph Salvador, August 1767, the letter of Hume’s quoted earlier, a letter from Lord Clive 1 September 1767, a letter from Pinto enclosing a letter from Clive, a Memorial from Pinto, a Secret Memorial from Pinto, a letter of the Duke of Bedford to Neville, another letter from Pinto, Pinto’s Elucidation, and Rous’s acknowledgement to Pinto.46 The report of the Correspondence Committee shows that on 2 October 1767 the members had read the letters of the Duke of Bedford, Neville, Charles Yorke, and Clive, as well as their own secret papers on the negotiations in Paris. Then they reported ‘This being an Affair of great consequence’, they wanted a joint committee of Correspondence and Treasury to deal with the matter.47 So, in spite of Rous’s initial efforts to get rid of the case, with its fear¬ ful possibilities for the India Company, the company continued to pursue the matter in early October. Sir George Colebrooke, who was on this joint committee, wrote to a Mr Nutshall on 2 October 1767 laying out the problem. The records showed that the India Company in November and December 1762 suggested changes in the Treaty to the British government. He asked whether these suggestions had been received by the negotiators in Paris, or ‘whether they slept in Lord Egremont’s & Mr. Wood’s pockets?’ Pinto may have made the Duke of Bedford and other negotiators realize what was at issue (namely whether the French or the British could control Bengal). Upon y whole, if y alterations suggested by y English Company did not reach Paris, and the Duke of Bedford had no others lights y11 those he had from Pinto, in that case surely Pinto deserving handsomely of y publick & y Company. Again if y alterations did reach y Duke of Bedford — But in y course of y Negociation, Pinto furnished y Duke of Bedford with Lights & enable Him to under¬ stand the question y better to withstand the Sophistry of French, and to fix y time of the Commencement of y Hostilities to y begin¬ ning of y year 1749 I say if y Latter was y case (y druth of which the Duke of Bedford and Neville seem to Certifie) I shall be of opinion to give y Man something for his pains & assuidity & Zeal to Serve y Company.

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters


So Nutshall was asked to find out the truth of the affair, what Neville and Bedford now said was Pinto’s role, and whether they would have done as well without him.48 In the course of the next couple of weeks Rous went to see Pinto to try to work something out 5 Neville sent two letters to Sir George Colebrooke, one indicating he had doubts about some of Pinto’s claims, and had asked him to revise his statements, but still generally supporting him, the other just supporting him. And the Duke of Grafton talked to the Directors.49 While Pinto continued lining up his case, and urging Charles Yorke to take various steps in the affair, the crucial turning point came as the result of Hume’s involvement. Hume had talked to several Directors, including Colebrooke about Pinto. In mid-October he re¬ ceived a letter from Colebrooke (who presumably had received a report from Nutshall) that the Directors had decided Pinto had no claim. Colebrooke, who was sympathetic to Pinto, and had become his friend during the affair, then asked Hume to consult the government records to see what evidence they revealed.50 On 22 October 1767 Pinto reported to Charles Yorke that he had been at General Conway’s office that morning and there Hume had told him he, Hume, had been ordered to examine the records 5 he had found evidence of the importance of Pinto’s services, namely, that Pinto had saved the India Company, and so he was drafting a report to the effect.51 A later letter of Pinto’s to Charles Yorke of 1 November 1767 explains that Hume showed Pinto his draft. Pinto wanted some changes made to reinforce his case, which Hume made. Hume also agreed to suppress a letter of Lord Egremont’s (not found), which obviously would not have helped. Pinto realized the letter could not he ignored, but it could be omitted at this point.52 As a result of the collaboration, Hume wrote his letter, sending it first to the Duke of Bedford for his approval. He wrote the Duke (in a hitherto unpublished letter): My Lord, As I had been much acquainted with Mr. Pinto at Paris, and as he had been warmly recommended to Lord Hertford by Mr. Nev¬ ille, he naturally address’d himself to me, in his present Application for a Recompense from the East India Company. I accordingly spoke to several of the Directors, who were of my Acquaintance, and among other to Sir George Colebrooke. A few days ago, I receiv’d a letter from Sir George, informing me, that the Mistake with regard to the Epochs had been corrected by the Directors themselves, so early as the beginning of December 1762. He cou’d not therefore conceive, where M. Pinto’s Merit lay: but however desird me to consult the Letters in the Secretary’s Office, in order to learn whether the Ministry had neglected to transmit to your



Grace the Intelligence given by the East India Directors. I have accordingly perus’d them with some Care 5 and the Result is my enclos’d Letter to Sir George Colebrooke, which however, I thought it my Duty to communicate to your Grace before I sent it. If I have been guilty of any Mistake, your Grace will please to correct me; or if this Detail be any wise improper 5 it shall be entirely suppress’d and a general Testimony alone be given in M. Pinto’s Favour. I desire to lay hold of any Opportunity even the slightest, of expressing my sincere Regard and Attachment to your Grace. I have the Honour to be My Lord Your Grace’s most obedient and most humble Servant, David Hume

London 22 Oct. 176753

The Duke of Bedford answered on 25 October 1767 saying: Sir I am favour’d with your letter and am much obliged to you for sending me that to Sir George Colebrooke for my approbation be¬ fore you sent it to him. I have examined my Papers and find the state of the Case truly represented in your letter and consequently I have no objection to its being sent to him, in justification of Mr. Pinto’s merits towards the Company—I have in my possession the original Letter of Mr. Pinto’s to Mr. Neville date 20th Jan. 1765 — which was the first information I ever had of the utility of this alteration of Epoch’s to the East India Company. I would have wrote with my own hand, but my Eyes at present do not permit me to do more than sign my name. I am Sir Your obedient humble Servant54 With the Duke’s approval, Hume’s letter to Sir George Colebrooke was sent off along with the Duke’s. Hume’s is the most frequently re¬ produced of his letters. The text printed in Grieg, however (Letters, i.465-4), and there misdated 1764, is from a copy at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.55 The holograph copy is in the files of the India Company, though it is hard to tell which of the many scripts is the original, since the letter is the result of the joint efforts of Hume and Pinto. There are only slight differences in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviation between the published letter and the holograph, except for one place where in the holograph two words are missing which have been added from the printed copy. The holograph letter reads as follows: Secretary of State Office 22 Oct. 1767 Sir Since receiving your Favour, I have carefully perus’d all the


Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters Dispatches, that pass’d between the English Ministers and the Duke of Bedford, during his Grace’s Residence at Paris in the Years 1762 and 1763. I find, that the Paper you mention of the East India Company dated the 3d of Decr 1762, with the letter of the Chairman to Mr. Wood, was transmitted on the 6th, by Earl of Egremont to the Duke of Bedford. The Plan, therefore, of a new Epoch, namely, the first of January 1749, instead of the Commencement of Hostilities in that Year (the Epoch fix’d by the Preliminaries) came originally from the East India Company and from the English Ministers. But notwithstanding this Fact, I find, that Mr. Pinto’s Merits towards the Company are very consider¬ able; as they have always been represented by the Duke of Bedford and by Mr. Neville. For in the Letter from the Chairman to Mr. Wood, no other Reason is assign’d for the Change of Epoch, but the Danger of Dispute or Ambiguity concerning the Time of the Commencement of Hostilities. The Directors thought, with great Appearance of Reason, that, if they had discovered the real State of the Case to the Ministry, the Secret might have taken Air, and come to the Knowledge of the Enemy, who in that Case woud un¬ doubtedly have adherd with Firmness to the Epoch established by the Preliminaries. But tho’ this Reserve was founded on very plausible Grounds, the necessary Consequence was, that the Duke of Bedford, finding the French Ministers exclaim against all Inno¬ vations in the Preliminaries [end of first page. At bottom is written ‘Sir George Colebrooke’ ] despaird at first of obtaining the Point; and not been apprizd of its Importance, thought, that he would be oblig’d to sign the Treaty, without making any Alteration in this Particular. In this critical Moment the Duke consulted Mr. Pinto, who having, it seems, some Connexions in India, and having very lately perus’d Dupleix’s Memoirs, was perfectly well acquainted with the State of Affairs in that Part of the World. He first told his Grace, that Hostilities between the Companies did not commence till the 15 of July 1749 ; and that, therefore, had the Epoch fix’d by the Preliminaries, been follow’d in the definitive Treaty, all the Acquisitions of the French East India Company, preceding that Date must have been restord to them. But on the first of July in the same Year, the Subah of the Carnatic (if I remember right) had made to that Company very large Grants to the annual Amount, as Mr. Pinto calculates them, of 700,000 Pounds 5 all of which, if the Epoch was chang’d, must become the Property of the English Company. The Duke of Bedford, now sensible of the Importance of the Dispute, which was unknown to the French Ministers, insisted strenuously on the Change of Epoch, and pre-



vaild. This is Mr. Pinto’s real Merit, as I apprehend it: He did not point out the new Epoch, but he discoverd [its importance in print ] 5 and preferd the Interests of England in a very material Point to those of France. At the same time, the Duke of Bedford’s Vigilance deserves great Praise, for seeking and finding the best Intelligence from all Quarters, and for knowing how to profit by it. I have the Honour to be, with great Regard Sir Your most obedient and most humble Servant David Hume56 Hume’s version became the official history of the affair, and even¬ tually with the Duke of Bedford’s answer to Hume endorsing his picture of what had happened, became the principal basis for awarding Pinto the pension. Immediately after Hume had sent a copy of his letter to the Duke of Bedford, Pinto sent several copies to Charles Yorke. Four exist in his papers, but Pinto’s letters indicate even more were sent to be used where they could do the most good. Lord Shelburne received at least one as did Neville. From the India Company’s records, it is hard to tell when they received the official text. Pinto wrote Charles Yorke, send¬ ing him the text, indicating a slight disappointment with it, namely that it dealt only with Pinto’s contribution regarding fixing the date, and not his other services (presumably in getting the French to sign the revised treaty). However, Hume had explained to Pinto that since he had only been asked about the date, he could not go into other matters.57 With Hume’s letter, and the Duke of Bedford’s support of it (which was also sent to various people), Pinto was now ready to press on vigor¬ ously, and set to work on a new memorial to the India Company to be endorsed by all of his allies in the government as well as Clive. In the meantime, Sir Joseph Yorke in The Hague, not knowing that the turning point had come, was still encouraging his brother Charles and Pinto to fight on. From the information he had received from Pinto and his brother Abraham, which was by now far behind the events, he pressed for making both Pintos agents of the India Company. On 23 October 1767 he wrote: You have taken so much pains, & have done so much Service to Mr. Pinto, that I am unwilling to trouble you any more about them especially as I know how much clearer you must see into that whole transaction than I can do. This does not however prevent the Brother, who remains here, from Conversing with me upon the subject, & communicating to me the Projects and Reveries of the Brother at London. I see by the last letters that the idea of a General Court is very properly & prudentially laid aside, & that the Directors seemed disposed to make Isaac de Pinto (who is with

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters


you) their Agent in Holland with a decent Salary. This scheme I think no bad one, provided it could be turn’d with propriety to their advantage. I mean if the Company would promise to give M. Pinto their Commissions in Holland & to put the Brother here, Mr. Abraham Pinto into the Commission [underlined in the original] so that the longest liver might have the enjoyment. I should not say this if I did not think the Brother here fully equal with him you know, & as he has a large & an amiable family, & Isaac has none, the view in England of them all was to favour the family of Abraham. They look upon you with reason as a Prophet in Israel, & when Isaac feels he goes astray, he launches into exclamations for your Return. As to the Interests of the Company, I am sure they will he advanced by the protection they grant these people, & that they may draw great lights & informations from them by showing the Light of their Countenance $ they have wide Con¬ nexions, know the fort & the feeble of Commercial affairs, & can furnish great lights hereafter upon any schemes or projects which run Counter to our Interests. Our Company is become so Powerful a Repuhlick, that they will do well to provide themselves with people capable of giving them Intelligence. I really write this for the quiet of my own Conscience as much as for the Interests of the Parties Concerned.58 I have found no evidence that the India Company was ever interested in having either Pinto as an agent, but Isaac obviously liked the idea (though in his 1776 Memorial he said he had turned down the offer because he was a Dutch citizen).59 Pinto heard from Joseph Yorke and was obviously sufficiently carried away by the ambassador’s views, to write on 26 October 1767 to Charles Yorke that the India Company owed him almost as much as it owed Lord Clive. Then he continued to line up support, this time with Lord Hertford.60 Two days later he excitedly wrote Charles Yorke that he had received a note from Hume, which he copied off (hitherto unpublished): Mr. Hume begs to have the favor of seeing Mr. Pinto to morrow forenoon, at the Secretary of States office in Cleveland Row St. James, where he shall have the Pleasure of communicating to him some good News. This is the reason why he has not sent him the paper to day. Wednesday P.S. if Mr. Pinto comes to end of the Town today Mr. Hume will be happy to see him.61 Pinto rushed off to see Hume, who told him that the Minister was so struck by the importance of his services, that a way was being sought to authorize the Directors to give him a more ample gratification.62



The Minister referred to seems to be Lord Shelburne. We next learn that Shelburne had seen Hume’s letter to Colebrooke, and had read Pinto’s Memorial, and wanted to help. Since Shelburne had not been in office back in 1763, he first sent Pinto a testimonial and then decided he had to change it to base his support on hearsay (Hume’s and the Duke of Bedford’s views) rather than direct evidence.63 In a letter (also hitherto unpublished) Hume explained the matter to Pinto: Dear Sir I had to day an Opportunity of being with Lord Shelburne after I saw you: he was much pleased to hear your Affairs were in so good a way 5 but there was only a passage in his letter to you which he wishes to alter. Instead of saying by which it appears very clearly that you render'd etc he would rather say, which confirms the Duke of Bedford's Testimony that you render'd etc. This Expression has the same force in your favour ; but my Lord thinks it is more con¬ formable to exact truth, than that which he made use of. He desires therefore that you would be so good as to send him back the letter, and he will immediately return it to you with this altera¬ tion. I am with great truth & sincerity Dr Sir: Your most Obed1 & most humble Serv* David Hume Little Warwick Street 4 Novr, 176764 Hume, having straightened out Lord Shelburne’s letter, apparently had a second version sent to Pinto, which included an appeal to Hume’s official version of Pinto’s contribution. Pinto sent this version off to Charles Yorke. Hume also showed Pinto the Duke of Bedford’s letter to Hume.65 With all of this support, Pinto started enthusiastically draft¬ ing a new Memorial to the India Company. He sent a draft on 6 Nov¬ ember 1767 to Charles Yorke, which begins: The New Testimonials which prove the Importance of my Services drawn by Mr. Hume from the Archives of this Kingdom, together with the Sanction of the Secretary of State of that department, the Polite and honorable letter which Lord Shelburne vouchsafed to give me on this Subject.66 He also listed the new letter of the Duke of Bedford, letters of Neville’s and the Duke of Grafton. On the basis of this ammunition, Pinto now escalated his claim saying that he had saved the India Company over £1,000,000 per annum. In an ensuing draft which he sent Charles Yorke on 11 November 1767 he added General Conway, Lord Clive, Charles Yorke, and a great number of Principal Proprietors to those supporting him. He also put in the claim that he had not only helped

Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters


change the dates on the treaty, but also greatly contributed to obtaining the changes desired regarding Bengal and Orixa. He ended by assert¬ ing not only that he had saved the Company more than £1,000,000 annually, but also ‘[I] have prevented the fatal Consequences which threatened the Company had it not obtained what the Honble Directers have so justly demand [sic]’.67 This version allowed for both Pinto’s heroic role and also, indepen¬ dently, the India Company’s efforts to repair the treaty. Meanwhile Neville, who had earlier been somewhat dubious about what reward Pinto could legitimately get, now told him on 8 November 1767 not to compromise. After studying Hume’s letter to Colebrooke, the Duke of Bedford’s to Hume, and Lord Shelburne’s letter, Neville said he should stick to the demand for a £500 pension.68 The next day Hume told Pinto that the Directors now had all that they could possibly desire to act without difficulty, and to act generously.69 From Pinto’s vantage point, it must have looked as if the battle had been won. However, the Directors of the India Company did not act. On 13 November 1767 one of the Jewish Directors, Moses Franks, wrote Pinto as to what the latest snag was. After having seen Pinto, Franks had talked to Sir George Colebrooke.

‘It seems as if the

difficulty about acceding to your proposition is the doubt the directors themselves entertain of their having a power (as Sr George express’d it) of fixing their Seal to any annuity under the particular circumstances of your application.’ Thus, in spite of all the eminent supporters Pinto had, and Hume’s version of the official facts, the Company would not act unless Charles Yorke, the Attorney-General, ‘would decide upon this, and give it his absolute opinion’.70 The India Company, in other words, would have to be forced by government to award the pension, and wanted responsibility to rest on the government for the action. The next couple of weeks show constant efforts on Pinto’s part to get Charles Yorke to settle the affair. Pinto kept urging him to see various Directors and the chairman, and kept trying to arrange meetings with Yorke.71 The case dragged on, with the anxious Pinto obviously being a complete nudnick?2 Word got back to the instigator of Pinto’s visit to London, Sir Joseph Yorke, who on 20 November 1767 wrote the Earl of Hardwicke: Pray has my Mosaical friend Pinto yet had the honor of seeing you. I am sure he will be much flatter’d by it, & I think he would amuse you, by the Information he could give you upon the Finan¬ ces of France, Holland & England. He is an Enthusiast & has at present nothing in his head but the Services he has done of E.I. Company, which are indeed very Considerable but which [tire] one when too often repeated, he is liberal enough however to for-



get them in a short time, and he is so much obliged to Mr. Yorke that he would receive any one of the Family into the Synagogue with* Ceremony.73 Fortunately for Pinto, Sir Joseph continued to see his virtue in terms of his economic knowledge, no matter how much he badgered about the pension. The last week of November the pension affair was coming to its climax. Pinto was nervous because Chairman Rous seemed to be avoid¬ ing him. Other Directors told him that they would do what they could.74 Hume wrote him again, but the letter is missing.75 Sir George Colebrooke was still holding back, waiting for an official opinion from Charles Yorke as to whether the Directors could grant an annuity pen¬ sion. Pinto on 26 November 1767 begged Yorke to see Colebrooke right away.76 The next letter in Yorke’s papers, undated, thanks Yorke pro¬ fusely, so he must have given his opinion. But some new delays had set in. Pinto, seeing success imminent, started worrying about the terms of the pension. He wanted Yorke, Neville, and others to see that the pension started from the time the treaty was signed in 1763, that it would have a term of years continuing whether Pinto was alive or not. He also reported a new worry; he had been to see the Duke of Bedford 5 ‘il m’a combi e d’amide’. But the Duke also advised that Pinto get the pension confirmed by a general court of stockholders, so that the Directors could not take it away later. The fearful possibility the Duke raised was to lead to the last episode of the affair.77 On 3 December 1767 Sir George Colebrooke told Pinto confidentially that the India Company’s joint committee had decided to give him a pension of £500 for life, starting from March or September 1767, and that it would be all confirmed in a couple of days. Pinto wrote to the Duke of Bedford and to Charles Yorke, urging various Directors to put the starting date back to 1763.78 He told Yorke that Sir Joseph counted absolutely on this, and knew that his brother would make the Directors see reason. In the name of Sir Joseph, Pinto begged Charles Yorke to make a final effort. Pinto also got Charles Jenkinson, the Earl of Liver¬ pool and Chancellor of the Exchequer, to intercede.79 In his thank-you letter of 5 December 1767, to Lord Clive, he said that he hoped for something more than the simple £500 for life.80 An undated document, obviously from this period, that Pinto sent to Charles Yorke, shows his greatest expectations. The document seems to be a proposal for the proper settlement. It indicates that somebody suggested the proper reward would be to make Pinto an Agent of the India Company. But this could be revoked by another set of Directors. This would give Pinto a ‘genteel gratification without having recourse to a general Court’. They would use Pinto as long as he was useful to


Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters

them. Instead the Directors should recognize the services he had ren¬ dered to Neville and the Duke of Bedford and the East India Company, ‘which being known cannot avoid inspiring gratitude in the Hearts of the Proprietors’. Also since Lord Clive and other persons of distinction support him as do many principal stockholders, and since Pinto has been discreet and has not brought the matter ‘of so delicate a nature’ before a General Court, the Directors should grant him: for the Time of Thirty Years the title, and authorised Agent of the India Company in Holland with appointment of £500 per annum to begin from the date of the Peace of Fontainbleau, to he under¬ stood that the said Mr. Pinto shall oblige himself on his side to serve the Company in this Quality so, and in such manner as shall be compatible with his Rank in Holland or with his Countrys Interests, without other additions, saving expences of vacations and voyages & which may happen to be made for the Service of the Company or other pecuniary opperations of Purchases or Sales which they may give him orders to transact.81 All of this will make foreigners more willing to help the India Company. Pinto was obviously a dreamer, as Sir Joseph had indicated, though the terms seem almost as good as those Sir Joseph had earlier proposed. The records of the East India Company show that after all the complex intrigue, the decision seemed cut and dried. The Committees of Corres¬ pondence and Treasury met on 5 and 8 December 1767 with both Rous and Colebrooke present. First the history of the treaty negotiations was stated from the Company’s point of view. Wood and the then Chairman Sulivan had told Lord Egremont of the problem as early as 9 November 1762. On 3 December they were told their letter had been sent on to the Duke of Bedford. The Duke tried to make the desired changes, but was rebuffed by the French. (All of this absolved the India Company’s officials of blame.) Then, the report goes on, the first time the Duke was apprised of what was at stake was the letter he received from Pinto on 20 January 1763. The Committee then presented as documents Hume’s letter to Colebrooke (copied out into the records) ; the Duke of Bedford’s letter to Hume with the sentence underlined that the Duke has in his possession Pinto’s original letter of 1765, and that this was the first information the Duke had of why the treaty should be altered; and Neville’s favorable letter to Colebrooke. On the basis of all of this, the Committee declared ‘that Mr. Isaac de Pinto has rendered to this Com¬ pany a very great and essential piece of Service’ and should be given a pension of £500 for life to commence from Michaelmas last.82 The Court of Directors on 11 December 1767 accepted the recommenda¬ tion.83 Pinto’s Memoire of 1776 indicates a victory celebration was held ‘chez Mr. David Hume’.84



Sir Joseph Yorke sent Pinto his congratulations on 8 December 1767 and told him that the zeal his brother had shown for his cause showed its solidity and justice because Charles ‘est mauvais advocat de mauvaises causes’. After giving Pinto news about Abraham de Pinto, Sir Joseph remarked that if Abraham’s daughters had been in London they would have melted the stony-hearted Directors. The same day Sir Joseph wrote the Earl of Hardwicke that Pinto deserved the pension and still more.85 The affair seemed to be over, and Pinto wrote his thanks to the East India Company, and his ‘cher patron’ Charles Yorke.86 But in January 1768 a final episode occurred, and the correspondence provides some amusing pictures of Pinto’s last weeks in England. The Duke of Bed¬ ford had earlier started worrying Pinto about how secure his pension was. On 20 January 1768 Charles Yorke told Pinto he had doubts about the form of the act of the Directors, and whether it was binding. Pinto panicked. He wrote the Attorney-General that he had given up the battle for the back pension, though he reported some important stock¬ holders wanted to support it at the last General Court. In consideration for the Directors, Pinto had dropped the matter. But he now wanted the award in proper form with the seal of the Company on it, ‘qu’on me dit etre essentiel’. Pinto would only feel tranquil about it if Yorke told him he should. He also wanted Yorke to spell it all out in writing, so that he could show the terms to Sir Joseph ‘mon digne & respectable ami’. After his hysterical presentation of his fears, Pinto casually ended the letter by saying ‘Vous savez Monsieur que j’ai eu l’honneur de me presente au Roi par le Comte de Welderen [the Dutch Ambassador] et S.M. m’a recu tres gracieusement.’ So, in spite of all of his concerns about the India Company, Pinto could calm down enough to meet George ill.87 The problem of obtaining the seal goes on in the next few letters. A Director advised Pinto to send in a Memoire, and to ask for it not just for security, but also as something of glory and honor. So Pinto asked Charles Yorke on 21 January 1768 to try to get Rous and the principal Directors on his side.88 The next day he wrote to Charles Jenkinson, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking his support, and telling him how he had stopped the stockholders from acting in his behalf against the Directors. At the end of the letter, for the first time since he had come to England, Pinto indicated that besides pursuing his pension, he had been spreading his economic ideas. He asked Jenkinson to return his manuscript when he had finished reading it (this presumably of the Traite de Circulation et de Credit), because he had promised to let Sir George Colebrooke read it.89


Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters

A memorandum was presented to the India Company on 25 January 1768 asking for the seal.90 The same day a copy was sent to Charles Yorke. Since the only other request was that of a General Lawrence, Pinto was anxious to distinguish the cases so that his would not be held up if the other was refused. Pinto ended with a plea. Should the seal be refused he would not know what to tell the Duke of Bedford, or his family, or his friends.91 A couple of days later the Duke of Grafton wrote in support of Pinto’s request, while Pinto himself was drafting memos to the India Company to separate his case from that of General Lawrence, insisting he needed the seal to reassure the Duke of Bedford and the Pinto family.92 The India Company took the matter seriously and sent the proposal to the Joint Committee on Correspondence and Treasury on 28 January 1768.93 Two days later Pinto saw Colebrooke who told him where matters stood. Colebrooke assured him that Charles Yorke did not think it vital. Nevertheless, Pinto again urged Yorke to do something, because Sir Joseph would never forgive the omission of the seal. Again, he urged keeping his case separate from General Lawrence’s. In a postscript Pinto announced he was having dinner with Sir George Colebrooke the next day, and Yorke should write something to Colebrooke to make him decide favorably.94 The matter finally was settled to Pinto’s satisfaction on 4 March i768.9S There is no further evidence of Pinto in England. He wrote no more to Hume, the Duke of Bedford, or Charles Yorke, or any of his other friends and supporters in the government or the India Company. Sir Joseph Yorke, looking at what had happened from abroad, noted to the Earl of Hardwicke that Charles had repaid the India Company for their treatment of Pinto, presumably by getting the government so involved in the India Company’s affairs, and that this would make the foreign stockholders happy.96 Pinto returned to Holland and settled in The Hague. There is no indication that he kept in touch with his English friends. He wrote his main philosophical work, Precis des Arguments contre les Materialistes (The Hague 1774 and 1775, plus two German editions, Frankfurt and Leipzig 1776 and Helmstadt 1778). In this work, which is entirely in the Deistic tradition, with no mention of Judaism, Pinto relied largely on English and French authors. He praised Locke, Reid, Beattie, and Priestley, and never referred to Hume. Pinto said, ‘Ceux qui entendent l’Anglais, liront l’ouvrage du Dr. Reid avec plaisir, & j’ose dire avec fruit’ (The Hague, 1775, p.128). In 1776 Pinto put out three pam¬ phlets defending the British cause during the American Revolution (and then had to explain away his pension from the India Company).97 One English visitor was Sir Philip Francis, the reputed author of the


‘Letters of Junius’. Sir Philip was a friend of Lord Clive’s.98 He decided to translate Pinto’s Traite de Circulation et de Credit, and went to see the author in The Hague in May 1775. According to Sir Philip’s Memoirs, Pinto ‘received me with Transports of Joys. He was a perfect Atheist, with a most benevolent heart. He was vain of his Book, but had no Notion of Fame, except that which he could enjoy in his Life¬ time.’99 Sir Philip translated the work, and published it under the name of his cousin, the Rev. Stephen Baggs. Even before it was translated, it was being lectured on in London by Thomas Mortimer,100 and then as I have shown in the previous article, it played a major role in English economic discussions.101 The episode of Pinto’s pension seems like a rather trifling matter. But despite Pinto’s most annoying pursuit of his reward, many members of the British Establishment became involved. The affair apparently touched some raw nerves amongst the leaders of the India Company. And the affair became the vehicle for the government to gain some measure of control over the company. Hume and Charles Yorke did the most work to get Pinto his pension. Of the various government officials, only Hume and Sir Joseph Yorke appeared to have helped Pinto out of friendship for him. As I showed in my previous article, Hume and Pinto had become good friends in Paris in 1764. Hume was not bothered by the fact that they disagreed about economic and social theories. (Unlike other govern¬ ment leaders Hume does not seem to have been particularly interested in Pinto’s new capitalist economics. Hume never altered the text of his essay ‘Of Public Credit’ to take account of Pinto’s refutation of it, though he apparently told Pinto he liked his work.) Hume seems to have spent a fair amount of time in 1767 discussing the proper strategy with Pinto and others for gaining his pension, and, of course, Hume constructed the crucial documents that forced the East India Company to give in. Hume produced an official account of what happened in the treaty negotiations of 1762-65 that could satisfy everybody. It took the blame off Wood and Sulivan by showing that they tried to repair the damage. It made Pinto an acceptable hero in the India Company’s eyes, with enough praise to satisfy Pinto’s ego, and made the Duke of Bedford the government’s hero. This presentation could then enable the India Company to paper over the quarrel between Clive and Sulivan based on past history. As far as I know the issue of the treaty negotiations ceased being a problem for the India Company after Hume’s account. In this Hume was much more successful in pleasing everyone in his audience than he was with his historical research and evaluations in The History of England.


Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters

The pension affair, from 1764 to 1768, shows Pinto accepted by the English upper class in a way that no other Jew of the period was.102 He was invited into the homes of the great, was wined and dined, and re¬ ceived by George III. One wonders why, when the documents indicate he was a constant pest, concentrating almost all the time on his personal affairs. The answer seems to lie in Sir Joseph Yorke’s evaluation, that he was very bright, amusing, and the most knowledgeable man alive about English economic affairs. It may have been that Pinto, unlike bankers such as Salvador, had both a practical and theoretical perspec¬ tive. He was one of the first modern economic theorists, and may have been able to explain to the English ruling class ( as well as the Dutch one) what was going on in the emergence of capitalism. He was probably the first really secular Jew for he functioned in the secular society without his Judaism in any way interfering. He re¬ mained officially within Judaism, continuing to be an official of the Amsterdam Synagogue. But, unlike the English Jewish bankers, he did not live in a Jewish world, and participate during the day in worldly affairs. And unlike Moses Mendelssohn, who admired him,103 he did not try to work out a Judaism for the Enlightenment, while remaining orthodox. Pinto insisted he was a ‘philosophe’, and his picture of the world, in his economic theories, and his theology, is entirely secular. He remained Jewish, but produced no reasons a la Mendelssohn for this. He appealed only to the nobility and human contributions of the Seph¬ ardic Jews. On this level Pinto was able to live freely and well in the emerging secular societies of Holland, France, and England, while still remaining attached to the Jewish community. Pinto had a theory, that man was essentially an economic being, and he showed how the new economic world operated. In such a view it was really unimportant whether one was a Jew or a Christian. So Pinto could remain Jewish, and be a significant figure in the new secular economic world, encom¬ passing the ruling classes of the countries he lived in. And the ruling classes could find in him a theoretician of what the new secular econ¬ omic world was like, without caring about his religious affiliations. So Pinto’s role may have included creating a place for a new secular man, whose religious ancestry, and adherence, is no longer relevant, but his economic role is. Hume, being a post-Cluistian in theory, could easily accept this. With his sceptical and naturalistic view of human nature, man a product of biological and psychological forces, a secular world was all that really existed anyway. Religious distinctions were only personal idiosyncrasies, prejudices, or superstitious upbringing. Hence, Pinto, ‘tho a Jew’, could be a co-equal participant in the republic of letters, especially since he did not let his religious affiliations (not beliefs) interfere with his secular view of the world.


1. 2.


4. 5. 6. 7. 8. g. 1 o. 11.

12. 13. 14.



17. 18.


Much of the material in this paper was gathered during a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, which I now gratefully acknow¬ ledge. I should also like to thank the Duke of Bedford for kindly letting me use his archives, and also the librarians at the British Library and the India office, who were most helpful. Professor Blair Kling was also of much assistance in discussing various problems with me, and obtaining some of the material for me. R.H.Popkin‘Hume and Isaac de Pinto’ TSLL xii (1970) 417—30. Isaac de Pinto Traite de la Circulation et du Credit (Amsterdam 1771) p. 121, n.34. This work, which has become extremely rare, has been reprinted in Moses Bebsabat Amzalak O Economista, Isaac de Pinto o seu tratado da Circulacao et do Credito e outros Eseritos economicos (Lisbon i960). The citation is at p. 104, n. 34 in this edition. Lucy Sutherland ‘The East India Company and the Peace of Paris’ EHR lxii (1947) 189. See also Sutherland The East India Company in Eighteenth Century Politics (Oxford 1952) p.ggn. I should like to thank Professor Sutherland for her assistance in discussing my researches with me. Cecil Roth The History of the Jews in England, 3d ed. (Oxford 1964)

p. 208.

Cf. Sutherland The East India Company pp.99—176. Clive returned in July 1767. Letters, i. 423—24. This is what the British ambassador in The Hague, Sir Joseph Yorke, reported in a letter cited below in note 20. All of this appears in Pinto’s letter to Count Bentinck (bl, ms Egerton 1749, f.317, 20 July 1765). Pinto to Count Bentinck (bl, ms Egerton 1749, f.366). Pinto to Count Bentinck (bl, ms Egerton 1862, ff.239—40, 6 August 1766). Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 23 June 1767 (bl, ms 35368, Hardwicke Papers XX, f. 207V). Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 23 June 1767 (bl, ms 35368, Hardwicke Papers xx, f.207V). Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 25 June 1767 (bl, ms 35368, Hardwicke Papers xx, f. 210). Richard Neville to Joseph Salvador, 12 July 1767 (India Office Library, London, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f.82a). All unpublished Crown Copyright material in the India Office Records is reproduced by per¬ mission of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. On Joseph Salvador, see Maurice Woolf, ‘Joseph Salvador 1716-1786’, in Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England xxi (1968) 104—37; and James Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, revised ed. by Israel Finestein (London 1956) pp.88,109-12,153-55. Salvador’s role in British governmental financial affairs appears in Charles Jenkinson, The Jenkinson Papers 1760-1766, ed. with an introduction by Ninetta S. Jucker (London 1949). Neville to Salvador, 12 July 1767 (India Office Library, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f. 82a). Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 14 July 1767 (bl, ms 35368, Hardwicke Papers xx, L215V).


Hume and Isaac de Pinto, II. Five New Letters


Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 21 July 1767 (bl, ms 35368,


Hardwicke Papers xx, f. 2i8v). Sir Joseph Yorke to Charles Yorke,





25. 26.





(bl, ms 35385,


wicke Papers xxxvil, f. 194V). Neville wrote the Duke of Bedford on 2 August 1767, submitting drafts of two letters for the Duke, one to Pinto, and the other to Thomas Rous, Chairman of the East India Company (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f. 20). The next day, Pinto wrote the Duke saying that Neville had shown him the letters, and he hoped the Duke would send them to him signed (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, LVI, 1767, f.28). I have found three copies of the Duke of Bedford’s letter to Pinto, dated 9 August 1767, one in Neville’s hand (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f. 40), the second, a copy sent to Lord Clive, in the India Office (Clive Papers, Box 46), and the third, a copy sent to the India Office (Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, £82). The Duke of Bedford also wrote to Thomas Rous about Pinto on 9 August 1767, giving a testimonial about what Pinto had done. The original is in the India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f. 55, and there is a copy in the Bedford Office in Neville’s hand, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f.44. Cf. what Salvador sent Clive on 3 August 1767, which included two letters of Pinto and a recommendation of Charles Yorke to Thomas Rous, India Office, Clive Papers, Box 46. Salvador’s letter to Clive is published in M. Woolf, op.cit., p. 124. Charles Yorke to Thomas Rous, 12 August 1767 (India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f-57a—b). The memorial of Pinto’s in Yorke’s hand is five pages, f. 58. It appears in Clive’s papers, India Office, Box 46, f. 131. In Pinto’s letter to Charles Yorke of 13 August 1767 he thanked Yorke for sending him a copy of the letter to the Chairman of the India Company (bl, ms 35638, Hardwicke Papers CCXC, f. 133). Ibid.

Reported in Pinto’s letter to Lord Hertford, 19 August 1767, the original or a copy of which is in the India Office (Clive Papers, Box 46, ff. 133—34). The same day Pinto wrote Clive asking for his help and sent him a ‘Memoire’ about what Pinto had done. Cf. B0X46, ff. 129—30 and 135—56. Pinto to the Duke of Bedford, 20 August 1767 (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f.36.)


The India Company in a memorandum of 30 September 1767 lists all of the testimonials they had received about Pinto (India Office, Corres¬ pondence Memoranda, 1767—1769, Vol.24).


Hume to the Duke of Bedford, 22 October 1767 (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f. 146).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 26 August 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlxx, ff. 4~6v).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 27 August 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlxx, f.8).


Hume to [Thomas Rous], 28 August 1767 (India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f*66).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 28 August 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, DLXX, f. 10).


Pinto sent in a long letter to Chairman Rous in French, plus an English



translation, a Memorial in French and English, and either at the same time or a few days later ‘The Secret Memorial’. These documents are in the India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, ff. 58-59, 70-71, 80, and 81a—b. 55.


Pinto, ‘The Secret Memorial’ (India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f-8ia-h). It might be amusing to compare all of Pinto’s versions of the affair from the time he met Hume until the last known one of 1776. Pinto to Charles Yorke, 13 September 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Ilardwicke Papers, dlxx, f. 12).


Thomas Rous to Charles Yorke, 14 September 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hard¬ wick Papers, dlxx, f. 14).

38. 39.

India Office, Court Minutes, B/83, 8 April 1767—8 April 1768, f. 294. Sir Joseph Yorke to Charles Yorke, 18 September 1767 (bl, ms 35385, Hardwicke Papers, xxxvii, f.2ogv). Sutherland The East India Company p. 140.


41. 42. 43. 44.

Pinto to Charles Yorke, Papers, DLXX, f. 15).



1767 (bl,




Pinto to Charles Yorke, 28 September 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlx, ff. 18-20). India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, ff-91— 92. India Office, Court Minutes, B/83, 8 April 1767—8 April 1768, f. 315.


Thomas Rous to Pinto, 30 September 1767 (India Office, Correspondence Memoranda, 1767-1769, Vol.24).


India Office, Correspondence Memoranda, 1767-1769, Vol.24, under 30 September 1767. India Office, Correspondence Reports, 22 August 1764—6 October 1767, V0I.7, under report for 2 October 1767. Sir George Colebrooke to Nutshall, 2 October 1767 (India Office, Misc. Papers Received, E/1/49, f. 96a, b). Pinto to Charles Yorke, 13, 16, 21 October 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hard¬ wicke Papers, dlxx1 ff.23-27); Neville to Colebrooke, 15 October 1767 (India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f-io6); and Neville to

47. 48. 49.

Colebrooke, 15 October 1767 (India Office, Correspondence Reports, October 1767—4 August 1769, Vol.8). This last is a copy of a different


letter from the previous one. Hume to the Duke of Bedford, 22 October 1767 (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, LVI, 1767, f. 146). The letter is reproduced below. Pinto to Charles Yorke, 22 October 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke


Papers, dlxx, ff.29-29V). Pinto to Charles Yorke (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlxx, ff.45


and 51). Hume to the Duke of Bedford, 22 October 1767 (Bedford Office, Misc.



Letters, lvi, 1767, f. 146). The Duke of Bedford to Hume, 25 October 1767. I have found five copies of this letter. Since the Duke was unable to write himself at this time because of his eye trouble, there is no copy in his own hand. What are the originals are the copy in the India Office (Misc. Letters Received, E/1/49, f. n6—this sent by Hume to the India Company), and the copy in the Bedford Office, written on Hume’s letter to the Duke (Misc. Letters, LVI, 1767, f. 146). Two other copies apparently made by Pinto, and sent to Charles Yorke, are in the British Library (ms 35918, Hardwicke

Hume and Isaac de Pinto II. Five New Letters



Papers, dlxx, ff.38—39). The India Company copied the letter into its Correspondence Reports, October 1767—4 August 1769, Vol.8. I have examined photostats of the manuscript in the rse and would guess


that this is a copy Pinto made. Hume to Sir George Colebrooke, 22 October 1767 (India Office, Misc.


58. 59.

Letters Received, E/1/49, f. 110—a). In Pinto’s letter to Charles Yorke of 1 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, ff.45 and 51), Pinto discussed his view of the Hume letter and his hand in composing it, as well as the fact that Lord Shelburne had a copy. In an undated letter to Pinto’s to Charles Yorke, apparently written between 22 October 1767 and 25 October 1767 (ff-33“33v), he also discussed what he thought of Hume’s letter. In the same collection (ff. 34-37) are four copies of the letter Pinto sent Charles Yorke. The context indicates even more copies were sent, and that Yorke must have distributed them to interested parties. A letter from Neville to Pinto of 8 November 1767 indicates Neville had both Hume’s letter and the Duke of Bedford’s answer to Hume (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, DLXX, f. 60). The India Company made its own copy that appears in India Office (Correspondence Reports, October 1767—4 August 1769, f. 8). Also there is the copy Hume sent the Duke of Bedford, a holograph copy, which is at Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f. 142. Sir Joseph Yorke to Charles Yorke, 23 October 1767 (bl, ms 35383, Hardwieke Papers, xxxvn, ff. 216—2i6v). On this, see Popkin ‘Hume and Isaac de Pinto’421—3.


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 26 October Papers, DLXX, ff.40—40V).


Hume to Pinto, no date but apparently 28 October 1767 (copy in Pinto’s hand, BL, MS 35918, Hardwieke Papers, DLXX, f.44).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 28 October 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, f.42—43).


The two versions of Lord Shelburne’s letters appear in the copies Pinto sent to Charles Yorke (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, ff.48— 50). There are two copies of the first version, and one of the second. Hume to Pinto, 4 November 1767, holograph (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, f.47).



(bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke


Pinto to the Duke of Bedford, 3 November 1767 (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f. 174).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 6 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, ff.52-53).


A draft of a Memorial to the East India Company by Pinto, sent to Charles Yorke, 11 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, f.61).


Neville to Pinto, 8 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, f. 60).


Reported in Pinto’s letter to Charles Yorke, 9 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, ff. 55—56v).


Moses Franks to Pinto, 13 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, f.68).


See, for instance, Pinto’s letters to Charles Yorke of 15


BL, MS 35918,



undated one in this period, 18 November Hardwieke Papers, dlxx, ff.62-66V and 70).








This term is explained by Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish (New York 1968, p.270). ‘A nudnick is not just a nuisance; to merit the status of nudnick, a nuisance must be a most persistent, talkative, obnoxious, indomitable, and indefatigable nag.’


Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 35368, Hardwicke Papers, xx, f. 252V).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, 26 November Papers, dlxx, ff.71-71V).


Pinto to Charles Yorke, undated between 17 November 1767 and 3 December 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlxx, f.74). Pinto said he had enclosed the letter from Hume, but it is not in the materials Charles Yorke saved. Letter of Pinto’s to Charles Yorke, cited in note 73. Pinto to Charles Yorke, undated but after 26 November 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlxx, if.72—73).

76. 77. 78.


80. 81.



84. 85.




1767 (bl,

1767 (bl, ms 35918,



Pinto to Charles Yorke, 3, 5 December 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, dlxx, ff.75—76), and Pinto to the Duke of Bedford (Bedford Office, Misc. Letters, lvi, 1767, f.204). Pinto to Charles Jenkinson, 5 December 1767 (bl, ms 38397, Liverpool Papers, ccvil, f.92), and Pinto to Charles Jenkinson, 6 December 1767 (bl, ms 38305, Liverpool Papers, cxvi, f.33b). Pinto to Clive, 5 December 1767 (India Office, Clive Papers, Box 50, f. 23). In Charles Yorke’s papers there are two unidentified and undated Pinto documents, one another partial draft of a version of Pinto’s Memorial, and the other this draft of a proposal for making Pinto an agent of the India Company (bl, ms 35639, Hardwicke Papers, ccxci, ff. 183 and 184-85). India Office, Correspondence Reports, October 1767—4 August 1769, Vol.8, report of the Committees of Correspondence and Treasury for 3 and 8 December 1767. India Office, Court Minutes, B/83, 8 April 1767—8 April 1768, f. 421. There is a copy of the Court of Directors decision, basing it on Hume’s letter to Colebrooke, the Duke of Bedford’s letter to Hume, and Richard Neville’s letter to Colebrooke, in Charles Yorke’s papers (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, CLXX, ff.78—79). Cf. Pinto’s Memoire, Biblioteek Ets Haim, Amsterdam, Hs. 48A19, f. g, cited in Popkin ‘Hume and Isaac de Pinto’423. Sir Joseph Yorke to Pinto, 8 December 1767 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, D lxx, ff. 82—82V) and Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 8 December 1767 (bl, ms 35368, Hardwicke Papers, xx, f.258v).


Pinto to the Directors of the India Company, 14 December 1767 (India Office, Misc. Letters Received, E/i/4g, f. 167) and Pinto to Charles Yorke, 14 December 1767 (bl, MS 35918, Hardwicke Papers, DLXX, f.8o). Pinto to Charles Yorke, 20 January 1768 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke


Papers, dlxx, ff.83-83v). Pinto to Charles Yorke, 21 January 1768 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke


Papers, dlxx, f.85). Pinto to Jenkinson, 22 January 1768 (bl, ms 38206, Liverpool Papers,


XVII, f. 14). Pinto to the Directors of the India Company, 25 January 1768 (India

Office, Misc. Letters Received, 1768, E/1/50, f-39-a).

126 gi.


93. 94.

Hume and Isaac de Pinto II. Five New Letters Pinto to Charles Yorke, 25 January 1768 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke Papers, DLXX, f. 86). Duke of Grafton to India Company Directors, 27 January 1768 (E/1/50, f. 52). In Charles Yorke’s papers there are two undated documents, not in Pinto’s hand, one, a letter of Pinto’s to Rous, and one to the Gentlemen of the India Company, all about the seal matter (bl, ms 35638, Hard¬ wicke Papers, CCXC, ff. 197-197V and 208). India Office, Court Minutes, B/83, 8 April 1767—8 April 1768, f. 540. Pinto to Charles Yorke, 30 January 1768 (bl, ms 35918, Hardwicke


Papers, dlxx, ff. 88-88v). India Office, Correspondence Reports, October 1767—4 August 1769, Vol.8, entry for 4 March 1768 ; and Court Minutes, B/83, ® April 1767—


8 April 1768, f.617. Sir Joseph Yorke to the Earl of Hardwicke, 9 February 1768 (bl, ms 35368, Hardwicke Papers, XX, f. 278V; and 1 March 1768, f. 286).

97. 98. 99.

On this, see Popkin ‘Hume and Isaac de Pinto’ 420—21. Cf. Dictionary of National Biography article ‘Francis, Philip’. Sir Philip Francis, Memoirs of Sir Philip Francis, K.C.B., with Corres¬ pondence and Journals commenced by the late Joseph Parkes, Esq., com¬ pleted and edited by Herman Merivale, MA, (London 1867) vol. I, Appendix, p.366. Sir Philip went on, ‘I had a letter of introduction from Lord Suffolk to Sir Joseph Yorke, the Prince of Coxcombs. It was the time of the Fair, so I passed a Week tolerably well between . . . Jews and Gen¬ tiles. The Work was nearly finished, when I was called upon to act . . . upon accepting my present Appointment, I surrendered all my Papers to Stephen Baggs, in whose name the Translation has been published.’ The matter is also discussed on p. 321 by the editor, with the following footnote, ‘Isaac Pinto, a Portuguese Jew by descent, and a literary man of some repute, died at the Hague in 1787. Besides his “Traite de la circulation et du credit,” he was chiefly known, in singular contrast to what Francis here says of him, as the defender of the Jewish nation, and Scriptures against certain imputations of Voltaire, and a waiter of a

“Precis des argumens contre les materialistes.” ’ 100. Thomas Mortimer, The Elements of Commerce, Politics and Finances, in three Treatises on those important Subjects. Designed as a Supplement to the Education of British Youth, after they quit the public Universities or private Universities or private Academies (London 1772). In discussing the problem of the national debt and public credit, Mortimer said, ‘It was with the utmost diffidence I first entered upon the discussion of this delicate point, but it is with great pleasure I now inform my readers, that while this part of my work has been under my hands preparing for the press, a most elaborate treatise on circulation and the English funds has appeared in the French language unanimously attri¬ buted to the masterly pen of Mr. Pinto, the celebrated author of the Essay on Luxury, and the letter on Card-Playing, so well known, and so justly admired, in France, Holland and England’ (p-356). Mortimer then goes on to present Pinto’s theories, and only rejects his views about the virtues of stock-market speculation. It is interesting that Mortimer praised the Jews for creating modern capitalism, and was very philo-Semitic about Judaism in eighteenthcentury England (pp. 350-4). He deserves some study for his possible role



in Anglo-Jewish history. It is also curious that both Mortimer and Sir Philip Francis, the supporters of Pinto’s view, were both Wilkesites. 101. Popkin ‘Hume and Isaac de Pinto’ 427—8. 102. For instance, Joseph Salvador, for all of his services to the British govern¬ ment and to Clive of India, was treated very shabbily once he lost his fortune. Cf. Woolf ‘Joseph Salvador’ pp. 110-12. In a letter to Charles Jenkinson, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of 2 January 1778, Salvador sadly said, ‘I would trouble Lord North on the subject [of raising funds for England’s war against the American colonies] but think his Lordship will pay no attention and I must seek some Introduction to his Lordships Porter otherwise I shall as last year wait in the Lobby & catch cold which my constitution wont bear.’ BL, MS 38, 206, Jenkinson Papers, XVl,f. 2i6v. 103. Except for Pinto’s concentration on the merits of the Sephardic Jews, to the exclusion of the German ones. Mendelssohn wrote a common friend, Simon Sommerhausen in The Hague, when he received Pinto’s Precis des Arguments contre les Materialistes, ‘herr Pinto ist mir aus seinen Schriften wohl bekannt. Hatte die Nation zehn Schriftsteller wie Pinto aufzuweisen, die Voltaire’s wiirden mit anderer Achtung von uns sprechen. Pinto musz es uns Hochdeutschen nicht libel nehmen, dasz wir uns auch etwas auf seine Rechnung zu Gute thun ; wir sind immer noch Kinder einen Vaters, so wenig er es in seiner Apologie hat gestehen wollen.’ Moses Mendelssohn Gesammelte Schriften (Leipzig 1844) v.528.



Hume and Nancy Orde. Three New Letters ‘And as I took a particular Pleasure in the Company of modest

women, I had no Reason to be displeased with the Reception I met with from them.’ Thus David Hume in his autobiography, My Own Life (1777).1 The statement is at least very curious, if not enigmatic. Was it only modest women in whose company he took pleasure? And was the pleasure that he took in their company sufficient or even necessary cause for him not to be displeased? His life and correspondence certainly bear testimony to the durability of and the affection in his relationships with what he called, in a less generous moment, ‘the weak, pious sex’.2 Unlike some men of his age, most notably Boswell, Hume was rather more discreet about the extent of his relationships, even when they were disappointing. Any sexual liaisons that he may have had are only cir¬ cumspectly hinted at in his letters. The most obvious candidate for some¬ thing more than an affaire de cceur is the Comtesse de Boufflers, whom Hume met in Paris in late 1763 or early 1764. He had written to Baron Mure of Caldwell on 28 March 1764 that ‘I have cut off however all Visits with the Young and Brilliant, and require at least that a Lady be past thirty, before I enter into Correspondence with her. Society is certainly on a very agreeable Footing in this part of the World; and there are particularly more Women of Sense and Taste and Knowledge than any where else. You would take them all for Vestals by the Decency of their Behaviour in Company. Scarce a double Entendre ever to be heard; scarce a free Joke: What lies below this Veil is not com¬ monly supposed to be so pure’ (Letters, i. 431). At the time Hume met the Comtesse de Boufflers she was thirty-eight and had been the mistress of the Prince de Conti since 1752. Hume was studiedly vain about the impression he made upon the ladies of Paris. Writing to that ubiquitous moralist, the Rev. Hugh Blair, on 26 April 1764, he related an incident at a masquerade which he attended with Lord Hertford, the ambassador to whom he was secre¬ tary. He and Lord Hertford went unmasked, at which Hume was lavishly complimented: ‘Caresses, Civilities and Panegyrics . . . pourd on me from all Sides. ... I cou’d observe, that the Ladies were rather the most liberal on this Occasion. ... I allow you to communicate this Story to Dr Jardine. I hope it will refute all his idle Notions, that I have no turn for Gallantry & Gaiety, that I am on a bad footing with the Ladies, that my turn of Conversation can never be agreeable to them,


129 =3

that I never can have any Pretensions to their Favours &c &c &c. A Man in Vogue will always have something to pretend to with the fair Sex’ (Letters, i.437-8). Clearly, Hume was enjoying a kind of atten¬ tion that he had not encountered in Scotland. Hume had made the acquaintance of the Comtesse de Boufflers before going to Paris. Quite out of the blue, she had written to him on 13 March 1761 praising his writings, and he replied on 15 May 1761. There is one other extant letter from Hume to her in 1761, one in 1762, and four in 1763, the last dated 19 October written from Paris shortly after his arrival there. The next extant letter is dated 6 July 1764, and it is clear from the tone that in the intervening eight months a cordial acquaintance has developed into intimate friendship. The change in tone is astonishing: Hume’s letters to her are at once passionate, re¬ served, cool, impulsive, even adolescent. ‘I beseech you, dear Madam, continue to like me a little: for otherwise I shall not be able in a little time to endure myself’ he writes to her on 18 August; two months later, the same sentiment is much less candidly expressed: ‘I beg a share in your remembrance. Believe me ( and surely you do believe me), that no one can bear you a more tender and more sincere friendship, or desire more earnestly a return of like sentiments on your part. This long absence convinces me more fully than ever before, that no society can make me compensation for the loss of yours, and that my attachment to you is not of a light or uncommon nature’ (Letters, i.475). Some¬ time before the end of October, however, the Comtesse’s husband, Edouard de Boufflers, died, and she was theoretically free to marry. Her lover, the Prince de Conti, decided, as it happened, not to re¬ marry, and she found herself in an untenable position. Hume, probably expecting her to marry the prince, bade her an affectionate adieu and resumed his role of adviser, confidant, and mentor. The tone of his letters returned to that of the earlier correspondence. But even in these letters it is clear that he never forgot what he had written her at the height of his passion in July 1764: ‘you have saved me from a total in¬ difference towards every thing in human life’ ( Letters, i. 457). Hume had returned to London early in 1766, accompanied by JeanJacques Rousseau; in London, he served for three years as Under¬ secretary of State in the Northern Department. In August 1769, he returned to Edinburgh, to spend the rest of his life there. Sometime after his return, he must have made the acquaintance of Miss Nancy Ord (or Orde), daughter of Robert Orde, Baron of the Scottish ex¬ chequer. Until recently, no letters from Hume to Nancy Orde were known to have survived, but at least three were extant in the nine¬ teenth century. Among the papers of John Hill Burton now deposited in the National Library of Scotland are copies in Hill Burton’s wretched

Hume and Nancy Orde. Three New Letters


handwriting of three letters written by Hume to Nancy Orde. The whereabouts of the original holographs is unknown. While the letters do not reveal any startling new developments in the last years of Hume’s life, they do clarify that enigmatic portion of his will which stipulated that T leave to Mrs Anne Ord, Daughter of the late Chief Baron, ten Guineas to buy a Ring, as a Memorial of my Friendship and Attachment to so amiable and accomplished a Person’ {Life, p. 600). Almost nothing is known of Miss Orde (d. 1825). She is usually credited with the naming of the street in Edinburgh’s New Town on which Hume was building his house. She had chalked the name ‘St David’s Street’ on the side of his house, and Hume’s housekeeper, Peggy Irvine, discovered it and reported it to her employer. ‘Never mind,’ Hume is alleged to have said, ‘many a better man has been made a saint of before’ {Life, pp. 566, 600). The first of these three letters to Nancy Orde is written very much in that same vein of humour. Of his wit, Hume had confessed to John Clephane that he was ‘in the humour of displaying my wit’ ( Letters, i. 149) and his letters are seldom with¬ out some amusing comment or insight. His sister-in-law, Agnes Home, wife of his brother John, had appended to a letter David wrote to his nephew Joseph, ‘Your Uncle was so obliging as to send his letter open, that any of us might add a few lines, though it may seem a bold attempt in so witty a letter.’3 Perhaps the easy manner of the following letter indicates more than a casual friendship. Letter One4

Edinburgh 16 of August 1770 Madam It has been the maxim of all legislators and judges from Solon to Sheriff Cockburn5 to pardon the criminals who confess and dis¬ cover their accomplices: and I doubt but you and all the ladies at Dean will follow so decent and equitable a maxim. You must know then that two pretended gentlemen (of which one was Mr. Nairn6 with the demur and sanctifyd look, a very suspicious circumstance) travelling yesterday in a chaise to Melville, one of them offers a shilling to pay the toll. The barkeeper scruples the piece. On examination it is found to be one of my Lord Chief Barons coun¬ ters.7 The pockets of the felon are searched and are found to contain five more, which he had plainly purloined from your house. Mr. Nairn however, and his companion—a great fat man, are not immediately put in arrest, but dreading the rigors of justice, Mr. Nairns companion is contented to give up the stolen goods, which are sent by the bearer. He protests that he has neither drunk nor embezled any of them. He pleads very hard for mercy, but is very willing that Mr. Nairn should be hanged by



way of an example. He is even willing to bear false witness against him, which must be allow’d very commendable and meritorious, & seems fully to entitle him to a pardon. Thus you see the danger of admitting thieves & pick-pockets & sharpers to game with you. If the chief baron winks at such enormities, I assure I will not during my administration. I even prohibit all of you from going to chapel for fear of meeting there with Mr. Nairn. As to his com¬ panion, he does not commonly haunt that place so much, which is a much better sign of him: as your hypocritical thief is commonly the most irreclaimable. I am Madam with great regard your most obedient & most humble servant David Hume no address — but to Miss Ord Letters or extracts from a number of Hume’s female correspondents have survived, and in reading them one is struck by the number of times to which his female friends allude to his charm or to his appeal. Alison Cockburn, the wife of Patrick Cockburn, advocate, was a friend to both David Hume and, later, Sir Walter Scott, and was a lively addi¬ tion to Edinburgh society. She was also the author of the lyric ‘Flowers of the Forest’ and a prolific correspondent. Writing to Hume on 21 September 1765, she offers her own reasons for wishing him to accept the post offered by Lord Hertford on his embassy to Paris: ‘Are you to remain in Paris? or do you go with Lord Hertford? I wish you to go with him. I wish to break the hearts of all the Frenchwomen, if they have any hearts 5 but I suspect, for all the adulation you have met with amongst them that I am infinitely more your affectionate friend and servant. . . .’8 In this last conjecture, she was undoubtedly wrong, but it is evidence of firm friendship with Hume. Sometime after this letter, in anticipation of Hume’s return to Edinburgh, she urges him to settle in one of two houses available in George Street, in Edinburgh’s New Town. Having found him a house she will ‘also secure you in a wife, without putting you to any trouble about resolving’.9 Of this house, Hume had written to Baron Mure of Caldwell, on 2 October 1770, ‘I am engagd in the building of a house, which is the second great Operation of human Life: For the taking a Wife is the first, which I hope will come in time. . .’ (Letters, ii. 232). Obviously, Hume is to some extent serious here, confirming Henry Mackenzie’s report that at one time Hume ‘meant to pay his addresses to Miss Nancy Orde’, that he was ‘deeply smitten with a very amiable young lady, a great friend of mine, Miss Nancy Ord, but the disparity of age pre¬ vented his proposing to her, which he once intended’.10 Mackenzie’s account is corroborated by a letter from Mme du Deffand to Horace

Hume and Nancy Orde. Three New Letters


Walpole in June 1770: 'Is it true that M. Hume has married a devout woman?’ she inquired when rumours of his engagement (or marriage) to Nancy Orde reached Paris (Life, p.567). And other correspondents wrote Walpole about the same matter. That Hume was even more serious than has been hitherto thought may be indicated by the following letter. He was clearly very keen about this house, but the kind of domestic detail related here suggests that Nancy Orde’s role in the building of the house was conspicuous. Hume’s immediate compliance with her advice in the choice of wall¬ paper is a little surprising in a man of fixed habits and preferences. In deferring to her selection, he may very well have been planning a house that would please a wife. Even the tone of the letter to Baron Mure begins to sound less mocking when read in the light of this letter.11 Letter Two12

Madam On going home I measured the height of my room, and found that I had committed a mistake which might have been fatal by depriving me of all the advantage I propose from your choice of paper. Between the surbase and the cornice is nine feet eight inches high. It is always better to have too much than too little. There is no paper of that Kind which is likely to be too dear. After you have made your choice (for I will still reason upon that sup¬ position) the shopkeepr will pack up the paper and send it hither, and I will immediately send him a draught on the Coutt’s.13 I am glad to take this opportunity of saluting you again, & praying heartily for your good journey and safe return. I beg my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Orde. I am with great sincerity and regard Madam Your most obedient & humble servant David Hume 12 of April 1773 addr. To Miss Nancy Orde Hume’s acquaintance with Nancy Orde, and her sister Mary, was well known to his family and friends, and the two sisters are mentioned on several occasions in his letters, particularly those written in the last year of his life. From Bath, on 20 May 1776, he wrote to his nephew David, ‘Pay a Visit to Mrs. Mure and that Family; and read them the last Part of the Letter. Do the same with the Miss Ordes, learn the State of theirs and the Chief Baron’s Health, and inform me of it. Tell them, that the Leizure, arising from the Solitude of the Summer Season in Bath, will probably engage me to interrupt their Leizure by a Letter. 14 Back in Edinburgh on 10 July 177® he had already visited



with Nancy and Mary. The trip back by chaise had been extremely un¬ comfortable for him, and he was reluctant to travel any more than necessary. The solicitude of Nancy and Mary was such that ‘I shall make a new trial tomorrow, as the Miss Ords have urg’d me to use their Father’s chaise, which they naturally supposed would be easier than any of Ramsays.’15 This last letter to Nancy Orde, written some ten weeks before his death, is the most affecting as well as the most revealing. Hume had journeyed to Bath in the vain hope that the waters there would improve his failing health. He arrived in Bath on the first of May 1776 and was there for about eight weeks. Unfortunately, the waters did his ailment little good, as he reports in the letter to Miss Orde, perhaps because his physicians were unable to agree about the cause of his physical deteri¬ oration.16 Nevertheless, his letters during this period are an impressive mixture of good humour and tranquil acceptance of his approaching death. Writing to Hugh Blair, for example, he observes ‘You have frequently heard me complain of my physical Friends that they allowed me to die in the midst of them without so much as giving a Greek Name to my Disorder ; a Consolation which was the least I had reason to expect from them. Dr Black, hearing this Complaint, told me, that I shou’d be satisfy’d in that particular, and that my Disorder was a Haemorrhage, a word which it was easy to decompose into

and prjyvpu. But Sir

John Pringle says, that I have no Haemorrhage; but a Spincture in the Colon, which it will be easy to cure’ (Letters, ii. 519-20). For a time, Hume thought that his health was improving and had been writing his friends to that effect. But the results were not long-lasting nor bene¬ ficial: he had to write to William Strahan that ‘The Waters, after seeming to agree with me, have sensibly had a bad Effect. . .’ (Letters, ii.322). In addition to retaining some sense of humour as well as an accept¬ ance of his approaching death, Hume seems to have treated his doctors with far more charity than they deserved, perhaps because they were friends or distant relatives (e.g., John Hunter, who married Anne Home, daughter of Robert Boyne Home, described by David as ‘our Cousin Roby Hume’) (Letters. i.324). Yet the series of mis-diagnoses persisted, as well as their ostensible discretion, until Hume, plainly in some exasperation not with his ailment but with his diagnosticians, wrote to his brother John Home: ‘John Hunter . . . felt very sensibly, as he said, a Tumor or Swelling in my Liver; and this Fact, not drawn by Reasoning, but obvious to the Senses, and perceived by the greatest Anatomist in Europe, must be admitted as unquestionable, and will alone account for my Situation. They kept, very foolishly, this Opinion

Hume and Nancy Orde. Three New Letters


of Mr Hunter’s a secret from me till Yesterday ; and now they pretend, that the Tumor, being small, may be discussed by Medicines and Regimen: A very silly Expectation, that an inveterate Disease of long Standing and in a vital Part, will yield to their feeble Remedies, in a man of my Years.’ This letter to his brother is dated the same as the one to Nancy Orde, and with his brother Hume can be as explicit as possible: ‘You made me promise, that I shoud write you sincerely the true State of my Health, than which really nothing can be worse’ (Letters, ii.525). At this point, Hume had doubts even about being able to return alive to Edinburgh. To William Strahan, two days later, he further added, ‘It may linger some Years, which would not be very desirable’ (Letters, ii.326). Thus prepared for death, Hume had to break the news to Nancy Orde and to declare once more his affection for her—‘the best placed attachment of my life . . .’. Letter Three17

Dear Madam I know it will affect you to hear, that the favourable accounts of my health which I desired my nephew to communicate to you have vanished into smoke.18 The waters began to disagree with me: all the bad symptoms recurred: and are found to proceed from a vice in my liver, for which the physicians pretend there may be a remedy but for which I believe there is none. In short you are likely to lose at no great distance of time, one of the persons in the world who had the greatest regard & affection for you. My Dear Miss Nancy hear this declaration with sympathy & cordiality. I know what an egregious folly it is for a man of my years to attach himself too strongly to one of yours. But I saw in you so much other merit, besides that which is the common object of affection, that I easily excused to myself the imprudence: and your obliging behavior always kept me from being sensible of it. It is the best placed attachment of my life, and will surely be the last. I know that the tear will be in your eye when you read this, as it is in mine when you [sic] write it. I bid you not adieu: because I intend to set out from this in eight or ten days: and may reach my own house in ten or twelve more. It will not be long after till I kiss your hand. My comple¬ ments to your sisters — I wish I could say to your father:19 and that he could be sensible of the sincere regard which I bear to him. I am Dear Miss Nancy your most affectionate friend and humble servant David Hume



Transcribed from Hume’s holograph in the rse, ix. 23. Cf. the Life, p. 615. Cf. Alison Cockburn, Letters and Memoir of her own Life, ed. T. CraigBrown (Edinburgh: David Douglas 1900) p. 95.


Geoffrey Hunter, ed., ‘David Hume: some unpublished letters’, TSLL ii (i960) 133.

Ol -#>■

1. 2.

National Library of Scotland ms 9427, f.23. Alexander Cockburn of Cockpen, sheriff of Midlothian, judge admiral, and baron of the Scottish court of Exchequer; father of Henry Thomas, Lord Cockburn.


Otherwise unidentified, but presumably the same person that Hume referred to in two letters to Hugh Blair: ‘I have to day let your House to Nairne . . . ’ (Letters, i.517); and ‘If you please, therefore, you may continue in my House, which I am glad pleases you: If you leave it as you thought you woud, Nairne may have it for 35 pound, as we agreed. . . ’ (Letters, i.527).


In this instance, a metal coin belonging to Baron Orde and used as a gambling chip; as Baron of the Exchequer, he would also have had re¬ sponsibility for the coinage in Scotland. Cockburn, Letters, p.45. Ibid., p. 73.



10. 11.

12. 13. 14.

15. 16.

17. 18.

Henry Mackenzie, Anecdotes and Egotisms, ed. Harold William Thomp¬ son (London: Oxford University Press 1927) p. 176. It is worthwhile to contrast the tone of this letter to Miss Orde and the tone of the remark to Baron Mure with a comment in a letter dated 5 January 1753 to John Clephane: ‘About seven months ago, I got a house of my own, and completed a regular family; consisting of a head, viz myself, and two inferior members, a maid and a cat. My sister has since joined me, and keeps me company. With frugality I can reach, I find, cleanliness, warmth, light, plenty, and contentment. What would you have more? Independence? I have it in a supreme degree. Honour? that is not altogether wanting. Grace? that wall come in time. A wife? that is none of the indispensable requisites of life. Books? that is one of them; and I have more than I can use.’ (Letters, i. 170) National Library of Scotland MS 9427, f. 24V. James and Thomas Coutts, bankers in the Strand. Tadeusz Kozanecki, ed., ‘Dawida Hume’a Neizane Listy w Zbiorach Muzeum Czartoryskich (Polska)’, Archiwum Historii Filozofii i Mysli Spolecznej ix (1963) (Religie Racjonalne. Studia z filosofi religii xv— xvii w) 138. Hunter, p. 146. According to the Life, p. 596, ‘so far as the evidence goes, modern medical science might agree that, although cancer of the bowel cannot be ruled out, Hume probably died of chronic ulcerative colitis, following an acute bacillary dysentery’. Greig asserts that ‘Hume seems to have been suffer¬ ing from cancer of the large intestine, with secondary cancer of the liver’ (Letters, ii. 320m). National Library of Scotland MS 9427, f.25. Hume used similar phraseology writing to his brother’s wife: ‘I know you will be much afflicted when I tell you that all the good accounts which I gave you of my recovery are overthrown.’ Hunter, p. 143.


Baron Mure died on 25 March 1776.



Concepts and Meaning Boswell: ‘I think Dr.Franklin’s definition of Man a good one — “A tool-making animal” ’ ( Life of Johnson, 7 April 1778)

One of philosophy’s main tasks is to get deep understanding of fundamental concepts. What are concepts, in the sense of ‘concept’ in which philosophy has specially to do with concepts ? If a man understands what is meant by the English word see in its primary sense, in the way that any normal adult sighted Englishspeaking person does, then he possesses the concept of seeing. Similarly, if a man understands what is meant by the French word voir in its primary sense, in the way that any . . . French-speaking person does, he too possesses the concept of seeing. And so on for all languages that have a word meaning the same as the English word see in its primary sense. To generalize this: if a man understands what is meant by a given word, he possesses the corresponding concept. But a man may reasonably be said to possess a concept even though he has no single word corresponding to it. So, for instance, it seems reasonable to say that people who understand wrords meaning the same as the English words see, feel, hear (in their primary senses) possess in some sense the concept of perception, even if their vocabulary does not include any single words meaning the same as the English words per¬ ceive or perception. Again, a child who understands talk about pushing prams, shutting doors, and drawing pictures may be said to possess the concept of causality even though he has never come across the words causality or cause or their equivalents in any other language. But the situation is still more complicated than this. For sometimes one set of things that people say seems to show that they do possess a certain concept, while another set of things they say seems to show that they do not possess it. Thus the Greeks had words that meant the same as the English words see, hear, etc., and therefore they might reasonably be said to have possessed, in some sense or other, the concept of percep¬ tion. But the only general word they had for perception also meant sensation. ‘Except by periphrasis the classical Greek philosophers had no way of distinguishing between sensation and perception. Moreover, the failure in the majority of cases to make the distinction even by peri¬ phrasis is an indication that they had in general no idea of the necessity of distinguishing the two concepts’ ( D. W. Hamlyn, Sensation and Per-



ception, p. 3). If this account is right, did the ordinary Greek have the concept of perception ? Another example: The Greeks of the sixth and fifth centuries BC had adjectives meaning much the same as the English words moist, dry, hot. cold, bitter, sweet, as well as adjectives for colours. But they had no word corresponding to the English word quality. Did those Greeks have the concept of quality? It seems they must have done: how can one use nouns and adjectives and not have the concepts of thing and quality? Yet other things that some of them said show that they thought of qualities as things; and if they did not distinguish qualities from things, did they really possess the concept of quality? (Hamlyn, op.cit., pp. 2-3). It may be thought that these questions could be settled by agreeing on some sharp definition of the notion of ‘possessing a concept’ and then sticking to it. But if this definition were such that what are at present borderline cases (the examples in the preceding paragraph, for instance) were no longer borderline cases but fell clearly on one side of the line or the other, then the definition would not correspond exactly to any existing notion of ‘possessing a concept’, for by existing notions those cases really are borderline cases. It is true that certain questions would then be answerable ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, but those questions would no longer be the same as the questions we originally asked, even though they were expressed by the same words. Besides, generally speaking it is a mistake to become obsessed with borderline cases. The existence of a few borderline cases does not always show that a word or concept or piece of classification must be abandoned.1 For many purposes it is enough if one can say quite definitely for most things either that the word applies to them or that it does not, that they belong to the class or that they do not. In this case I do not see what would be gained by introducing a new sharp definition of ‘possessing a concept’. I prefer instead to follow William Whewell’s suggestion that the best way to characterize natural groups is not by definitions that mark out their boundaries but by descriptions of the most typical, the central, the core cases: Natural Groups are best described, not by any definition which marks their boundaries, but by a Type which marks their centre. The Type of any natural group is an example which possesses in a marked degree all the leading characters of the class. A Natural Group is steadily fixed, though not precisely limited; it is given in position, though not circumscribed; it is determined, not by a boundary without, but by a central point within; — not by what it strictly excludes, but by what it eminently includes; — by a Type, not by a Definition.2 A typical example of a concept that has interested philosophers is the


Concepts and Meaning

concept of causality (or, if there is more than one, the concepts of causality). Now to get philosophically clear about the concept(s) of causality is to get clear about what is, and what is not, meant either by such English words and phrases as ‘causes’ (verb), ‘the cause of’, ‘an effect of’, ‘a result brought about by’, and so on, or by words and phrases having the same or related meanings in some other language. (Though I use and talk about English words, it is obvious that English has no special position here, and that analytic philosophy is not to be equated with the study of the English language as opposed to any other. In fact, one of the great advantages in talking about concepts instead of about what words mean is that you do not have to waste time adding phrases like ‘or of any word or expression having the same meaning in this or any other language’.) So to get philosophically clear about a concept is, typically, to get clear about what is meant by the appropriate words or expressions. A concept (in the sense of ‘concept’ in which philosophy has specially to do with concepts) is then, typically, what is meant by some word or words. But what is meant by ‘what is meant by a word’ ? There are at least two quite different senses of the phrase ‘what is meant by a word’. In one of them, what is meant by a word may be a physical object, or a group of physical objects, or a property of a physical object, or an event, or a mental image, or an experience, or something (such as my telephone number) that is neither a physical object nor an experience $ indeed, it may be anything at all. In another sense of ‘what is meant by a word’, what is meant by a word is never to be identified with any physical object or event or mental image or experience, no matter what the particular word is. Suppose I say to my wife ‘The telephone needs a longer piece of flex’. What is meant by the word telephone in that sentence? 1. In one sense of ‘what is meant by’, what is meant by the word telephone — or, more exactly, by the two words the telephone — in that sentence is a particular physical object, made of metal and plastic, about 6 inches wide, 4 inches high and 9 inches deep, at present resting on top of a book-case in my study, and costing me about £20 a year in rental. 2. In another sense of ‘what is meant by’, the whole phrase ‘what is meant by the word telephone in that sentence’ is equivalent in meaning to the phrase ‘the meaning of the word telephone in that sentence’, where the meaning of the word telephone is not a physical object. The meaning of the word, in this sense of ‘meaning’, is not to be identified with the telephone in my study. The telephone in my study can be dropped on the floor, broken, boiled, opened up with a screwdriver, or disconnected by Post Office engineers. The meaning of the word tele-



phone cannot be dropped on the floor or broken or boiled or opened up with a screwdriver or disconnected by Post Office engineers. In this sense of ‘what is meant by’, what is meant by the word telephone is something that is understood, not something that is seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelt. The distinction I am making is an old one. It was made by the Stoics (cf. I. M. Bochenski, Ancient Formal Logic, pp.85-4) as well as by the schoolmen (cf. A.N.Prior, Formal Logic, p. 160). From now on I shall adopt the following convention. When I mean what is meant by a word in sense (2 ), I shall speak of the meaning of the word. When I mean what is meant by a word in sense (1), I shall speak of what the word is used to refer to. By this convention, the meaning of a word is never identical with any physical object, but what a word is used to refer to may sometimes be a physical object (whether it is or not depends upon the particular word used, among other things). One way of bringing out the difference between the meaning of a word and what a word is used to refer to is this: The words that occur at the beginning of each major entry in a dictionary (that is, the words whose meanings the dictionary gives) all have meanings, even when standing by themselves at the beginnings of the articles devoted to them. But in their occurrences at the beginnings of those articles not one of them is being used by anyone to refer to anything. One may point to a word standing at the beginning of the article devoted to it in a diction¬ ary, and ask ‘What is the meaning of that word?’ But it would be absurd to ask ‘What is that word being used to refer to?’ As it stands there, it is not being used by anyone to refer to anything. Quite generally, on any occasion on which words are used it would be right to expect that the question ‘What is the meaning of that word?’ should have a posi¬ tive answer for every single word used, even if it were very difficult to give one. But it would not be right to expect that the question ‘What is that word being used to refer to?’ should always have a positive answer for every single word used: for in nearly all actual uses of words at least some of the words used will not be being used to refer to anything. Thus, if I say to my wife ‘The telephone needs a longer piece of flex’, it would be absurd to ask ‘What is the word “of” being used to refer to there ?’ Of course, the word ‘of’ might be used as part of a longer phrase that as a whole was being used to refer (e.g. if I say to my wife ‘The telephone-box at the bottom of the hill is out of order’, the whole phrase ‘the telephone-box at the bottom of the hill’ is being used to refer to a particular telephone-box, and the word ‘of’ is part of the phrase). Roughly: Referring is something that a particular person uses a word or words (already having a meaning) to do on a particular occasion. Meaning is something that all words must have before they can be used

Concepts and Meaning


to refer to anything. Meaning is, in this sense, prior to and more funda¬ mental than the many particular acts of referring that it makes possible. In most cases the thing or things referred to cannot be identified with the meaning of the words. The exceptions are such cases as ‘The meaning of the subject-term of this sentence is an example of a case where the meaning of an expression can be identified with what the expression is being used to refer to’: these cases are pretty unusual. Compare the meaning of a word and the things a person uses a word to refer to on a particular occasion with the function of a hammer and the nails a person uses a hammer to knock in on a particular occasion. The function of a hammer is to knock in nails, but the function is not to be identified with the nails knocked in. Similarly, except for the un¬ usual cases mentioned in the last paragraph, the meaning of a word is not to be identified with the things (if any) that the word is used to refer to. The things that a word applies to must also be distinguished from the meaning of the word. It is part of the meaning of the word ‘telephone’ that it applies to telephones. But those things, namely telephones, that the word telephone applies to are not the meaning or part of the meaning of the word telephone. Telephones can be dropped on the floor and broken: neither the meaning of the word telephone nor any part of the meaning of the word telephone can be dropped on the floor or broken. Before I can go on there is still another sense of ‘what a word means’ to be distinguished and put on one side. This is the sense in which the particular mental images or events that a word arouses in a particular person may quite properly be described as ‘what that word means to that person’. This sense of means is not the sense that I am mainly con¬ cerned with in this article; for the particular mental images, etc., that a word arouses in a particular person are ‘private’, whereas meaning, in the sense of meaning I am concerned with, is public: I am concerned with that sense in which a dictionary, for example, gives the meanings of words. The man who compiles a dictionary is not writing his auto¬ biography. Wittgenstein in The Blue Book says: ‘I want to play chess, and a man gives the white king a paper crown, leaving the use of the piece unaltered, but telling me that the crown has a meaning to him in the game, which he can’t express by rules. I say: “As long as it doesn’t alter the use of the piece, it hasn’t what I call a meaning”.’ The mental images a word arouses in a particular person are as irrelevant to the public meaning of the word as the paper crown to the game of chess. E. B. Titcliener, in his Lectures on the Experimental Psychology of the Thought-Processes, writes: My mind ... is of the imaginal sort ... I have always had ... a wide range and a great variety of imagery (p. 7). . . . When I am



working for myself, reading or writing or thinking, I experience a complex interlacing of imagery. ... If I may venture on a very sweeping statement, I should say that I never sit down to read a book, or to write a paragraph, or to think out a problem, without a musical accompaniment. Usually the accompaniment is orchestral, with a preponderance of the wood-wind, — I have a sort of personal affection for the oboe ; sometimes it is in the tone-colour of piano or violin ; never, I think, is it vocal (p. 9). ... My mind, in its ordin¬ ary operations, is a fairly complete picture gallery. . . . Whenever I read or hear that somebody has done something modestly, or gravely, or proudly, or humbly, or courteously, I see a visual hint of the modesty or gravity or pride or humility or courtesy. The stately heroine gives me a flash of a tall figure, the only clear part of which is a hand holding up a steely grey skirt ; the humble suitor gives me a flash of a bent figure, the only clear part of which is the bowed back, though at times there are hands held deprecatingly before the absent face (p. 13). . . . Horse is, to me, a double curve and a rampant posture with a touch of mane about it 5 cow is a longish rectangle with a certain facial expression, a sort of exag¬ gerated pout (p. 18). . . . It was my pleasure and duty, a little while ago, to sit on the platform behind a somewhat emphatic lecturer, who made great use of the monosyllable ‘but’. My ‘feel¬ ing of but’ has contained, ever since, a flashing picture of a bald crown, with a fringe of hair below, and a massive black shoulder, the whole passing swiftly down the visual field from northwest to southeast (p. 185). As Titchener himself would have been the first to allow, his images are not parts of the meaning of the accompanying words and they are not essential to understanding the meanings of the words. I understand the meaning of the word but, and yet I do not have Titchener’s images. The sense of meaning I shall he talking about is the sense in which both Titchener and I know the same thing in knowing the meaning of the word but: that is, the public meaning of the word. Connected with the last point is this: My question here is ‘What is the meaning of a word?’, not ‘In what does understanding the meaning of a word consist ?’ That I understand the meaning of a word is a truth about me. That you understand the meaning of the same word is a truth about you. But that that we both understand, namely the mean¬ ing of the word, is the same for both. Understanding the meaning of a word is a property of a person. The meaning of a word is not a property of a person. One further preliminary. Often in what follows I shall speak of ‘the meaning’ of a word when it might be more accurate to speak of ‘the


Concepts and Meaning

meaning or meanings’. This is simply for the sake of brevity. I do not think that every word has one and only one meaning. So too for my use of the phrase ‘the function’. What is the meaning of a word? I shall consider first three mistaken theories. Theory 1. ‘The meaning of a word is to be identified with all the things that the word applies to. E.g. the meaning of the word “tree” is all trees.’ [This theory, which might be called ‘Nominalism’, seems to have been held by Berkeley: cf. e.g. his Principles of Human Knowledge, Introduction, section 18 (but contrast his remarks, ibid., section 20).] Theory 2. ‘The meaning of a word is to be identified with some mental image or experience that the user of the word has when he uses it.’ [This theory seems to have been held by Locke.] Theory 5. ‘The meaning of a word is to be identified with all the mental images or experiences of a certain sort had by all who use the word or understand it when they use or understand it.’ All three theories are mistaken, as I shall try to show. Objections to Theory 1. If the meaning of a word were to be identified with all the things that the word applies to, then presumably in order to know the meaning of a word we should have to come across and not forgotten ALL those

things. But we do not have to have seen and not forgotten all (past, present, and future) trees in order to know the meaning of the word tree. Consider too how one could ever come to learn the meaning of the word this if the meaning of the word this were identical with all the things it applies to. If Theory 1 were true, then every time we saw a particular auto¬ mobile for the first time — even if it were exactly like other automobiles we had seen — we should be learning more of the meaning of the word ‘automobile’. But it is not true that the workers on automobile produc¬ tion lines are daily increasing their knowledge of the meaning of the word ‘automobile’. If Theory 1 were true, the words and, but, perhaps, if, not, neverthe¬ less, and many others would be meaningless (unless the universe con¬ tains or has contained some very odd entities, such as ands and buts and perhapses and ifs and nots and neverthelesses — or at least one of each). Theories 2 and 3: clarification. I am not objecting to saying that the meaning of a word can be in some¬ one’s mind in the sense that he can think of the meaning of a word. What I am objecting to is the view that the meaning of a word is to be identified with mental images or experiences of any sort. Objection to Theory 2. It is a consequence of Theory 2 that NO TWO people could ever




entails not merely that sometimes different people mean different things by exactly similar expressions, but that ALWAYS and NECES¬ SARILY they mean different things. For according to Theory 2 when

I use the word tree the meaning of the word is to be identified with some mental image or experience that / have, while when you use the word tree its meaning is to be identified with some mental image or experi¬ ence that you have. The mental images or experiences that I have may be exactly like yours, but they are not to be identified with yours. So according to Theory 2 two people can never mean exactly the same by any word. This consequence is false, so the Theory is false. Possible objection to my objection: ‘But couldn’t they mean exactly similar things?’ Yes, they could. But this is not enough. Sometimes two different people mean, not merely exactly similar things, but exactly the same thing 5 and this is unpossible according to Theory 2. E.g. you say ‘There are six spoons on the table’. I say ‘No, there are only five’. Then we count, and I say ‘You’re right: there are six spoons on the table’. You and I mean exactly the same thing by the words ‘There are six spoons on the table’, not merely exactly similar things. If Theory 2 were true, then lexicography would consist in describing as accurately as possible one’s inner life. To be a good lexicographer one would have to be a Proust, a James Joyce, a Virginia Woolf. This is not what lexicographers do, and not what they normally are. Objections to Theory 3. These are of the same kind as the objections to Theory 1. If the meaning of a word were identical with ALL the mental images or experiences of a certain sort had by all who ever have used or will use it at the time they use it, then nobody could ever be acquainted with more than a negligible fraction of the meaning of any word. In order to be fully acquainted with the meaning of a word it would presumably be neces¬ sary to be acquainted with what went on in the minds of all who ever use it correctly. This is at best physically impossible, at worst logically im¬ possible, and so if the theory were correct nobody could ever be fully acquainted with the meaning of any word. But it is obvious that we can be fully acquainted with the meaning of, e.g., the word but without having first to have made such an impossibly extensive psychological and historical investigation. So Theory 3 is wrong. Quite generally, the meaning of a word (in the sense of meaning specified in this discussion) is never to be identified with a physical object or with any sort of mental image or experience. In the sense of meaning specified here, it is always wrong to say of any physical object or any mental image or experience ‘That is identical with the meaning of the word “-” ’.


Concepts and Meaning

What then is the meaning of a word ? I follow Wittgenstein in think¬ ing that the meaning of a word (in the specified sense of meaning) is to be identified with the function of the word. This certainly satisfies the requirement that the meaning of a word cannot be a physical object or a mental image or experience. Compare: A hammer is a physical object ; a nail is a physical object. But t\io function of a hammer is neither a physical object nor a mental image or experience. Words are tools, and the meanings of words (in the sense of meaning already specified) are the functions of tools. I am here using the word tool in a very wide sense, so that it covers any instrument or implement or thing that has been given a function or functions ; e.g. a spoon, a tractor, glue, a postage stamp. I need to make yet another distinction (‘Philosophy is ever the art of drawing distinctions’ — Lichtenberg). This is the distinction between (a) the normal meaning(s) of a word and (b) the meaning given to a word by a particular user on a particular occasion. The meaning given to a word by a particular user on a particular occa¬ sion may be the normal meaning (or one of the normal meanings) of the word ; but it need not be. This distinction corresponds to the distinction between (a') the normal functions) of a tool and (b') the function a particular tool is made to perform by a particular user on a particular occasion. Again, the function a particular tool is made to perform by a particular user on a particular occasion may be the normal function (or one of the normal functions) of the tool; but it need not be. A man might use a chisel as a screwdriver. In what immediately follows, when I speak of the meaning(s) of a word or of the function(s) of a tool I mean the normal meaning(s) and the normal function(s). Bearing all these distinctions and qualifications in mind, consider the following statements: 1. The function of a tool is not to be identified with everything that anybody ever uses the tool to do. People have used hammers to hit people, and as paperweights. But if you were asked ‘What is the func¬ tion of a hammer?’ (as opposed to ‘What function is this particular hammer performing here?’), the reply ‘It is part of the function of a hammer to hit people and to stop papers being displaced’ would be false or a joke. The meaning of a word, also, is not to be identified with everything that anybody ever uses the word to do.



2. Accordingly it is not surprising that the function of a tool can be learned without having to have witnessed or to have been told about what happened in every single instance of the tool’s being used. You can learn the function of a (contemporaneously used) tool once for all, without first having to have carried out extensive historical investiga¬ tions. The meaning of a word, also, can be learned without having to have witnessed or to have been told about what happened in every single instance of the word’s being used. You can learn the meaning of a (contemporaneously used) word once for all, without first having to have carried out extensive historical investigations. 5. The function of a tool can be learned without having to know what images occur in the minds of those who use it at the time they use it. The meaning of a word can be learned without having to know what images occur in the minds of those who use it at the time they use it. 4. You can know what the function of a tool is without being able to say correctly what it is. You can know what the meaning of a word is without being able to say correctly what it is. 5. The function of a tool is not a material object The meaning of a word is not a material object. 6. The function of a tool is not an event (the using of a tool is an event, but the function of the tool, in the sense specified here, is not an event). Therefore it is neither a physical event nor a mental event. The meaning of a word is not an event (the using of a word is an event, but the meaning of the word is not an event). Therefore it is neither a physical event nor a mental event. And so on. So far as I can see, everything that can be said of (all) tools and their functions can be said with equal truth of words and their meanings. Historically, theories about what the meaning of a word is have usually taken one or other of the following forms. In each case the thing identified by the theorist as the meaning is italicized, (‘Nominal¬ ism’ : 2-termed theory) A. Noise or mark -> Thing(s) to which the noise or mark {word?) applies (Locke: 3-termed theory) B. Noise or mark -> Mental thing or event -> Thing(s) to which the

noise or mark (word?) applies. (Wittgenstein) C. Noise or mark with a function [The word need not apply to any¬

thing. Even if it does, the things it applies to are not usually its meaning or part of its meaning. ]

Concepts and Meaning


The gist of the previous pages is that A and B are wrong, and that C is right. In denying the truth of B, I am not saying that when we use and understand words there is nothing going on in our minds: only that whatever goes on in our minds cannot be identified with the meanings of the words. For the meanings of words are public (how else would we understand each other?), while what goes on in our minds is private. Some people find it very hard to believe that there is no essential connexion between the meaning of a word and the having of a mental image. I hope that the following arguments may help to convince them that there is no such connexion. a) Francis Galton reports in his Inquiries into Human Faculty (1883) how he sent out a questionnaire to one hundred adult men, of whom nineteen were Fellows of the Royal Society. His questionnaire reads in part as follows: Before addressing yourself to any of the Questions on the opposite page, think of some definite object — suppose it is your breakfasttable as you sat down to it this morning—and consider carefully the picture that rises before your mind’s eye. 1. Illumination.— Is the image dim or fairly clear? Is its brightness comparable to that of the actual scene ? 2. Definition. — Are all the objects pretty well defined at the same time, or is the place of sharpest definition at any one time more contracted than it is in a real scene ? 3. Colouring. — Are the colours of the china, of the toast, breadcrust, mustard, meat, parsley, or whatever may have been on the table, quite distinct and natural? [And so on.


To my astonishment [Galton writes], I found that the great majority of the men of science to whom I first applied protested that mental imagery was unknown to them, and they looked on me as fanciful and fantastic in supposing that the words ‘mental imagery’ really expressed what I believed everybody supposed them to mean. . . . They had a mental deficiency of which they were unaware, and naturally enough supposed that those who affirmed they possessed it, were romancing. ... ‘It is only by a figure of speech [wrote one of Gabon’s correspondents] that I can describe my recollection of a scene as a “mental image” which I can “see” with my “mind’s eye” ... I do not see it . . . any more than a man sees the thousand lines of Sophocles which under due pressure he is ready to repeat.’ . . . Much the same result [Galton continues] followed inquiries made for me by a friend among members of the French Institute ... I know of some who, disavow¬ ing all possession of the power, . . . sent no returns at all. . . . Men



who declare themselves entirely deficient in the power of seeing mental pictures can nevertheless give life-like descriptions of what they have seen, and can otherwise express themselves as if they were gifted with a vivid visual imagination. They can also become painters of the rank of Royal Academicians. (Everyman edition, pp. 58-61) So, if Galtori’s results are to be trusted, there are people who under¬ stand the meanings of words for common objects yet claim that they have no visual images at all. b) Wittgenstein, Blue Book: If the meaning of a sign (roughly, that which is of importance about the sign) is an image built up in our minds when we see or hear the sign, then first let us adopt the method we have just des¬ cribed of replacing this mental image by seeing some sort of out¬ ward object, e.g. a painted or modelled image. Then why should the written sign plus this painted image be alive if the written sign was dead? — In fact, as soon as you think of replacing the mental image by, say, a painted one, and as soon as the image thereby loses its occult character, it ceases to seem to impart any life to the sentence at all. (It was in fact just the occult character of the mental process which you needed for your purposes.) The mistake we are liable to make could be expressed thus: We are looking for the use of a sign, but we look for it as though it were an object coexisting with the sign. What gives the sign its meaning, its life, is not its going along with a mental image, but its being used to do a job. No amount of piling up of images, either physical or mental, makes a sign meaningful. What makes it meaningful is that it is used to do a job. Images themselves may function as signs with meaning; but what makes them meaningful when they do is not their being mental entities but their being used to do a job. To return now to concepts. To get philosophically clear about the concept(s) of causality (e.g.) is to get clear about what is, and what is not, meant by such words and phrases as ‘caused’, ‘the cause of’, ‘an effect of’, etc., in sense (2) of ‘what is meant by’. Concepts (in the sense of ‘concept’ in which philosophy is specially concerned to get clear about concepts) are, typically, the meanings of words. Plato thought that there exist things that are neither corporeal enti¬ ties nor experiences, and that these things are a main concern of philosophy. And he was right. For concepts are such things, being the meanings of words, that is, the functions of tools of a certain class; and the functions of tools are neither corporeal entities nor experiences of any kind; and concepts, in that sense, are a main concern of philosophy.

Concepts and Meaning


But Plato’s Forms are not straightforwardly to be identified with concepts, in my sense. For one thing, Plato thinks of the Forms as com¬ pletely bounded, clear-cut, independent objects, that can be taken out of their settings and inspected, like diamonds. Concepts are not quite like that: 1. They are not completely bounded: for to the question ‘Is an x a Y or not?’ (Is an album a book? Is a bicycle a carriage? Is a flag a docu¬ ment ? Is a flying-boat a ‘ship or vessel’ ? Are household goods ‘money’ ? Is ice-cream ‘meat’? Is sandstone a mineral? Is a goldfish an article? Is water an article ? Is a pump-house a factory ? Is a ghost a person ? Is sugar a meal? Are viruses living things?) the existing conventions for the use of the word ‘y’ may provide no answer: the answer is not laid down in the nature of things or in the existing conventions of use, but awaits our decision. Friedrich Waismann (How I See Philosophy, pp. 41-3) has called this feature of our concepts ‘open texture’: the boundaries of our concepts have gaps in them that we may close in a variety of different ways. 2. They are not clear-cut; for, where there is a boundary, it may be marked out not by a line but by an area. 3. They are not independent objects that can be removed without change from their settings, like diamonds ; for the contexts of their use, their settings in human life, make particular concepts what they are, and to try to say what a given concept consists in without any mention of the contexts of its use may be like trying to say what a pawn (in chess) is without any mention of the game to which it belongs. More importantly, Plato’s Forms are not the meanings of words (not concepts, in my sense), but the things referred to (or supposedly re¬ ferred to) by certain nouns and substantival expressions (such as the abstract noun ‘beauty’ and the substantival expression ‘the number three’) on some occasions of their use. And here too Plato is sometimes right. The number three, for example, is a completely bounded, clearcut, unchanging, timeless, non-sensible thing. That concepts are not to be identified with mental images or experi¬ ences of any sort was seen by Kant, and it is a central point in his phil¬ osophy and in a long dispute, in which he took part, over the nature and powers of the human mind. In a famous passage of his Essay John Locke writes: I pretend not to teach, but to enquire, and therefore cannot but confess here again, that external and internal sensation are the only passages that I can find of knowledge to the understanding. These alone, as far as I can discover, are the windows, by which light is let into this dark room: for methinks the understanding is not much unlike a closet, wholly shut from light, with only some



little opening left, to let in external visible resemblances, or ideas of things without: would the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them. (2.11.17) Broadly speaking, for Locke, and for Hume too, the mind is a passive recipient of data, a camera. (In the margin of the passage from Locke just quoted appear the words ‘Dark room’, and pretty obviously Locke is thinking of the optical apparatus known as the camera obscura— literally, ‘dark room’ — constructed or discussed by Boyle, Hooke, Molyneux, and Newton, among his contemporaries. My description of Locke’s and Hume’s picture of the mind neglects the things they say about the mind’s ability to compare, combine, and separate ‘ideas’, and also what Locke says of the will. But these active powers do not amount to much. For Locke and Hume the active mind may be compared to a man who does nothing but arrange pictures in a gallery and look for obvious like¬ nesses and differences among them.) Against this picture stand Leibniz and Kant. They see the mind as active, creative, concept-making. Kant explicitly contrasts the receptivity of the senses with the spontaneity of the understanding: ‘the understanding does not draw its laws . . . from nature, but prescribes them to nature’ (Prolegomena . . . , section 36). The Leibniz-Kant view has been followed by most philosophers on the continent (e.g. Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre 5 in philosophy of science Duhem and Einstein). The Locke-Hume view continued in English philosophy in, for example, the work of Mill and in Russell’s Analysis of Mind, as well as in some continental philosophy (Mach, the Vienna Circle). Lately the work of Wittgenstein has helped to make Kantians of more Enghshmen than usual. In this dispute different doctrines about the nature of concepts, i.e. about the nature of the meanings of words, have played a part. What Kant saw clearly, and what Locke did not see at all, was that a concept (the meaning of a word) cannot be identified with a sensation or with a mental image or with an experience of any sort. For Locke and Hume the meanings of words are mental images of bits of previous experience, and thinking consists in noticing likenesses and differences among these images as they occur, voluntarily or in¬ voluntarily, in the stream of consciousness. Thus the mind has no genuinely creative powers, and its active powers are pretty limited. What Kant saw was that concepts cannot be ‘given in experience’ as mental images may be: concepts necessarily involve rules (says Kant) and rules have to be made. But (he goes on) concepts are necessarily involved in all human knowledge and thinking, and even in perception (as contrasted with mere sensation). Thus there is a creative, construc¬ tive element in all our thought about and apprehension of reality.

Concepts and Meaning


Creation and action of the kind I have been describing need not in¬ volve any falsification, any more than inventing a tool or using a tool to do a job necessarily involves falsification. ‘Creative’ and ‘constructive’ here do not imply ‘false’. The world may be ‘given’, but descriptions, classifications, of the world are not. Which of the many possible classifications that could be made should we make? Which will lead in the end to fundamental understanding of the world? — These things are not ‘given’. Some of the classifications that have been made have served, and still do serve, purposes of common life, and yet they have been positive obstacles to gaining deep theoretical understanding. So, for instance, the classification of motions into two qualitatively different kinds, natural and forced, a useful classification for common life (I ignore here the Aristotelian theory about ‘natural places’ that goes along with the classification), created appalling difficulties for the pioneers of theoretical mechanics. For them the first part of the path of a projectile, the ascent, was qualitatively different from the second part, the descent, and subject to a quite different set of principles. Before explaining anything there is the problem of describing it. The description given is likely to affect what explanation you look for, and so also whether you ever find a true explanation. Even if your descrip¬ tion of a state of affairs is true, it may prevent you from getting funda¬ mental understanding.


borrow the

example that



Friedrich Waismann (How I See Philosophy, pp. 178-80: cf. also Carl Boyer’s History of the Calculus, Dover edition pp. 75 ff. and especially P-79)The Greeks tended to describe the world in terms of polar opposites, which for them differed in kind: as, for example, Moving | at rest

Deep | shallow

Dry | wet

Fast | slow

Strong | weak

Dark | bright

Big | little

Far | near

Heavy | light

Many | few

Hot) cold

For them things that were, say, hot were a different kind of thing from things that were cold. Indeed, many Greek thinkers spoke of those opposite qualities as though they were things that could exist on their own. About the fourteenth century another way of describing things gained ground. One of a pair of opposites swallows up the other, and in place of opposites we find a continuous scale of degrees of one and the same quality. So for instance darkness becomes zero intensity of light, and rest becomes zero degree of motion. ( Compare our talk of the Mohs scale of hardness, not of hardness and softness 5 of the strength of materials 5 of the degree of moisture of the air. We do not add ‘and the



weakness’, ‘and of dryness’.) Differences that were previously thought of as differences in kind came to be thought of as differences in degree of the same kind. The old descriptions were perfectly all right in their way: they are still found useful today and they are not false (more exactly, in the sense they are intended to have in the contexts of their use, they do not commit their users to any theory that is known to be false). But the new descriptions made things much easier for mathematical physics 5 for difference in degree immediately suggests the possibility of mathe¬ matical treatment. Of two true descriptions of a state of affairs, one may hinder the advance of understanding while the other smoothes the way for it. But it is not given in advance which will be the better one to concentrate on. I expect that a million years from now several of our present classifica¬ tions of the world, however useful they may be in common life, will seem to our successors (if there are any, and if they have any knowledge of our ways) as obstructive to fundamental understanding as the classi¬ fication of motions into natural and forced now seems to us. Theoretical science is hardly more than 2500 years old, and the Galilean revolution less than 400. Things have hardly started. There could be a complete transformation in men’s ways of thinking about the world. Of course, it might be a transformation for the worse. There is no mechanical method for inventing good classifications or for discovering true expla¬ nations, and there is no guarantee that scientific inquiry will continue. Already there has been one period lasting a thousand years in which there was no significant new scientific achievement in the West, and this thousand-year gap occurred after the blooming of mathematical physics in the work of Archimedes on statics and Ptolemy on optics. It was not as though nobody had any idea of what a genuinely scientific investigation looked like. Many descriptions have a systematic, a web-like, character. The truth of apparently isolated propositions involves the truth of a great many others. Thus for instance to claim that some actual action is a sin, in one sense of the word sin, is to commit yourself to maintaining that God exists, and to all the rich implications of that statement 5 and no careful atheist would seriously describe any actual action as a sin in that sense. Again, to describe someone as a father, in the sense of ‘male parent’, is to commit yourself to a complicated causal hypothesis that goes way beyond what your senses tell you in the presence of the man in question. If there are no causal connexions then there are no fathers. According to Malinowski, the Trobriand Islanders at the time he knew them did not think that anything was the child of any male. They thought that spirits bring children and insert them into their mothers.

Concepts and Meaning


Malinowski was quite unable to persuade them that there was such a thing as paternity.



‘Many words in this sense then don’t have a strict meaning. But this is not a defect. To think it is would he like saying that the light of my read¬ ing lamp is no real light at all because it has no sharp boundary’ (Witt¬ genstein, The Blue Book). Whewell The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840) I. xxxii—xxxiii [‘Aphorisms Concerning Ideas’, xcii, xcili].



Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein


1. Certainly it is altogether appropriate that a contribution to a

volume in honour of Ernest Mossner should start from Hume. Yet it is surely no less appropriate that the discussion should then proceed to another great figure of the same century, and that it should relate to questions of continuing contemporary relevance. I start with Hume’s acknowledgements to Berkeley, offered first near the beginning of the Treatise and again in the first Enquiry. I then go on to defend at length my own earlier hints that Hume’s account here of what he owes to Ber¬ keley significantly understates the scope and nature of the lesson which Berkeley had to teach. In a nutshell the story is that in the Alciphron, first published in 1752 with a second edition in the same year, Berkeley said things about meaning which make him a precursor of Wittgenstein 5 and that Hume, even if he did study this dialogue thoroughly,1 was not ready to appreciate so radical a challenge to a fundamental of Locke’s new way of ideas. This conclusion does perhaps very slightly diminish Hume. But Berkeley himself seems not to have seen that the innova¬ tions of the Alciphron may call for some rethinking of his own most characteristic positions 5 while even two centuries later Wittgenstein — no doubt for reasons of a different kind—appears never to have recog¬ nized Berkeley as a partial precursor. 2. In the Treatise Hume credits what he himself regards as ‘one of the greatest and most valuable discoveries that has been made of late years in the republic of letters’ to Dr Berkeley: ‘A great philosopher . . . has asserted, that all general ideas are nothing but particular ones, annexed to a certain term, which gives them a more extensive signification, and makes them recal upon occasion other individuals, which are similar to them’ (p. 64). In the first Enquiry Hume appeals to the same putative discovery to support the contention that primary like secondary qualities ‘exist not in the objects themselves, but are perceptions in the mind, without any external archetype or model, which they represent’. He maintains: Nothing can save us from this conclusion, but the asserting, that the ideas of those primary qualities are attained by abstraction, an opinion, which, if we examine it accurately, we shall find to be unintelligible, and even absurd. An extension, that is neither

Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein ?


tangible nor visible, cannot possibly be conceived: and a tangible or visible extension, which is neither hard nor soft, black nor white, is equally beyond the reach of human conception. Let any man try to conceive a triangle in general, which is neither isosceles nor scalenum, nor has any particular length or proportion of sides $ and he will soon perceive the absurdity of all the scholastic notions with regard to abstraction and general ideas.2 In a note to this second passage Hume remarks: ‘This argument is drawn from Dr. Berkeley 5 and indeed most of the writings of that very ingenious author form the best lessons of scepticism, which are to be found among the antient or modern philosophers, Bayle not excepted. He professes, however, in his title-page (and undoubtedly with great truth) to have compos’d his book against the sceptics as well as against the atheists and free-thinkers’ 5 and so on. The title-page referred to could be either that of The Principles of Human Knowledge, first pub¬ lished in 1710, or that of the Three Dialogues, published in 1713. A second edition of the former, the first and last to be revised by the author, had followed twenty-four years later in 1734. That Hume should have written ‘his title-page’ (singular) in a volume published in 1748 is remarkable. For by then all those of Berkeley’s philosophical works which were to be printed in his lifetime had already appeared; and not just ‘most of the writings of that very ingenious author’. Indeed everything but the marginal Sir is, first published in 1744, had been available for some time before Book 1 of Hume’s Treatise came out in


3I have elsewhere suggested that ‘as accounts of Berkeley’s full contri¬ bution to the theory of meaning Hume’s two summaries are utterly insufficient’.3 For they ignore the Alciphron. There in Dialogue VII, Section 14, Berkeley’s Euphranor argues that ‘the algebraic mark, which denotes the root of a negative square, hath its use in logistic operations, although it be impossible to form an idea of any such quan¬ tity. And what is true of algebraic signs is also true of words and lan¬ guage ; modern algebra being in fact a more short, apposite, and artificial sort of language, and it being possible to express by words at length, though less conveniently, all the steps of an algebraical process.’ This contention, I further suggested, constitutes a ‘revolutionary and historically premature insight’. What Hume welcomed so enthusiasti¬ cally in the Treatise was an elaboration of the received doctrine that the understanding of a word requires the occurrence of—or at least the possibility of summoning — corresponding mental imagery. But what Berkeley maintains here in the Alciphron flatly contradicts that received doctrine. The crux now is neither the actual nor the potential occur-



rence of mental imagery. What matters is not the (private) idea but the (public) use—‘its use in logistic operations’. And, furthermore, ‘what is true of algebraic signs is also true of words and language’.


I want in this present paper to develop these suggestions about the inter¬ pretation of Berkeley, and to defend them against the rival reading proposed by Professor J.F. Bennett. Bennett notices my suggestions, and continues: ‘Berkeley here chooses an “algebraic mark”, of which one cannot form a corresponding idea, and seems to say that “algebraic signs” are not, in the relevant respect, a special case. . . . Isn’t this im¬ pressive evidence that he thoroughly and radically rejects Locke’s theory of meaning?’4 Bennett disagrees, and his disagreement is based primarily upon an insistence on a distinction between theoretical and practical uses of language: ‘In the section from which the quoted bit is drawn, Berkeley is concerned with non-theoretical or practical uses of language. He thinks that mathematics is best considered not as a set of theoretical truths but rather as a practical instrument, as something which can help us to build bridges and the like’. Bennett then quotes the follow¬ ing and final sentence from Section 14 of Dialogue vn, but omit¬ ting the initial six concessive words: ‘And it must be confessed that even the mathematical sciences themselves, which above all others are reckoned the most clear and certain, if they are considered, not as instruments to direct our practice, but as speculations to employ our curiosity, will be found to fall short in many instances of those clear and distinct ideas, which, it seems, the minute philosophers of this age, whether knowingly or ignorantly, insist upon in the mysteries of reli¬ gion.’ A little later Bennett gives a further explanation of the distinction which he takes to be crucial here: Presumably the idea is that, just as ‘The good things which God hath prepared . . . etc.’ has the practical force of ‘Cheer up and do better’, so Pythagoras’ Theorem has the practical force of ‘If you want such and such a structure, cut your materials thus and so’. Even if it isn’t helpful to bracket these together, treating them as instances of a single kind of phenomenon which might be called ‘practical meaning’, Berkeley thinks that it is. And in this section _which is simply an exercise in Christian apologetics — he is directly comparing them. Faced with the accusation that the ‘mysteries of religion’ cannot be presented as clean, clear theory, Berkeley is replying that the same is true of mathematics, and that the kind of intellectual respectability that mathematics can have is also available to the mysteries of religion. The section is a rather

Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein ?



ad hominem





‘minute philosophers’. ... It is the essence of this argument of Berkeley’s that it divorces meaningfulness from ideas only in re¬ spect of practical mathematics and practical uses of language. . . . The argument as a whole does not support the view that Berkeley had a ‘revolutionary insight’ into what it is for language — includ¬ ing theoretical language - to be meaningful.5

5a) Now, certainly, Berkeley did present the Alciphron as ‘an exercise in Christian apologetics’. It is on the original title-page offered as ‘Con¬ taining an apology for the Christian religion, against those who are called free-thinkers’. But to say this is a very different thing from say¬ ing that it is ‘simply an exercise in Christian apologetics’; and nothing else besides. It can in general be a serious mistake to categorize some¬ thing as a this, and thence to infer that it cannot also be a that; unless this and that are in truth mutually exclusive. (It was, for instance, pre¬ sumably because he had mentally pigeonholed Hume’s consideration of evidence for the miraculous as simply anti-Christian apologetics that R. G. Collingwood in The Idea of History altogether failed to take account of it as also an important part of Hume’s contribution to the philosophy of history.) But it is in particular a serious mistake in inter¬ preting Berkeley to insist upon a sharp separation between what is philosophy and what is Christian apologetics. To do both simultaneously is altogether characteristic of Berkeley. Thus the title-page of the Three Dialogues tells us: ‘The design ... is plainly to demonstrate the reality and perfection of human knowledge, the incorporeal nature of the soul, and the immediate providence of a Deity, in opposition to sceptics and atheists.’ b) Certainly too the final sentence of Section 14 does express an ad hominem argument. But, first and less important, once the initial sixword concessive clause is restored that sentence looks much more like the Parthian shot which it is than an epitome of what has gone immediately before. Second, and much more important, even if the immediately preceding argument had been ad hominem, that itself would not be enough to show that Berkeley shared the assumption which required his opponents to make what were to them disagreeable concessions. It is indeed precisely because this final sentence does express an ad homi¬ nem argument that we cannot derive from it any support for the con¬ clusion that Berkeley shares with ‘the minute philosophers of this age’ the belief that ‘clear and distinct ideas’ are essential to theoretical respectability—to what Bennett calls ‘clean, clear theory’. c) It is, I submit, significant that that final sentence of Dialogue vil, Section 14, is the only passage of the Alciphron which Bennett deploys



in confirmation of his reading. All the other Berkeley citations in Bennett’s section on ‘Berkeley on Meaning and Understanding’ are drawn from much earlier works. Of these the latest is the Three Dia¬ logues, first published in 1715, with second and third editions in 1725 and 1754, respectively. The earliest is the Philosophical Commentaries of 1705-8. The Principles falls in between, with the first draft of the ‘Introduction’ dating back to perhaps the later months of 1708. Ob¬ viously, appeals to what was first written between nineteen and twentyseven years earlier cannot be decisive in a dispute over the interpreta¬ tion of what it is contended is a new insight in the Alciphron. One thing which we especially need to have if Bennett’s reading of this section is to be established - a thing which he does not, and which I maintain that he cannot, provide — is evidence that, at the relevant time, Berkeley ‘divorces meaningfulness from ideas only in respect of practical mathematics and practical uses of language’.


a) So let us now look again directly at the disputed Section 14 of Dia¬ logue VII, and at its immediate context. Does that support the Bennett thesis that here ‘Berkeley is concerned with non-theoretical or practical uses of language’, and ‘divorces meaningfulness from ideas only in respect of practical mathematics and practical uses of language’ ? Section 14 begins: ‘Thus much, upon the whole, may be said of all signs: —that they do not always suggest ideas signified to the mind: that when they suggest ideas, they are not general abstract ideas: that they have other uses besides barely standing for and exhibiting ideas — such as raising proper emotions, producing certain dispositions or habits of mind, and directing our actions in pursuit of that happiness which is the ultimate end and design, the primary spring and motive, that sets rational agents at work. . . .’ At this point Bennett might be beginning to form the words: ‘I told you so’. But this is exactly where Berkeley was careful to add, in the third edition of 1752: ‘that signs may imply or suggest the relations of things; which relations, habitudes or proportions as they cannot be by us understood without the help of signs, so being thereby expressed and corrected, they enable us to act with regard to things’. Certainly there is a practical concern here. But the practice is to be guided by ‘the rela¬ tion of things’; ‘which relations . . . cannot be by us understood without the help of signs’. Berkeley’s sentence continues: ‘that the true end of speech, reason, science, faith, assent, in all its different degrees, is not merely, or prin¬ cipally, or always the imparting or acquiring of ideas, but rather some¬ thing of an active operative nature, tending to a conceived good: which may sometimes be obtained, not only although the ideas marked are


Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein ?

not offered to the mind, but even although there should be no possi¬ bility of offering or exhibiting any such idea to the mind: for instance, the algebraic mark, which denotes the root of a negative square, hath its use in logistic operations, although it be impossible to form an idea of any such quantity’. Again there is the same emphasis on ‘something of an active operative nature, tending to a conceived good . . .

Yet the

theoretical and the fact-stating are no more excluded by this emphasis than they are by contemporary references to ‘language-games’, or by the once fashionable slogan: ‘Don’t ask for the meaning, ask for the use!’ It is, therefore, entirely appropriate for Berkeley to proceed, without any limiting qualification: ‘and what is true of algebraic signs is also true of words or language ; modern algebra being in fact a more short, apposite, and artificial sort of language, and it being possible to express by words at length, though less conveniently, all the steps of an alge¬ braical process.’ b) The rest of Dialogue VII is as unhelpful to Bennett’s interpreta¬ tion as is Section 14 itself. In the first four sections Alciphron expounds an extreme position: ‘Words are signs: they do or should stand for ideas ; which so far forth as they suggest they are significant’ ; and, con¬ sequently, the key term grace must be senseless. In the next sections Euphranor reveals progressively the extent of Berkeley’s present dis¬ agreement with that view of meaning. In the original Sections 5—7, which Berkeley excised in the third edition, Euphranor protests first that ‘every time the word man occurs in reading or conversation, I am not conscious that the particular distinct idea of a man is excited in my mind’. Alciphron agrees with this observation, but maintains that, in understanding, what is before the mind is ‘the abstract general idea of man’. Euphranor replies that this certainly is not his own experience; and, furthermore, that such an idea cannot occur since it ‘includes a contradiction’. He then offers a suggestion: ‘To me it seems a particular idea may become general, by being used to stand for or represent other ideas . . . ’; afterwards adding the further point that to employ such a word with understanding you do not have always to have a relevant particular idea before your mind. But from the third edition in 1752, thoroughly revised by the author and printed in the year before his death, all this is cut out. Berkeley thus deliberately excluded from what were to be his last words in philosophy what Hume thirteen years before had hailed as ‘one of the greatest and most valuable discoveries that has been made of late years in the republic of letters’. Instead Berkeley preferred that his reply to Alciphron should begin, in what is now numbered as Section 5, with what had previously appeared as an addendum to that greatest and



most valuable discovery: ‘that words may not be insignificant, although they should not, every time they are used, excite the ideas they signify in our minds; it being sufficient that we have it in our power to substi¬ tute things or ideas for their signs when there is occasion’. c) This statement is immediately followed by a reference to ‘another use of words’. This appears to be the use for those ‘other ends’ noticed in Section 20 of the ‘Introduction’ to The Principles, and treated rather more extensively in the first draft of that ‘Introduction’. The finding that there is this other use is here presented — most unpersuasively— as a deduction from the truth of the previous statement: ‘It seems to follow, that there may be another use of words besides that of marking and suggesting distinct ideas, to wit, the influencing of our conduct and actions; which may be done either by forming rules for us to act by, or by raising certain passions, dispositions, and emotions in our minds.’ Nevertheless Berkeley makes it quite clear that he is not wanting to restrict his depreciation of the importance of ideas, and of the actual occurrence of ideas, to such a practical use, or uses, of language. On the contrary, the point of referring here particularly to this, or to these, is only and precisely to rally further support for the general campaign of depreciation. For in the following sentence Berkeley draws his present moral: ‘A discourse, therefore, that directs how to act or excite to the doing or forbearance of an action may, it seems, be useful and signifi¬ cant, although the words whereof it is composed should not bring each a distinct idea to our minds.’ d) After devoting a mere two sentences to this ‘another use of words’ Euphranor proceeds to his next contention, ‘that those words which denote an active principle, soul, or spirit do not, in a strict and proper sense, stand for ideas’. In the second edition of The Principles, in 1734, he introduced into Sections 27, 89, and 142 passages suggesting that what we do have here—although we do not have ideas — should be called notions. In the second and third of these passages relations are added as a third category of which what we must have is not ideas but notions. What is new in the Alciphron is Berkeley’s apparent willing¬ ness to extend indefinitely the list of significant words which do not, and perhaps cannot, stand for ideas. Nor do these three sections —what is now Sections 5-7 —provide any basis for maintaining that this willingness is confined to words practi¬ cally as opposed to theoretically employed. Certainly Euphranor does insist, in Section 5, that certain words for which ‘neither you nor I can form distinct simple ideas’ are practically indispensable: ‘They direct us in the disposition and management of our affairs, and are of such necessary use, that we should not know how to do without them.’ But then a little later, in Section 7, this practical indispensability is associated


Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein?

with theoretical speculations which discover the actual movements of the heavenly bodies: ‘And if, by considering this doctrine of force, men arrive at the knowledge of many inventions in mechanics, and are taught to frame engines, by means of which things difficult and other¬ wise impossible may be performed; and if the same doctrine which is so \

beneficial here below serveth also as a key to discover the nature of the celestial motions — shall we deny that it is of use, either in practice or speculation, because we have no distinct idea of force?’ e) Section 8 begins with Euphranor’s question: ‘Shall we not admit the same method of arguing, the same rules of logic, reason, and good sense, to obtain in things spiritual and things corporeal, in faith and science? And shall we not use the same candour, and make the same allowances, in examining the revelations of God and the inventions of men?’ This granted, Euphranor spends the rest of the section arguing that the difficulties which beset the Christian doctrine of the Trinity are no worse than those afflicting any (Lockean) account of human personal identity. Sections 9, 10, and 11 defend other disputed doctrines similarly: Euphranor contends, that is to say, that the same tolerant and sympathetic treatment should be granted to these as Alciphron and his friends are so willing to give to ‘the little local difficulties’ of science and mathematics. These sections certainly justify Bennett’s claim that ‘Berkeley is replying . . . that the kind of intellectual respectability that mathe¬ matics can have is also available to the mysteries of religion’. But they provide no backing for Bennett’s assertion that Berkeley here ‘divorces meaningfulness from ideas only in respect of practical mathematics and practical uses of language’. For Berkeley never forgets, what he says in Section 11, that ‘Science and faith agree in this, that they both imply an assent of the mind . . . ’. Certainly faith for him had always to be manifested in works. But neither he, nor any other bishop of his century, would have had any truck with a religion without proposi¬ tions. f) Sections 12 and 15 are especially interesting, since they consist in an elaborate statement on the importance and the value of language. Bennett cites the closing words of the ‘Introduction’ to The Principles-. ‘Whoever therefore designs to read the following sheets, I entreat him that he would make my words the occasion of his own thinking, and endeavour to attain the same train of thoughts in reading that I had in writing them. By this means it will be easy for him to discover the truth or falsity of what I say. He will be out of all danger of being deceived by my words. And I do not see how he can be led into an error by consider¬ ing his own naked, undisguised ideas.’ Bennett comments fiercely: ‘Compare that, as an example of emancipation from the associated-



idea theory of meaning, with Locke’s explanation of why nearly onefifth of his Essay is about words.’6 Bennett then quotes from that Essay (ill.ix. 21). The similarity is indeed striking. But what is equally striking, and here more relevant, is the difference: between, on the one hand, these two passages from Locke’s Essay and Berkeley’s Principles5 and, on the other hand, passages from these two sections of the Alciphron immediately pre¬ ceding that presently under dispute. If we suppose rude mankind without the use of language, it may be presumed they would be ignorant of arithmetic. ... As arith¬ metic and algebra are sciences of great clearness, certainty, and extent, which are immediately conversant about signs, upon the skilful use and management whereof they entirely depend, so a little attention to them may possibly help us to judge of the progress of the mind in other sciences. ... If I mistake not, all sciences, so far as they are universal and demonstrable by human reason, will be found conversant about signs as their immediate object, though these in their application are referred to things. ... I am inclined to think the doctrine of signs a point of great importance, and general extent, which, if duly considered, would cast no small light upon things, and afford a just and genuine solution of many diffi¬ culties.6 g) Section 14 is, in effect, a summary of all that Euphranor has had to say in Sections 5-13. Section 15 is the last to bear upon the disputed question of the interpretation of Section 14. Its point is, once again, absolutely general: ‘Be the science or subject what it will, whensoever men quit particulars for generalities, things concrete for abstractions, when they forsake practical views, and the useful purposes of know¬ ledge, for barren speculation, . . . and labouring to attain precise ideas, which they suppose indiscriminately annexed to all terms, they will be sure to embarrass themselves with difficulties and disputes.’ Berkeley mentions some ‘which have sprung up in geometry’. He then proceeds, as before, to argue that, just as it would be wrong to repudiate geometry because of these, so it would be generally wrong to reject Christianity because of its notorious but parallel difficulties. Nevertheless, precisely because the parallelism is perfect, Berkeley does not require the intellec¬ tual degradation of either science or religion: ‘There is no need to depart from the received rules of reasoning to justify the belief of Christians.’ So when Alciphron objects that ‘According to this doctrine, all points may be alike maintained. There will be nothing absurd in Popery, not even transubstantiation’, the future bishop in the Protestant Ascendancy puts into the mouth of Euphranor’s good friend Crito a very sharp


Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein ?

reply: ‘Pardon me. This doctrine justifies no article of faith which is not contained in Scripture, or which is repugnant to human reason, which implies a contradiction, or which leads to idolatry or wickedness of any kind—all which is very different from our not having a distinct or abstract idea of a point.’

7The preceding survey has, I hope, abundantly vindicated the original two suggestions: that ‘as accounts of Berkeley’s full contribution to the theory of meaning Hume’s two summaries are utterly insufficient’ $ and that in the Alciphron we find a ‘revolutionary and historically prema¬ ture insight’. But that, of course, is not to say that Berkeley himself saw how far he had moved 5 or that he himself appreciated how drastically the development of this insight might affect some of his own most cherished and distinctive philosophical moves. On the contrary: the claim that it was historically premature should suggest the very opposite ; and it should also suggest that even Hume would not be ready to take the hint. As we have shown, he was not.


2. 3.



Although the ensuing controversy, and the material discovered in Poland, has now established that the answer to Professor R. H. Popkin’s general question ‘Did Hume ever read Berkeley?’ (Journal of Philosophy 1959) must be ‘Yes’, it is still permissible to doubt whether Hume read all Berkeley. In particular it is possible, and even likely, that Hume—like many others since—gave at best only cursory attention to what he may have been inclined to dismiss as simply an exercise in Christian apolo¬ getics, adding nothing of philosophical interest to what Berkeley had published previously. Certainly the apologetic, not to say homiletic, is much more prominent in the Alciphron than in either the Principles or the Three Dialogues. Ernest Mossner as his most understanding bio¬ grapher should enjoy savouring the thought of Hume reading some of Berkeley’s sly sallies: for instance, the first paragraph of Alciphron VI (1), which begins: ‘The following day being Sunday, our philosophers lay long in bed, while the rest of us went to church in the neighbouring town. . . . ’ Enquiries, xii.i., §123. Here and in some other quotations later I have omitted some italics, and reduced some initial capitals to lower case. This and the phrase quoted in the final sentence of the present paragraph come from my Hume's Philosophy of Belief (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1961) pp. 261—2. But I have made similar claims elsewhere too: for instance, in a Critical Notice of Professor H.H. Price’s Belief in Mind 1970 ; as well as in An Introduction to IVestern Philosophy (London/ New York: Thames and Hudson/Bobbs-Merrill 1971). Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes (Oxford: Clarendon 1971) p. 54

g. 6.

(italics original). Ibid., p. 55, (italics original). Ibid., p. 56. I perhaps both may and should add that Bennett has seen the typescript of the present paper, and is now persuaded that my interpreta¬


tion of Berkeley is substantially correct. In his edition of Berkeley’s FVorks (Oxford: Clarendon 1901) A.C.Fraser is moved to provide a note to this last sentence, referring to ‘the doctrine of signs’ in Locke’s Essay iv.xxi.



Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination In a lecture entitled ‘The Biographical Approach’ Ernest Mossner once remarked on the difficulties which face the biographer of Adam Smith.1 Smith was a poor correspondent who found the act of writing painful, and it is well known that he took pains, before his death, to destroy a great quantity of papers which might have given us much more information with regard to the man.2 But in another sense the quarry is a peculiarly rich one, since Smith did leave, directly or in¬ directly, a large amount of material in the form of books or lecture notes which tell us much as to the qualities of his mind. Of the many influences at work on Smith, Hume was arguably the most important, at least in so far as he adopted three characteristic posi¬ tions which also inform Smith’s works. First, Hume insisted that the study of human nature is a necessary precondition for the study of all forms of human activity, and that this principle even extended to the field of science: ‘ ’Tis evident, that all the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human nature $ and that however wide any of them may seem to run from it, they still return back by one passage or another. Even Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Natural Religion, are in some measure dependent on the Science of Man 5 since they lie under the cognizance of men, and are judged of by their powers and faculties’ ( Treatise, intro., p. 42). Secondly, Hume argued that the science of man must be developed by the use of the ‘experimental’ method or, as he put it, ‘as the science of man is the only solid foundation for the other sciences, so the only solid foundation we can give to this science itself must be laid on ex¬ perience and observation ( Treatise, intro., p.43). Thirdly, Hume suggested that the study of man, thus constituted, would yield the conclusion that ‘there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations’ (Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, §65). In fact Smith had surprisingly little to say on the subject of method (in the sense of considering the techniques of analysis and synthesis), but there can be no doubt that he too followed the Newtonian lead. It is also quite clear that he made use of Hume’s hypothesis with regard to the constant principles of human nature, especially in those of his works



which deal with the activities of man in society. For example, in his economic analysis Smith makes use of the hypothesis that man is moti¬ vated by a desire to seek pleasure and to avoid pain; that he is selfregarding, possessed of certain propensities (for example to ‘truck and barter’) and objectives (for example, to ‘better his condition’). These judgments are used throughout Smith’s economics and lie at the basis of his explanation of the way in which resources come to be allocated between alternative uses. The pursuit of some level of satisfaction always sought, but never in fact attained, is also essential to Smith’s explanation of the development of productive forces over time and, ultimately, to his theory of historical change with its four distinct socio¬ economic stages.3 Indeed, as Dugald Stewart was to point out, the appli¬ cation of this ‘fundamental and leading idea’ (i.e. the constant principles of human nature) to the various branches of ‘philosophical history’ was to become ‘the peculiar glory of the latter half of the eighteenth cen¬ tury, and forms a characteristic feature of its philosophy’.4 While Smith was to exert a considerable influence on this branch of learning, it should not be forgotten that it was Hume who provided one of its first and most subtle examples in his history of Charles I.5 However, Smith’s use of the basic Humean hypothesis is also evident in his other works, significantly those which are in one way or another concerned with the study, or exercise, of human understanding: works such as the Lectures on Rhetoric, the Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Essays on Philosophical Subjects.6 For example, the lectures make it plain that Smith regarded the study of ‘literary composition’ as an important source of information with regard to the powers of the human mind,7 while in addition Smith’s theory of rhetoric was designed to show that the manner in which we organize discourse of various kinds often reflects our own psychology, together with an intuitive know¬ ledge of the mental characteristics of those whom we seek to persuade, teach, or otherwise influence. If in this sense we can say that the Rhetoric was concerned with the qualities of the human mind and their uses, then it will also be apparent that the Theory of Moral Sentiments may, from one point of view, fall within the same category. It is quite obvious of course that in this work Smith was concerned with problems of morals as such, a point which is usefully illustrated by his concern with the question ‘wherein does virtue consist —or what is the tone of temper, and tenor of conduct, which constitutes the excellent and praiseworthy character, . . . ?’ (vn.i. 1.2). The question asked reflects Smith’s concern with a specific subject, but also with an area of human experience which involves some act of judgment on the part of the in¬ dividuals concerned. This aspect of Smith’s work is clearly disclosed in the title of his book, and his statement of the second main question


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

facing the moral philosopher, namely: 'by what means does it come to pass, that the mind prefers one tenor of conduct to another; . . . ?’ (vil.i. 1.2. Italics supplied.) The same general feature is to be found in the Essays on Philosophical Subjects at least to the extent that Smith was concerned with the stimu¬ lus given to the exercise of the understanding by sentiments such as surprise, wonder, or admiration. Smith’s objectives were quite clearly stated at the outset of the essay on astronomy where he remarked: ‘It is the design of this Essay to consider particularly the nature and causes of each of these sentiments, whose influence is of far wider extent than we should he apt upon a careless view to imagine’ (Intro., 7). It is surely interesting to observe that these three works are all concerned (albeit in different ways) with the exercise of the human mind or the stimuli to which it may be subject, that they were all worked out in the 1750s, thus placing them among Smith’s earliest areas of interest, and that they may show Hume’s influence to a striking degree. Indeed, as Professor Raphael recently remarked: ‘Adam Smith was one of the few people of his time who took the measure of Hume’s positive achieve¬ ments in philosophy 5 Smith’s emphasis on the constructive role of the imagination in his theory of scientific method, and the function which he assigned to nature in his ethical theory, must both have come from an appreciation of Hume.’8 In what follows we shall be mainly concerned with Smith’s essay on astronomy with a view to showing the role which Smith ascribed to the imagination in scientific discourse.9 At the same time it is hoped that this discussion may have a certain ‘biographical’ value, by throwing some light on Smith’s own predispositions as a thinker. To this end, the paper will be divided into two main parts: the first will be concerned with the psychological assumptions of the model, and the second with the application of them to the history of astronomy. The Assumptions

The psychological assumptions which Smith employed in the essays under discussion are fundamentally simple: he assumes that man is endowed with certain faculties and propensities such as reason, reflec¬ tion, and imagination, and that he is motivated by a desire to acquire (or avoid) the sources of pleasure (or pain).10 In this context pleasure relates to a state of the imagination, or: ‘What may be called the natural state of the mind, the state in which we are neither elated nor dejected, the state of sedateness, tranquility, and composure, . . . ’ (Imitative Arts, 11.20). In this case such a state may be attained where the mind contem¬ plates objects which satisfy certain conditions, conditions which are quite well expressed in a passage from the Theory of Moral Sentiments



where it is pointed out that: ‘Connected variety, in which each new appearance seems to be introduced by what went before it, and in which all the adjoining parts seem to have some natural relation to one another, is more agreeable than a disjointed and disorderly assemblage of unconnected objects’ (v.i. 1.9). We derive a feeling of pleasure, Smith argues, from the contemplation of relation, similarity, or order: from a certain association of ideas. As Smith remarked in a passage which clearly shows the influence of Hume: When two objects, however unlike, have often been observed to follow each other, and have constantly presented themselves to the senses in that order, they come to be so connected together in the fancy, that the idea of the one seems, of its own accord, to call up and introduce that of the other. If the objects are still observed to succeed each other as before, this connection, or, as it has been called, this association of their ideas, becomes stricter and stricter, and the habit of the imagination to pass from the conception of the one to that of the other, grows more and more rivetted and con¬ firmed. (Astronomy, 11.7)11 He added that, under such circumstances, ‘There is no break, no stop, no gap, no interval. The ideas excited by so coherent a chain of things seem, as it were, to float through the mind of their own accord, without obliging it to exert itself, or to make any effort in order to pass from one of them to another’ (11.7).12 While the ‘indolent imagination’ finds no stimulus to thought under such conditions,13 Smith struck a more original note in going on to argue that this would not be the case where the ‘appearances’ were in any way irregular or unexpected: ‘But if this customary connection be inter¬ rupted, if one or more objects appear in an order quite different from that to which the imagination has been accustomed, and for which it is prepared, the contrary of all this happens. We are at first surprised by the unexpectedness of the new appearance, and when that momentary emotion is over, we still wonder how it came to occur in that place’ (il. 8).14 In other words, we feel surprise when some object (or number of objects) is drawn to our attention which does not fall into an expected pattern—a sentiment quickly followed by that of wonder, where the latter is defined in these terms: ‘The stop which is thereby given to the career of the imagination, the difficulty which it finds in passing along such disjointed objects, and the feeling of something like a gap or inter¬ val betwixt them, constitute the whole essence of this emotion’ (11.9). Wonder, in short, involves a source of pain (or disutility), a feeling of discomfort which gives rise to ‘uncertainty and anxious curiosity’, to ‘giddiness and confusion’, which can in extreme cases lead to men¬ tal derangement. Smith made much of this point, to the extent of

a 68

Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

illustrating his case by reference to the rational individual ‘all at once transported alive to some other planet, where nature was governed by laws quite different from those which take place here’ (il. 10). The response to this situation then involves the pursuit of some ex¬ planation, with a view to relieving the mind from a state of disequili¬ brium, a natural reaction designed to eliminate the sense of wonder by providing some appropriate ordering of the phenomena in question. As Smith put it, the imagination ‘endeavours to find out something which may fill up the gap, which, like a bridge, may so far at least unite those seemingly disjointed objects, so as to render the passage of the thought betwixt them smooth, and natural, and easy’ (il. 8).15 Before going further, it may be useful to elaborate on Smith’s argu¬ ment by reviewing the two types or species which he used to illustrate the processes above described. In the first case, Smith considered objects where the link was provided by similarity (rather than relation), suggesting in this instance that we would naturally tend to place them in certain ‘sorts’ or categories:16 ‘It is evident that the mind takes plea¬ sure in observing the resemblances that are discoverable betwixt diff¬ erent objects. It is by means of such observations that it endeavours to arrange and methodise all its ideas, and to reduce them into proper classes and assortments’ (il. l). He also added that we take pleasure in referring a particular object ‘to some species or class of things, with all of which it has a nearly exact resemblance: and though we often know no more about them than about it, yet we are apt to fancy that by being able to do so, we show ourselves to be better acquainted with it, and to have a more thorough insight into its nature’ (il. 3). Now so long as the individual objects which are presented to us fall within some existing classification, the mind can retain a position of equilibrium: ‘But when something quite new and singular is presented, we feel ourselves incapable of doing this. The memory cannot, from all its stores, cast up any image that nearly resembles this strange appear¬ ance’ (11.5). Hence the feeling of surprise and wonder, together with the response to it, as the individual struggles to connect the object in question to some class of objects. The observer ‘must find out some resemblance or other, before he can get rid of that wonder, that uncertainty and anxious curiosity excited by its singular appearance5 and by its dissimilitude with all the objects he had hitherto observed’ (11.4). Smith also made the interesting point that new appearances would often lead to new classifications, and that ‘The further we advance in knowledge and experience, the greater number of divisions and sub¬ divisions of those Genera and Species we are both inclined and obliged to make’ (11.2). In the second case, Smith argued that when some rela-



tion of things strikes the observer as unusual he will also be subject to the emotions above mentioned. For example: The motion of a small piece of iron along a plain table is in itself no extraordinary object, yet the person who first saw it begin, without any visible impulse, in consequence of the motion of a loadstone at some little distance from it, could not behold it with¬ out the most extreme Surprise; and when that momentary emo¬ tion was over, he would still wonder how it came to be conjoined to an event with which, according to the ordinary train of things, he could have so little suspected it to have any connection. (11.6) Once again the mind suffers a disturbance, and once again responds by endeavouring to find some train of intermediate events which will satisfy the need for explanation: Thus, when we observe the motion of the iron, in consequence of that of the loadstone, we gaze and hesitate, and feel a want of connection betwixt two events which follow one another in so un¬ usual a train. But when, with Des Cartes, we imagine certain invisible effluvia to circulate round one of them, and by their repeated impulses to impel the other, both to move towards it, and to follow its motion, we fill up the interval betwixt them, we join them together by a sort of bridge, and thus take off that hesitation and difficulty which the imagination felt in passing from the one to the other. (11.8) The argument thus proceeds along exactly similar lines to the pre¬ vious case, although it may be useful to take this opportunity of em¬ phasizing two aspects of it. First, it will be noted that man is impelled to seek an explanation for observed appearances as a result of some subjective feeling of discomfort, and that the resulting explanation is therefore designed to meet some psychological need. Secondly, Smith argues that the explanation offered can only satisfy the mind if it is coherent, capable of accounting for observed appearances, and stated in terms of ‘familiar’ or plausible principles — requirements satisfied by the Cartesian argument above mentioned, since ‘Motion after impulse is an order of succession with which of all things we are the most familiar’ (il. 8). Although the examples so far used are drawn from the reactions

of the casual observer to the phenomena he contemplates, the main point of Smith’s argument is to show that the philosopher (or scientist) is also subject to the same basic (universal) principles of human nature.17 Indeed, from one point of view the main difference between the philosopher and the non-philosopher is to be found in the type and range of problems with which the two parties are concerned. For nature


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

as a whole, Smith suggested, ‘seems to abound with events which appear solitary and incoherent’ and which therefore ‘disturb the easy move¬ ment of the imagination’ (11. 12). Under these circumstances the phil¬ osopher feels the disutility involved in the sentiments of surprise and wonder, and reacts to them by endeavouring to find some explanation. As Smith puts it: ‘Wonder, therefore, and not any expectation of advan¬ tage from its discoveries, is the first principle which prompts mankind to the study of Philosophy, of that science which pretends to lay open the concealed connections that unite the various appearances of nature’ (111.3). Philosophy in all its forms, natural as well as moral, thus emerges as ‘the science of the connecting principles of nature’ (il. 12), with, as its ultimate end, ‘the repose and tranquility of the imagination’ (iv. 13). Although these motives are of universal application, the purposes of philosophy are made especially clear in Smith’s discussion of astronomy, where he argues that the task of theory is to introduce ‘order into this chaos of jarring and discordant appearances, to allay this tumult of the imagination, and to restore it, when it surveys the great revo¬ lutions of the universe, to that tone of tranquility and composure, which is both most agreeable in itself, and most suitable to its nature’ (11.12). The similarities between the philosopher and the non-philosopher are therefore emphasized, although Smith did take considerable pains to bring out a number of important differences between them. For example, he pointed out that in any developed society philosophy would tend to emerge as a distinct trade like any other, and its practitioners as ‘men of speculation, whose trade it is not to do any thing, but to observe everything; and wrho, upon that account, are often capable of combin¬ ing the powers of the most distant and dissimilar objects’ (Wealth of Nations, 1.1.9). As a result certain differences emerge as between the two groups, which ‘arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom and education’. These differences involve things like knowledge, and powers of observation, and are important in that they permit the philosopher to perceive problems of connection to which the non-phil¬ osopher may be insensible. For example, Smith cites the case of artisans such as dyers, brewers, and distillers, who handle processes which strike the skilled observer as complex, but which do not seem so to the artisan himself ‘who has been for many years familiar with the consequences of all the operations of his art’. In a passage which may reflect his own experience, Smith records the amusement which such questions often elicit, since the artisan ‘cannot conceive what occasion there is for any connecting events to unite those appearances, which seem to him to succeed each other very naturally. It is their nature, he tells us, to follow



one another in this order, and that accordingly they always do so’ ( Astronomy, II. 11). In the same way Smith points out that men are so familiar with the conversion of food into flesh and bone that they do not (typically) think about the processes involved ; that ordinary men ‘have seldom had the curiosity to inquire by what process of intermediate events this change is brought about. Because the passage of the thought from one object to the other is by custom become quite smooth and easy’ (11.11). In the same way Smith remarked: ‘After a little use and experience, . . . look¬ ing glasses cease to be wonders altogether 5 and even the ignorant become so familiar with them, as not to think that their effects require

any explication’ (Imitative Arts, 1.17). But just as the botanist differs

from the casual gardener, or the musician from his auditor, so the phil¬ osopher ‘who has spent his whole life in the study of the connecting principles of nature, will often feel an interval betwixt two objects, which, to more careless observers, seem very strictly conjoined. By long attention to all the connections which have ever been presented to his observation, by having often compared them with one another, he has, like the musician, acquired, if one may say so, a nicer ear. . . .’ (Astron¬ omyII. 11). This is an important point because it also means that the philosopher is less likely to be completely reassured by the ‘explana¬ tions’ offered (by himself or others) for jarring and discordant appear¬ ances and, therefore, that speculation need not cease after a generally acceptable solution had been found for a particular problem. Or, as Smith remarked in referring to the simpler problem of explaining the movement of scenery on a stage, ‘in the Wonders of nature ... it rarely happens that we can discover so clearly this connecting chain’


A second major difference between the philosopher and the non¬

philosopher is to be found in the pleasure to be derived, directly or in¬ directly, from the exercise of the intellectual faculties. In fact Smith devoted a good deal of attention to the ‘pleasing satisfaction of science’, while indicating that it had many sources. Thus he pointed out that once we have succeeded in providing an acceptable and coherent account of some observed phenomena, the very existence of that explanation may heighten our appreciation of the ‘appearances’ themselves, thus representing a source of satisfaction in addition to that acquired from the explanation itself. In this way, for example, we may learn to under¬ stand., but also to admire a complex social structure once its ‘hidden springs’ have been exposed; we understand and thus admire the animal body once we know something of its structure; the theory of astronomy helps us to admire the heavens through presenting the ‘theatre of nature’ as a ‘coherent, and therefore a more magnificent spectacle’


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

(il. 12). In a rather similar vein Smith adverted to the pleasure to be derived from effort of a philosophical kind, in suggesting that men ‘pursue this study for its own sake, as an original pleasure or good in itself, without regarding its tendency to procure them the means of any other pleasure’ (ill. 3).18 In the Lectures on Rhetoric Smith made a different, hut related point in suggesting that there were ‘two methods’ of didactic (scientific) writing, that we ‘may either, like Aristotle, go over the different branches in the order they happen to be cast up to us, giving a principle, commonly a new one, for every phenomenon 3 or, in the manner of Sir Isaac Newton, we may lay down certain principles, primary or proved, in the beginning, from whence we account for the several phenomena, connecting all together by the same chain’. He added: ‘This latter, which we may call the Newtonian method, is undoubtedly the most philosophical, and in every science, whether of Morals or Natural Phil¬ osophy, etc., is vastly more ingenious, and for that reason more engag¬ ing, than the other. It gives us a pleasure to see the phenomena which we reckoned the most unaccountable, all deduced from some principle (commonly, a well known one) and all united in one chain, far superior to what we feel from the unconnected method . . . ’ (24.7).19 Smith was also to expose another facet of the same problem in draw¬ ing attention to the importance of order, and to the beauty of ‘systema¬ tical arrangement of different observations connected by a few common principles’. Elsewhere he likened the pleasure to be derived from the contemplation of a system of thought to that acquired from listening to a ‘well composed concerto of instrumental Music’: ‘In the contem¬ plation of that immense variety of agreeable and melodious sounds, arranged and digested, both in their coincidence and in their succession, into so complete and regular a system, the mind in reality enjoys not only a very great sensual, but a very high intellectual, pleasure, not un¬ like that which it derives from the contemplation of a great system in any other science’ (Imitative Arts, 11.30). Smith was to make much of this concept of ‘beauty’ in the Theory of Moral Sentiments where he went so far as to suggest that the contrivance of art is ‘often more valued than the very end for which it was intended’ (iv.i. 1.3). We may therefore conclude that while the principles of human nature are to be regarded as constant, the philosopher emerges as a very different creature from the unskilful spectator: a point which may ex¬ plain Smith’s insistence that the former group are unlikely to regard the opinion of the latter as being of great moment.20 Yet at the same time Smith evidently believed that the popular reception of scientific work could have an important influence on its future course: ‘We observe, in general, that no system, how well soever in other respects supported,



has ever been able to gain any general credit in the world, whose con¬ necting principles were not such as were familiar to all mankind’ (Astronomy, II. 12).21 The Astronomy

Smith’s essay on astronomy has three features which may be worth noting before embarking on a brief review of its content. First, this section of his work is simply and solely concerned to illustrate the prin¬ ciples of human nature above mentioned. As Smith said, he proposed to examine the different systems which had been adopted by the learned. Without ‘regarding their absurdity or probability, their agreement or disagreement with truth and reality, let us consider them only in that particular point of view which belongs to our subject $ and content our¬ selves with enquiring how far each of them was fitted to soothe the imagination, and to render the theatre of nature a more coherent, and therefore a more magnificent spectacle, than otherwise it would have appeared to be’ {Astronomy, II, 12). Secondly, the essay has an historical dimension in that Smith set out to review four main systems of thought, each of which was accepted at different points in historical time, to¬ gether with the contributions made by specific individuals to them. Thirdly, Smith’s argument is designed to show that knowledge develops progressively over time, designed to show not only that certain systems of thought were accepted at different points in time, but also that there was a certain pattern of transition between them. Specifically, Smith set out to show that the first astronomical system was constructed as a response to the needs of the imagination 22 then subjected to a contin¬ uous process of modification as new facts came to be explained, until finally the explanation of observed appearances itself became excessively complex, thereby failing to restore the mind to a state of tranquillity. We may usefully illustrate the burden of Smith’s argument by com¬ menting on the rise, progress, and decline of the first great astronomi¬ cal system, that of Concentric Spheres. As Smith presents the case, the first astronomers were faced with the need to explain the movements of three different types of object: Sun, Moon, and Stars. This was effected, he suggests, in terms of a theory of Solid Spheres, each one of which was given a circular but regular motion, for two reasons. First, he suggested that ‘A circle, as the degree of its curvature is everywhere the same, is of all curve lines the simplest and the most easily conceived’ (iv.51). (Smith made a rather similar point in a lecture delivered on 28 March 1765.) Secondly, he consi¬ dered that ‘The equality of their motions was another fundamental idea which, in the same manner, and for the same reason, was supposed by all the founders of astronomical systems. For an equal motion can be more easily attended to, than one that is continually either accelerated


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

or retarded’ (iv. 52). In the first system, the sky was regarded as the roof of the universe while the stars, being apparently static in respect of their relative positions, ‘were naturally thought to have all the marks of being fixed, like so many gems, in the concave side of the firmament, and of being carried round by the diurnal revolutions of that solid body’ (iv. x ). Given this explanation, Smith argued, it was equally natural to ex¬ plain the movements of the Sun and Moon in terms of an hypothesis of the same kind, thus rendering the ‘theory of the heavens more uni¬ form’ than would otherwise be the case. In this instance, since the Sun and Moon change their relative positions, each was given a sphere of its own, one inside the other (in order to account for the eclipse), and supposed ‘to be attached to the concave side of a solid and transparent body, by whose revolutions they were carried round the earth’ (iv. 2). Additional spheres were subsequently added in order to account for the movement of the five planets or ‘wandering stars’ until a system emerged which represented the earth as ‘self-balanced and suspended in the center of the universe, surroxxnded by the elements of Air and Ether, and covered by eight polished and crystalline Spheres, each of which was distinguished by one or more beautiful and luminous bodies, and all of which revolved round their common center, by varied, but equable and proportionable motions’. As Smith pointed out, such a system of thought appealed to the imagination by apparently providing a coherent explanation of the ‘different movements and effects already in reality performed’ and connected by simple and familiar processes, the ‘grandest and most seemingly disjointed appearances in the heavens’. He added: ‘If it gained the belief of mankind by its plausibility, it attracted their won¬ der and admiration 5 sentiments that still more confirmed their belief, by the novelty and beauty of that view of nature which it presented to the imagination’ (iv.5).23 Indeed, even if some contemporaries recog¬ nized that such a system did not account for all appearances, the degree of completeness was such that the generality of men would be tempted to ‘slur over’ (iv.6) such problems. In fact, Smith went on to suggest that this beautiful and appealing construction of the intellect might ‘have stood the examination of all ages, and have gone down triumphant to the remotest posterity’ had there been ‘no other bodies discoverable in the heavens’ (iv.4). But of course such bodies were discovered, and this together with the fact that Eudoxus was not one of the ‘generality of men’ led to the need to modify the existing system, and the addition of more spheres, as a means of accounting for changes in the relative positions of the planets. As a result Eudoxus raised the total number of spheres to 27, Callippus to 34, Aristotle ‘upon a yet more attentive obser-


l7 5

vation’ to 56, until Fracastoro, £smit with the eloquence of Plato and Aristotle’, felt it necessary to raise the number of spheres to 72. In short, the existing, relatively simple system of Eudoxus was gradually modi¬ fied in order to meet the needs of the imagination when faced with new problems to be explained, until a situation was reached where the explanation offered actually violated the basic prerequisite of simplicity. As Smith put it: ‘This system had now become as intricate and complex as those appearances themselves, which it had been invented to render uniform and coherent. The imagination, therefore, found itself but little relieved from that embarrassment, into which those appearances had thrown it, by so perplexed an account of things’ (iv. 8). In consequence, another system was developed by Apollonius (sub¬ sequently refined by Hipparchus and Ptolemy), which distinguished between the ‘real and apparent motion of the heavenly bodies’ and solved the problem of changes in relative position by supposing that ‘the Sun and other Planets revolved in circles, whose centers were very different from the center of the Earth’. At the same time, the adherents of this system attempted to account for the irregular movements of the planets by supposing ‘that in the solidity of the Sphere of each of the Five Planets there was formed another little Sphere, called an Epicycle, which revolved round its own center, at the same time that it was carried round the center of the Earth by the revolution of the great Sphere, betwixt whose concave and convex sides it was inclosed’ (1 v.

10 ).

Once again, we face a system which was designed to ‘introduce harmony and order into the mind’s conception of the movements of those bodies’, and which once again succeeded to a degree. However, the same argu¬ ment is advanced: namely, that a gradual (and inevitable) process of modification to the system involved a progressive increase in its degree of complication, until a situation was reached where ‘this imaginary machine, though, perhaps, more simple, and certainly better adapted, to the phaenomena than the Fifty-six Planetary Spheres of Aristotle, was still too intricate and complex for the imagination to rest in it with complete tranquility and satisfaction’ (iv. 19). Indeed, Smith argued that the situation became even more complex with the work done by the Schoolmen, and especially Peurbach, who laboured to reconcile the Aristotelian doctrine of Solid Spheres with the later system of Eccentric Spheres and Epicycles in the form given it by Ptolemy. As Smith suggested, Peurbach ‘as well as all those who had worked upon the same plan before him, by rendering this account of things more complex, rendered it still more embarrassing than it had been before’


It will be observed that this illustration introduces a new element

into Smith’s discussion, namely, the attempt made not merely to explain


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

observed events, but to find consistency between conflicting accounts of those events. Thus, the (modified) system of Eccentric Spheres was to suffer the same fate as its predecessor, and for the same reason, being ultimately replaced by the Copernican. Copernicus provides a good example of Smith’s reliance on the role of the imagination 5 in that ‘The confusion, in which the old hypothesis represented the motions of the heavenly bodies, was, he tells us, what first suggested to him the design of forming a new system, that these, the noblest works of nature, might no longer appear devoid of that harmony and proportion which discover themselves in her meanest productions’ (iv. 28). Like the system which it was to replace, the Copernican managed to account for observed appearances 5 in the manner of a ‘more simple machine’, requiring ‘fewer movements’, it represented ‘the Sun, the great enlightener of the universe, whose body was alone larger than all the Planets taken together, as established immovable in the center, shedding light and heat on all the worlds that circulated round him in one uniform direc¬ tion, but in longer or shorter periods, according to their different dis¬ tances’ (iv. 32). The Copernican system was to prove an attractive hypothesis to some, not merely because of its beauty and simplicity, but also because the novelty of the view of nature thus provided excited a certain feeling of wonder and surprise : For, though it is the end of Philosophy, to allay that wonder, which either the unusual or seemingly disjointed appearances of nature excite, yet she never triumphs so much, as when, in order to con¬ nect together a few, in themselves, perhaps, inconsiderable objects, she has, if I may say so, created another constitution of things, more natural indeed, and such as the imagination can more easily attend to, but more new, more contrary to common opinion and expectation, than any of those appearances themselves, (iv. 33) This was emphatically the case with a system which ‘moved the earth from its Foundations, stopt the revolution of the Firmament, made the sun stand still’. Smith also pointed out rather drily that since it was also inconsistent with the laws of physics as then understood, the Copernican system, itself the product of the requirements of the imagination, pro¬ vided incontrovertible evidence as to the ease with which the learned ‘give up the evidence of their senses to preserve the coherence of the ideas of their imagination’ (iv. 35). Yet at the same time Smith was careful to argue that the system was by no means acceptable to all at the time of its statement, the main problem being that Copernicus had invested the earth with a velocity which ran counter to normal experience. In other words, a system which was simple, coherent, and able to account for observed appear-



ances, foundered, in the opinion of some, on the use of a principle so unfamiliar. The imagination, Smith suggested, would naturally tend to think of the earth as inert, ‘ponderous and even averse to motion’

(iv. 38), and it was basically this which led to the development of an alternative system, that of Tycho Brahe. This is an interesting case, because Smith presents subsequent historical development as a process of gradual acceptance of Copernicus’ work. Smith argued that the astronomical research done by Galileo, and especially Kepler, contri¬ buted to the completion (and thus acceptance) of the system, while work done on the problem of motion by Galileo helped to remove some of the more telling objections to the idea of a moving earth. But in terms of general acceptance of the idea of the earth spinning at high velocity, Smith gave most emphasis to the contribution of Descartes who repre¬ sented the planets as floating in an immense ocean of ether

(1 v. 65) con¬

taining ‘at all times, an infinite number of greater and smaller vortices, or circular streams’

(iv. 62 ).24 Once the imagination accepted this form

of argument Smith suggested, it was a short step to eliminate the ‘greatest difficulty in the Copernican system’

(iv. 65) since ‘it was quite

agreeable to its usual habits to conceive’ that the planets ‘should follow the stream of this ocean, how rapid soever. This was an order of succes¬ sion to which it had been long accustomed, and with which it was, therefore, quite familiar.’ Smith added that the Cartesian explanation gained further, in point of attractiveness, from its association with ‘a vast, an immense system, which joined together a greater number of the most discordant phenomena of nature, than had been united by any other hypothesis’

(iv. 65).

Yet at the same time, the Copernican system, if complete, was still cumbersome, and destined in due time to give way to still another, capable of accounting more completely for observed appearances, in terms of a smaller number of basic principles, and of successfully pre¬ dicting their future movement. This was the system of Newton, ‘a system whose parts are more strictly connected together, than those of any other philosophical hypothesis. Allow his principle, the universality of gravity, and that it decreases as the squares of the distance increase, and all the appearances, which he joins together by it, necessarily follow’

(iv. 76). Moreover, the basic principles involved could be re¬

garded as familiar, since ‘The gravity of matter is, of all its qualities, after its inertness, that which is most familiar to us. . . . The law too, by which it is supposed to diminish as it recedes from its center, is the same which takes place in all other qualities which are propagated in rays from a center, in light, and in everything else of the same kind’

(iv.76). While Smith wrote with real enthusiasm about Newton’s contribution and its current reception in France,25 this did not cause


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

him to lose sight of the main purpose of his essay. He added that even we, while we have been endeavouring to represent all philo¬ sophical systems as mere inventions of the imagination, to connect together the otherwise disjointed and discordant phaenomena of nature, have insensibly been drawn in, to make use of language expressing the connecting principles of this one, as if they were the real chains which Nature makes use of to hind together her several operations. Can we wonder then, that it should have gained the general and complete approbation of mankind, and that it should now be considered, not as an attempt to connect in the imagination the phaenomena of the Heavens, but as the greatest discovery that ever was made by man, the discovery of an immense chain of the most important and sublime truths, all closely connected together, by one capital fact, of the reality of which we have daily experi¬ ence. (iv.76) Conclusion

While the argument which we have just reviewed provides ample evi¬ dence of the influence of Hume, the two main parts into which it falls have features which commend them to our attention for a number of additional reasons. First, while Smith’s psychological principles may be open to objection, it must be remembered that Smith wrote this essay from a very restricted point of view, and that he did not claim an ex¬ clusive role for the sentiments of wonder and surprise in scientific work. As we have seen, Smith only asserted (at the outset of his paper) that it was his business to examine the role of certain sentiments (wonder, surprise, and admiration) whose ‘influence is of far wider extent than we should be apt upon a careless view to imagine’. It should also be remembered that even if we regard Smith’s ‘psychological principles’ with some scepticism, still his views as to the motivation behind ‘scien¬ tific’ effort may contain useful insights. This is especially true of his argument that science is one of those arts which address themselves to the imagination, and of the emphasis which he gave to sources of pleasure such as those derived from the simplicity, order, coherence, and ingenuity of the work produced. It was also in this connection that Smith recognized the importance of the role of analogy in suggesting that philosophers, in attempting to explain unusual or ‘discordant’ appearances, often did so in terms of knowledge gained in other more familiar, but unrelated fields. Such arguments are important precisely because they direct our attention to the possibility that the way in which we express ourselves may be affected by forces which are quite unconnected with the nature of the problems actually being examined. Thus Smith suggested that reason¬ ing by analogy might affect the nature of the work done, in the manner



of the Pythagoreans, for example, ‘who first studied arithmetic’ and then ‘explained all things by the properties of numbers’, or of the modern physician (Hartley?) who ‘lately gave a system of moral phil¬ osophy upon the principles of his own art’ (il. 12). Indeed he went further in suggesting that in some cases the analogy chosen could be¬ come not just a source of ‘ingenious similitudes’26 but ‘the great hinge upon which every thing turned’ (11.12). In a similar vein Smith also indicated that because we find beauty a source of pleasure, in some types of intellectual production, these pro¬ ductions may, quite unconsciously, be given a form which is designed to satisfy certain aesthetic criteria. Hence the Newtonian ‘method’ may be used because it is ‘more ingenious and for that reason more engaging than the other’, while in the same vein it is interesting to recall that Smith should have referred to a propensity, natural to all men, to account for ‘all appearances from as few principles as possible’ (Moral Sentiments, vil.ii. 2.14). If points such as these strike a chord in the reader, we probably ought not to discount the possibility that in reviewing the psychological stimuli to study, Smith may have revealed a great deal with regard to his own drives as a thinker. Such preferences as are revealed in the essay may, for example, explain his own delight in ‘systematical arrangement’ and the form which the Wealth of Nations assumed, a book ‘at once so agreeable in its arrangement to the rules of sound logic, and so accessible to the examination of ordinary readers’ (Dugald Stewart,


x. 65).

As Professor T. D. Campbell has recently

shown,27 the Moral Sentiments may also be interpreted as an attempt to account for a wide range of ‘appearances’ in terms of a few basic principles, and it will be observed that exactly the same could be said of the essay which we have been reviewing here. Secondly, we should remember the need to attain some critical per¬ spective on Smith’s essay. For example Smith’s idea of an historical sketch cannot be said to have been an isolated attempt, since there were others in the field such as Turgot, D’Alembert, and Jean-Etienne Montucla. Indeed, as Dugald Stewart remarked: The mathematical sciences, both pure and mixed, afford, in many of their branches, very favourable subjects for theoretical history 5 and a very competent judge, the late M. D’Alembert, has recom¬ mended this arrangement of their elementary principles, which is founded on the natural succession of inventions and discoveries, as the best adapted for interesting the curiosity and exercising the genius of students. The same author points out as a model a passage in Montucla’s History of Mathematics, where an attempt is made to exhibit the gradual progress of philosophical speculation,


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination from the first conclusions suggested by a general survey of the heavens, to the doctrines of Copernicus.28

While Smith could not have read Turgot’s unpublished thesis,29 and Montucla’s work was published too late (1758) to be of influence, he had read D’Alembert’s Preliminary Discourse, the first part of which is relevant for the student of Smith’s essay.30 Yet at the same time it must be recognized that if Smith’s knowledge of astronomy was uneven (and he himself recognized the limitations of his section on Newton),31 he still had a remarkable knowledge of the field. Moreover, it can be said that he brought to his argument a con¬ siderable degree of sophistication in showing that the pattern of devel¬ opment involved the modification of an existing system and that at some stages this process of modification could lead to results which made that system unacceptable. This is surely a notable and original achieve¬ ment which would appear, at least on the surface, to anticipate in a striking way the basic theses contained in Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Like Kuhn, Smith works in terms of systems (paradigms) within which development takes place (Kuhn’s route to normal science) until finally overtaken first by the crisis state and then by revolution (i.e. the substitution of one paradigm for another). It is surely a remarkable coincidence that Kuhn and Smith should have produced arguments which have such a degree of similar¬ ity, that they should both have done so after working on the study of astronomy, and that they should both have isolated Copernicus’ famous preface as ‘one of the classic descriptions of a crisis state’. Bearing in mind the influence which Kuhn was to exert on the study of the historv of ideas it may well be that neglect of Smith’s essay in earlier years is to be regretted. It may also be important to observe that Smith’s early interest in astronomy, and the suitability of that subject for treatment as ‘conjectural history’, may have encouraged his interest in a type of enquiry which was to attract considerable attention in the form of a (four stage) socio-economic theory of historical change. Finally, it may be suggested that Smith’s essay on astronomy, to¬ gether with other ‘early writings’, enables us to attain some perspective on another major issue of the eighteenth century — namely the influence exerted by Isaac Newton on the path followed by the social sciences in general and on Smith in particular. There can be no doubt that Smith held Newton in very high esteem: he frequently referred to the ‘great work’ done by Newton, and we have already observed the admiring tone with which he commented on his theory of astronomy. In addition, it is known that Smith voiced similar sentiments in his Edinburgh Review article of 1755 where he rejoiced in the fact that contributors to the French Encyclopedic had at last acknowledged the superiority of ‘the



English philosophy’ over that of their countryman Descartes.32 The admiration is obvious and so too is the influence—a fact which is thoroughly attested by Smith’s frequent use of mechanistic analogies. While one of the best examples (still in use) is to be found in Smith’s treatment of equilibrium price in the Wealth of Nations, similar ana¬ logies appear in almost all his works. Thus for example he refers quite frequently to the ‘great machine of the universe’ (Moral Sentiments, I. i. 4.2 ), to the ‘political machine’, and to the ‘machine of government’ (1V. i. 1.11). The same analogy is employed in speaking of the develop¬ ment of language33 and even of intellectual systems, which Smith explicitly likened to pieces of machinery. ‘Systems in many respects resemble machines. A machine is a little system, created to perform, as well as to connect together, in reality, those different movements and effects which the artist has occasion for. A system is an imaginary machine invented to connect together in the fancy those different move¬ ments and effects which are already in reality performed’ ( Astronomy, IV. 19).

This type of thinking is linked to another feature which is often associated with Newton, namely, the ‘argument from design’: the argument that the parts of the machine, bound by laws over which they have no control and of which they are (necessarily) unaware, yet combine in such a way as to contribute to ends which are no part of their intention. In the language of Smith, the student of man in society must learn to distinguish between efficient and final causes, between the actions of men and the (Divine?) Plan to which they unconsciously conform (Moral Sentiments, II. ii. 3.5). Yet if Smith’s early work helps to confirm the influence of Newton, it also helps the modern reader to attain some perspective on that in¬ fluence. For example, it is appropriate to remember that Smith’s know¬ ledge of science went well beyond Newton and that it included some familiarity with the works of Galileo and Descartes, to name but two.34 Moreover, it will be recalled that in the Edinburgh Review article of 1755 Smith also drew attention to the work of Boyle and Bacon, and to the contributions of Buffon, Daubenton, and Reaumur.35 In addition, it is known that he bought the Encyclopedic for Glasgow University Library and that his own library contained copies of the works of D’Alembert, Diderot, Buffon, and Maupertuis. The work done in the field of biology by men such as these was of profound importance, associated as it is with the introduction of the ‘great chain’ thesis and of those theories of ‘transformism’ which were being developed in the late 1740s and early 1750s.36 It has been suggested that these theories were ‘intimately related to the entrance of historicism into the Euro¬ pean intellectual outlook’, and it is distinctly possible that the climate


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

of opinion thus engendered may have had an important part to play in the development of that historical perspective of which Smith’s essay on astronomy is so clearly representative. It must also be noted that while Smith did use the analogy of the machine, he was well aware that it came from sources other than Newrton — from the Stoics for example, who saw the universe as ‘one im¬ mense and connected system’,37 as ‘a coherent system governed by general laws’ under the guidance of the great ‘Superintendent’ or ‘Architect’, namely God (Moral Sentiments, vil.ii. 1.39). Again, while as we have seen that Smith made much of the Newtonian ‘method’ of argument, involving the use of a small number of basic principles to account for a wide range of phenomena, it will be recalled that he also ascribed the same ‘method’ to Descartes. In short, Smith makes it quite plain that Newton was not the only person to work in terms of mech¬ anistic analogies or to use the proper method of didactic (scientific) dis¬ course, so that writers of the eighteenth century could have used these ‘methods’ and analogies even if Newton had never been born. What Smith seems to have recognized is that Newton’s work had two distinctive features in addition to the points we have just mentioned, features which have recently been emphasized by no less an authority than Henry Guerlac.38 First, Smith seems to have grasped the essen¬ tially mathematical nature of Newton’s contribution, and the point, also to be seen in Smith’s economics, that the image of nature thus pro¬ duced was no longer a picture of reality but an ideal version of it, so that the ‘conformity of theory to reality had to be approximative and limit¬ ing’. Secondly, Smith’s example, in the analytical work which he carried out, shows that he appreciated more than Newton’s method of argument, in grasping the significance of the methodology of science. In short, he would appear to have recognized that the discovery of ‘truth’ involved the actual use (as distinct from description) of certain rules which certainly pre-date Newton. In the words of one of Newton’s greatest Scottish disciples, Colin Maclaurin: we should begin with phenomena, or effects, and from them in¬ vestigate the powers or causes that operate in nature; that from particular causes we should proceed to the more general ones, till the argument end in the most general: this is the method of analysis. Being once possessed of these causes, we should then descend in a contrary order, and from them, as established prin¬ ciples, explain all the phenomena that are their consequences, and prove our explications; and this is the synthesis. It is evident that, as in mathematics, so in natural philosophy, the investigation of difficult things by the method of analysis, ought ever to precede the method of composition, or the synthesis. For in any other way



we can never be sure that we assume the principles that really obtain in nature; and that our system, after we have composed it with great labour, is not mere dream and illusion.39 This point brings us back to Hume and his Treatise as channels for Newtonian influence —and to that method of argument which, as scientists, we ought to employ, but which, Smith teaches us, may easily find itself subordinated to other claims of the imagination in the search for beauty rather than truth.


Adam Smith: The Biographical Approach ( 1969).


The familiar details are recorded in John Rae, Life of Adam Smith (1895), ch. 32.


‘The four stages of society are hunting, pasturage, farming and com¬ merce’, Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms, ed. Cannan( 1896) p.107. For a recent comment on this theory, see R.L.Meek ‘Smith, Turgot and the “Four Stages” Theory’ in History of Political Economy iii (1972) 9-27.


Dugald Stewart Works, ed. Hamilton (1847) i. 69.


This point has recently been emphasized by Duncan Forbes in his intro¬ duction to Hume’s History of Great Britain ( 1970). The essays were published in 1795, edited by Joseph Black and James Hutton. Both medical doctors by training, the two men became firm friends of Smith’s in his later years, and with him founded the Oyster Club, which met once a week in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. Black was of course Lavoisier’s ‘Nestor of the chemical revolution’, while Hutton’s


major work was his Theory of the Earth (1795). It would appear that Smith had decided some years before to preserve the essay on astronomy, which forms the most substantial single piece in the essays. In a letter dated 16 April 1773 he told Hume that of the papers left in Edinburgh (Smith was just setting off to London) ‘there are none worth the publish¬ ing but a fragment of a great work which contains a history of the astro¬ nomical systems which were successively in fashion down to the time of Descartes. Whether that might not be published as a fragment of an intended juvenile work I leave entirely to your judgement, tho’ I begin to suspect myself that there is more refinement than solidity in some parts 7.

of it.’ Rae, op. cit., p.263. John Millar, a former pupil of Smith’s and latterly professor of law in Glasgow, described the purpose behind the lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres in these terms: ‘The best method of explaining and illustrating the various powers of the human mind, the most useful part of meta¬ physics, arises from an examination of the several ways of communicating our thoughts by speech, and from an attention to the principles of those literary compositions which contribute to persuasion or entertainment. By these arts, everything that we perceive or feel, every operation of our minds, is expressed and delineated in such a manner, that it may clearly be distinguished and remembered.’ Stewart Works (1858) x. 11. For comment, see W.S.Howell ‘Adam Smith’s Lectures on Rhetoric: An historical assessment’ in Speech Monographs xxxvi (1969) 393—418.


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination Smith also regarded the study of language as an important source of information with regard to the powers of the human mind, and it is interesting to recall that his Dissertation on the Origin of Languages appeared with the third edition of the Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1767. Smith’s debts to French sources are mentioned in a letter to


George Baird, dated 7 February 1763. Rae, op.cit., p. 160. D.D.Raphael ‘The impartial spectator’, Proceedings of the


Academy Iviii (1972) 4-5. Apart from Hume, Smith may also have been influenced by the series of articles published in the Spectator (4x1-21) ‘On the pleasures of the imagination’. These wide-ranging essays gave a good deal of emphasis to the ‘pleasures of the understand¬ 9.





ing’. For recent comment, see J. R.Lindgren ‘Adam Smith’s Theory of Inquiry’, Journal of Political Economy lxxvii (1969) 897—915; J.F. Becker ‘Adam Smith’s Theory of Social Science’, Southern Economic Journal xxviii (1961—62) 13—21 ; A.S.Skinner ‘Adam Smith: philosophy and science’, Scottish Journal of Political Economy xix (1972) 307—19; H.F. Thompson ‘Adam Smith’s Philosophy of Science’ Quarterly Journal of Economics lxxix (1965) 212—33. The essay on astronomy also features in T. D. Campbell Adam Smith's Science of Morals (1971) and in an essay by W. P. D. Wightman to be published in the forthcoming Critical Essays on Adam Smith, which form part of the bicentennial arrangements to mark the publication of the Wealth of Nations. Cf. Hume: ‘There is implanted in the human mind a perception of pain and pleasure, as the chief spring and moving principle of all its actions.’ Treatise, I.iii.10, p. 167. Cf. Hume ‘Of the connexion or association of ideas’, Treatise, l.i.4. This aspect of Hume’s work has been particularly emphasized by Norman Kemp-Smith in his Philosophy of David Hume (1965). A similar passage appears in the Moral Sentiments, v.i.1.2 where it is stated: ‘When two objects have frequently been seen together, the imagination acquires a habit of passing easily from the one to the other.’ Smith emphasizes that it is ‘the unusualness alone of the succession’ which occasions some stop or interruption in the ‘progress of the imagi¬ nation’. Astronomy, II. 11. This point may be reflected in Smith’s concern that the modern labourer whose functions are restricted in scope and number, may suffer, as a result, from a certain numbness of the understanding: ‘The man wrhose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding. . . . He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.’ Wealth of Nations, ed. Cannan ( 1930 ) ii. 267.


Cf. Hume: ‘There is commonly an astonishment attending every thing extraordinary.’ Treatise, I.iii. 14, p.217.


Smith makes a related point in the Lectures on Rhetoric, ed. J.M. Lothian (1963) p. 95, in remarking: ‘we should never leave any chasm or gap in the thread of the narration, even though there are no remarkable events to fill up that space. The very notion of a gap makes us uneasy. . . .’ Similar points are made at pp. 167 and 172.



Smith makes much of this point in his work on language where it is pointed out that ‘The different mental operations, of arrangement or classing, of comparison, and of abstraction, must all have been employed, before even the names of the different colours, the least metaphysical of all nouns adjective, could be instituted.’ The Early Writings of Adam Smith, ed. J. R.Lindgren (1967) p.229. Smith also refers to ‘that love of analogy and similarity of sound, which is the foundation of by far the greater part of the rules of grammar’ at pp.234 and 238. Similar arguments appear in the Lectures on Rhetoric, pp.7—11. It is interesting to observe that Smith’s main objection to Johnson’s Dictionary related to a plan which struck him as insufficiently ‘grammatical’. ‘The different significations of a word are indeed collected; but they are seldom digested into general classes.’ Quoted in Lindgren, op. cit., p.6.


As Campbell points out (p.25), the words ‘philosophy’ and ‘science’ were at this time used almost interchangeably.


Cf. Hume: The pleasure of study consists chiefly in the action of the mind, and the exercise of the genius and understanding in the discovery or comprehension of any truth.’ Treatise, Il.iii. 10, p.497, ‘Of curiosity, of the love of truth’. Smith’s old teacher, Francis Hutcheson, had also emphasized that we ‘have delight in exercising our own rational, inven¬ tive and active powers; we are pleased to behold the like exercises in others, and the artful effects of them’. System of Moral Philosophy (1755) 11.2. James Hutton also gave prominence to the theme: ‘The proper object of science is truth, and the motive of it is pleasure’ in his Investigations of the Principles of Knowledge ( 1794) II. i. 4. Lectures on Rhetoric, p. 140. In the same place Smith pointed out that ‘Descartes was in reality the first who attempted this method’, ascribing to this the degree of success and acceptance which the Cartesian system enjoyed. Professor Howell has indicated that in fact Ramus was the first to use the method ascribed to Descartes, op. cit., p.410. In the Wealth of Nations, Smith also refers to the ‘beauty of a systematical arrangement of different observations connected by a few common principles’ as being evident in the ‘rude’ essays of ancient times on natural philosophy






(11.257). Smith comments on the lack of concern over public neglect shown by ‘The two greatest mathematicians that I have ever had the honour to be known to, and, I believe, the two greatest that have lived in my time, Dr. Robert Simpson of Glasgow, and Dr. Matthew Stewart of Edinburgh’. Smith ascribes the same quality to Isaac Newton in contrasting mathe¬ maticians and natural philosophers with those who ‘value themselves upon what is called fine writing’. Theory of Moral Sentiments, III. i. 2.20. Smith uses this point to explain why the ‘chemical philosophy’ had in all ages crept along in obscurity, and been so disregarded by the generality of mankind’. Astronomy, 11.12. It is pointed out in the Moral Sentiments that ‘The reasonings of phil¬ osophy, it may be said, though they may confound and perplex the under¬ standing, can never break down the necessary connection which nature has established between causes and their effects, vil.ii. 1*47' It is remarked in the Moral Sentiments that ‘approbation heightened by wonder and surprise, constitutes the sentiment which is properly called admiration’. I.i.4.3.

Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination

i86 24.



27. 28.

It is pointed out in the Moral Sentiments that unlike moral philosophy, ‘A system of natural philosophy may appear very plausible, and be for a long time very generally received in the world, and yet have no founda¬ tion in nature, nor any sort of resemblance to the truth’. The Cartesian theory of vortices is cited as a case in point at vn.ii. 4.14. A rather similar point was made by D’Alembert in stating that ‘If one judges impartially those vortices which today seem almost ridiculous, it will be agreed, I daresay, that at that time nothing better could be imagined’. PreliminaryDiscourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot (1751) trans. R.N. Schwab (1963)P-79While commenting on the current dominance of Newton, D’Alembert also pointed out that the ‘taste for systems more suited to flatter the imagination than to enlighten reason’ was virtually banished, having received a death blow from ‘one of our best philosophers’: Condillac’s Traite des Systemes (1749) p-94- D’Alembert’s point about resistance to change finds an echo in Hume’s comment that, ‘though education be dis¬ claimed by philosophy, as a fallacious ground for assent to any opinion, it prevails nevertheless in the world, and is the cause why all systems are apt to be rejected at first as new and unusual’. Treatise, i.iii. 10.1. An interesting case in point is Lovejoy’s suggestion that the Leibnitian Calculus, which brought the ‘notion of the continuum into fashion’, was one of the forces which prepared men’s minds for the acceptance of the concept of evolution. ‘Buffon and the problem of species’ in Forerunners of Darwin, ed. Glass, Temkin, and Strauss (1959) pp. 89—90. In nine¬ teenth-century economics the applications of the calculus associated with the marginal revolution served to impart a static bias to the subject, a bias which may reflect the use of analogies based on statistical mechanics. See, for example, W. S.Jevons Theory of Political Economy, 3d ed. (1888) p. vii. op. cit. Works, x, 34—35. Stewart went on to point out: ‘It is somewhat remark¬ able, that a theoretical history of this very science, (in which we have, perhaps, a better opportunity than in any other instance whatever, of comparing the natural advances of the mind with the actual succession of hypothetical systems) was one of Mr.Smith’s earliest compositions, and is one of the very small number of his manuscripts which he did not destroy before his death.’


The argument is developed in Turgot’s Discourse at the Sorhonne, delivered in December 1750. In one section of his address Turgot re¬ viewed the progress of learning until it reached its summit with the work of Newton, in a manner which is sometimes strikingly reminiscent of Smith. For example: ‘The natural philosopher forms hypotheses, follows them to their consequences, applies them to the enigma of nature, tries them, so to speak, upon the facts. . . . Suppositions, imagined according to a small number of deficiently known effects yield to other suppositions less absurd but equally incorrect. Time, research, chance, accumulate observations, and unveil the hidden connections that unite the several phenomena.’ W. Walker Stephens The Life and Writings of Turgot



Smith quotes D’Alembert’s account of ‘the connection of the different arts and sciences, their genealogy and filiation as he calls it’ in the




33. 54.


Edinburgh Review article of 1755. In fact there are some interesting parallels, as well as points of contrast between the two writers. For example, D’Alembert devoted a good deal of attention to memory, reason, and imagination as ‘the three different manners in which our soul operates on the objects of its choice’, placing especial emphasis on the imagination which he defined as ‘the talent of creating by imitating’ and as a ‘creative faculty’ (p.go-gi). He also adverted to the fact that the principles used in any form of explanation will be the more fertile the fewer they are in number (p.22) and to the fact that, ‘in the hierarchy of our needs and of the objects of our passions, pleasure holds one of the highest places, and curiosity is a need for anyone who knows how to think, especially when this restless desire is enlivened with a sort of vexa¬ tion at not being able to satisfy itself entirely’ (p. 16). However D’Alem¬ bert disagreed with Smith in one important respect, in arguing that men would first seek useful knowledge (p. ig) and then, having developed techniques such as algebra and geometry, approach subjects such as astronomy, ‘the study of which, next to the study of ourselves, is most worthy of our application because of the magnificent spectacle which it presents to us’ (p.21). However, there is an interesting passage in the Lectures (Cannan ed., p. 161) where Smith argued that the development of manufactures and commerce had given rise to ‘subsidiary arts’ such as writing, ‘to record the multitude of transactions, and geometry which serves many useful purposes’. Smith elaborated on this theme in a lecture delivered on 28 March 1763, where he states that ‘geometry had been originally invented either to measure out the earth and divide it amongst the inhabitants, or to assist the workman in the fashioning of those pieces of art which require more accurate mensuration’. In a concluding note to the essay on astronomy, Smith’s editors indicated that he had left notes and memoranda showing that he ‘considered this last part’ of the essay to be imperfect. Lest this be interpreted as a sign of insularity it must be recorded that in this same article Smith also remarked (with regard to the atten¬ tion being paid to Bacon, Boyle, and Newton): ‘As since the union, we are apt to regard ourselves in some measure as the countrymen of those great men, it flattered my vanity, as a Briton, to observe the superiority of the English philosophy thus acknowledged by their rival nation.’ Early Writings, p. 18. Perhaps we should also record Dugald Stewart’s remark that ‘The observations on the state of learning in Europe are written with ingenuity and elegance; but are chiefly interesting, as they show the attention which the author had given to the philosophy and literature of the Continent, at a period when they were not much studied in this island’. Works, x. 14. See for example, Early Writings, pp. 248-49, and Lectures on Rhetoric, p. 11. Dugald Stewart recorded that Smith’s early interests, as a student, were in mathematics and natural philosophy {Works, X.7) and that he ‘had projected, in the earlier part of his life, a history of the other sciences on


the same plan’. Works, X. 36. Smith also quotes Linnaeus, the Swedish naturalist, in his essay Of the


External Senses. Early Works, pp. 215, 216, 218, and 221 By mid-century work in biology had produced two main theses, the first,


Adam Smith. Science and the Role of the Imagination that of the ‘great chain of being’, the second, a theory of evolution which is associated with Diderot and especially Maupertuis. Maupertuis had been influenced by Reamur, and was one of the first avowed disciples of Newton in France. On these subjects see A. O. Lovejoy The Great Chain of Being (1936); B. Glass Maupertuis, Pioneer of Genetics and Evolu¬ tion’, and L.G. Crocker ‘Diderot and Eighteenth Century Transform-


38. 39.

ism’ in Forerunners of Darwin (1959)- Lovejoy pointed out that the evolutionary thesis was ‘becoming familiar in very widely recognized writings before the middle of the eighteenth century’, and cited as examples Young’s poem Night Thoughts ( 1742—44) and Mark Akenside’s Pleasures of Imagination (1744) p. 262. Lovejoy has also drawn attention to the importance of Epicurean-inspired accounts of evolution in the third of his Essays in the History of Ideas (1948). See above, note 26. In the essay on Ancient Physics, Smith attributed the birth of theism to the contribution of science—a result only possible when the ‘Universe was regarded as a complete machine, as a coherent system, governed by general laws, and directed to general ends, viz. its own preservation and prosperity, and that of all the species that are in it’. Early Writings, p. 118. ‘Newton’s Changing Reputation in the Eighteenth Century’ in Carl Becker's Heavenly City Revisited, ed. R.O. Rockwood ( 1968). Colin Maclaurin, An Account of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophical Dis¬ coveries (1748, 3d ed. 1775), p.9. Maclaurin (1698-1746) looked to the defences of Edinburgh during the 1745 Rebellion and enjoyed a distin¬ guished, if brief career. A student in Glasgow under Carmichael, he abandoned divinity in favour of mathematics and was appointed to the chair in Aberdeen at the age of 19. He became an f.r.s. at age 21 and Newton himself thought sufficiently highly of him as to offer part of his salary to Edinburgh University pending the retirement of James Gregory. With such references, it is pleasant to record that Maclaurin succeeded to the chair.



David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography On this occasion I venture to provide for certain of Hume’s works an account more extensive than that given in Professor Jessop’s ency¬ clopaedic Bibliography of David Hume and of Scottish Philosophy yet one still limited here to the earliest editions. Detailed records are in hand for later printings English and foreign, but it would be unseemly to present these so long as any suspected irregularities in the prior, and more unstable issues remain undetected or undefined. Accordingly, even with the assistance already given,1 I offer this report provisionally in hopeful expectation of still further advice. As now confined the bibliography represents, under date headings, a description of the editio princeps, original state, and the presently recognized issues which may possibly be confused with it. Among the variants to be especially noted are: for 1759—40 four cancels previously unidentified5 for 1748(1) three later states as well as a counterfeit edition ; for 1751(2) another issue bearing a cancel printed five months later 5 for 1752 ( 1) the only known instance in Hume where the original typesetting is held and reimposed for a ‘Second Edition’5 for 1757 several variants in the appearance and placement of the Dedication and with other text twice suppressed 5 for 1766 a counterfeit and a piracy $ and for 1777(1) another imitation now issued surreptitiously by the original publisher. Additionally for two collected works, the Essays and Treatises ( 1753-6) and the History of England (1754-67), all reissues or resettings of the time are differentiated, as these occasionally appear in one or another of the volumes comprising a full set. The account also, for the first time, includes all pertinent entries from the ledgers of William Strahan,2 the printer of most of Hume’s books, and by further reference to advertisements and other evidence more precisely establishes the date and attending circumstances of pub¬ lication. Finally the copies upon which the present report depends are then identified, these by the following abbreviations: NLS National Library of Scotland BL British Library TxU University of Texas Bod Bodleian Library A. Wayne Colver C CSmH Huntington Library John Maynard Keynes K EUL Edinburgh University bequest, King’s College, IC N Newb erry Library Cambridge NN New York Public Library John Y. Price P NLA National Library of William B.Todd T Australia

David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


Except for those designated C and P, all kindly reported by Professor Colver and Dr Price, the hooks so recorded have been personally exam¬ ined. Press marks are given whenever a collection contains more than one copy, each of a different variant, or (as in

1745 and 1751(1)) when

the copy cited is believed to be unique.


A Treatise of Human Nature: Being An Attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning Into Moral Subjects. . . . For the publication of his original work, first two volumes only, Hume concluded articles of agreement with John Noon 26 Sep¬ tember 1758 (Life, p. 115) and noted its issue a ‘fortnight’ before the date of a letter to Henry Home, or ca. 50 January 1759 ( Letters, i. 26). Altogether, according to the contract, 1000 copies were published and Hume received twelve bound sets, these presum¬ ably for presentation. Upon issue actual cost to purchasers was


(The Country Journal: Or, the Craftsman, 5 March 1759). Vol. I. Of the Understanding. London: Printed for John Noon, at the White-Hart, near Mercer’s-Chapel, in Cheapside. M DCC xxxix. 8°. 7T2 a2 B —O8 P8(T;Pi) Q — 2G8 2H6. Pp. ititle, iii—iv Advertise¬ ment, v-vii Contents, via errata, 12-475 text, 476 advts. The text of the cancel is somewhat revised and introduces, at the foot of page 209, a fifteen-line note. Certain copies also have, in¬ serted after p. 476, additional advts. for John Noon. Vol. II. Of the Passions. . . . Mercers-Chapel, . . . M dcc xxxix. 8°. A2 B-L8 M8(±M4) N-U8 X8(-X8). Pp. i title, lii-iv Con¬ tents, /2—518 text. The cancel introduces, at the foot of page 168, a six-line note.3 Certain copies of this volume also have, inserted after p. 518, advts. for John Noon. Vol. III. Of Morals. London, Printed for Thomas Longman, at the Ship in Pater-noster-Row, M DCC XL. 8°. A4(±A4) B-E8 F8(±F6) G-O8 P8(±P8) Q-U8 X4(-X4). Pp. i title, iii-iv Advertisement, v-vii Contents, viii Errata, 12-281 text, 282 blank, 285-510 Appendix. Among the cancels, A4V replaces an 8-line errata list with one of 14 lines 5 F6V p. 76 adds four lines at the end of the first paragraph reading ‘ Thus self-interest is the original motive to the establishment of justice: but a sympathy with public interest is the source of the moral approbation, which attends that virtue’’ 5 P8V p.224 with¬ draws the first line reading ‘tions in a character ; and many wou’d’



(properly initial line of p.225) and substitutes ‘parity, but only suspends their exercise 5 and’. Third volume published 30 October 1749 (London Evening-Post) COPIES: BL(m with MS revisions, perhaps deriving from Hume,

by George Chalmers) Bod(lII, F6 uncancelled) CSmH EUL(m, P8 uncancelled) NN (1, Pi and in, P8 uncancelled) NLS TxU(2, Aitken copy I, Pi uncancelled) C(lacking ill) K(4, first 3-vol. set: hi A4, F6 uncancelled) P(l, Pi cancelled and uncancelled)


An Abstract of a Book lately Published; Entituled, A Treatise of Human Nature &c. . . . London: Printed for C.Borbet, at Addison’s Head, over-against St. Dunstan’s Church, in Fleet-street. 1740. [Price six Pence.] 8° in fours. A4 B— D4. Pp. i title, y—4 Preface, 56-32 text. The publisher’s name, Corbet, is misprinted Borbet in the typographical facsimile,4 the only specimen I have seen. Strahan A4 (9 Feb. 1740,in an account with John Noon, publisher of the original edition): 2 Sheets English Octavo @145 joo = £1.8.0. Published 11 March 1740 at 6d. (Daily Advertiser5) 1741-42 Essays, Moral and Political. . . . Edinburgh, Printed by R. Fleming and A. Alison, for A. Kincaid Bookseller, and Sold at his Shop above the Cross, mdccxli. 8° in fours, w4 A —Z4 2A2. Pp. i title, iii-v Advertisement, vi blank, tri Contents, viii blank, 1—187 text, 188 blank. Imprint date is apparently old-style. The book, seemingly dis¬ regarded in the Edinburgh newspapers, is first noticed at London on 25 February 1742 as there issued bound for 2s.6d. and sold by J. and P. Knapton, C. Hitch, and A. Millar. (Daily Post; also DailyAdvertiser 1 March, London Evening-Post 2-4 March) Essays, . . . Volume II. Edinburgh, Printed for A. Kincaid, near the Cross, by R. Fleming and A. Alison. M.DCC.XLll. 8° in fours.

A — 2B8 2C4(— 2C4). Pp. ititle, iii-iv Adver¬

tisement, iv Errata, v Contents, vi blank, 1-205 text> 2°6 blank. Though separate advertisements have not been located for this volume, it would seem that, in a letter to Henry Home 13 June 1742 (Letters, i.43), Hume is then referring to the set as com¬ pletely sold out in London. Copies of this volume are, however, normally found only with the 2d ed. of volume I which, according

David. Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


to the Life (p. 140), did not appear until ‘after mid-year’. The 3d ed. of the Essays, in one volume, incorporated certain Essays printed six years later. See 1748(g). COPIES: [Vol. I only:] BL Bod(2) NLS TxU K(2) P(2) [Vol. II

with 1st ed. vol. I: ] CSmH C [Vol. II with 2d ed. vol. 1: ] BL Bod(2) CSmH NLA NLS TxU K(2) P


A Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh: . . . Edinburgh, Pinted in the Year m.dcc.xlv. 8° in fours. A — D4 Ei. It has been suggested that this tract was printed by T. Lurnisden and J. Robertson and (as the imprint of the only extant copy indi¬ cates ) hurried through the press with little attention to typographi¬ cal accuracy.7 Published 21 May 1745. (Caledonian Mercury) COPY: NLS(RB.s. 141)

1748 (1) A True Account of the Behaviour and Conduct of Archibald Stewart, Esq; . . . London: Printed for M.Cooper, in Pater-noster-Row. M DCC XLVIII.

8° in fours. A2 B —G4. Pp. i title, 1-2 Preface, ^4-44 text, 45-50 Postscript. This legitimate edition exists in four states: (a) post¬ script undated, collation as above; (b) postscript extended to p. 51 on a separate unsigned leaf (Hi) and dated ‘Novem. 4, 1747’, two days after the acquittal of Stewart; (c) preface withdrawn, issue now collating A\ B —G4 Hi ; (d) extra line below imprint date reading ‘[Price One Shilling.]’6 Strahan A59 (Dec. [1747], in an account with Andrew Millar, the pubhsher responsible for the works next printed): gj[sheets] 1000 @ 185 = £3.3.0 Published 21 December 1747. (General Advertiser) copies [Uncorrected:] BL(2 copies state d, 1 defective) Bod(d)

ICN(d) NLS(c:%. efg) P(d: see note 6 below) [Corrected in MS, apparently by Hume:] NLS(a: Ry.i.g.345) K(b) T(d) A True Account. . . . M. Cooper, in Pater-noster-row. 1748. 120 in fours and twos. A4 B2 C4 D2 E4 Fi. Pp. 1 title, ^4-30 text, 31-34 Postscript. Counterfeit edition in a most unusual format, possibly intended for distribution in Edinburgh where the printers were then under some duress (Life, p. 182). Copy-text seems to be state (c) above



except that imprint date is in arabic numerals and extended post¬ script is left undated. COPY:ICN

1748 (2) Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding. . . . London: Printed for A. Millar, opposite Katharine-Street, in the Strand. MDCCXLVIII.

120. 7T2 A —K12 L8. Pp. i title, iii-iv Contents, 1-256 text. Certain copies have, inserted after text, 4 pp. advts. The 2d ed. of these Essays later constitutes vol. II of the 1755 Essays and Treatises, q.v. Strahan A65 (April [ 1748]): 11 Sheets, 750 @£1.8.0. = £15.8.0. Published 22 April 1748 ( General Advertiser; a preliminary advt in the General Evening-Post, 16-19 April, indicates that the price bound would be 5s.) copies: BL Bod CSmH ICN NLA NLS TxU CK(2)P

i748 (3) Three Essays, Moral and Political. . . . London: Printed for A. Millar, over against Catherine Street in the Strand; and A. Kincaid in Edinburgh, m.dcc.xlviii. 8°. A2 B — D8 E6. Pp. i title, in Contents, iv blank, 12-60 text. These essays were issued as a supplement to earlier eds. of the Essays, Moral and Political, 1741-42, and incorporated in the simultaneous issue 3d ed. of that work. The 3d ed. later constitutes vol. I of the 1753 Essays and Treatises, q.v. Published 19 November 1748 at is sewed. ( Whitehall Evening Post) copies: NLA NLS K

1751 (O The Petition of the Grave and venerable Bellmen (or Sextons) of the Church of Scotland, to the Hon. House of Commons. Broadside, 2 pp. The appended letter, dated 27 Jan. 1751, is signed ‘Zerobabel Maggilchrist’ in the only extant copy, ‘Zorobabel M’Gilchrist’ in the reprint The Scotch Haggis (Edinburgh 1822), pp. 187-91. COPY: Bod (Vet Ai.b.3 (57))

1751 O)

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. . . . London: Printed for A. Millar, over-against Catherine-street in the Strand. 1751.

David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


i2°. 7r2 A1 B —L12 M8. Pp. i half-title, Hi title, v Contents, vii errata, viii blank, 1-253 text, 254-256 advts. As the printer’s record indicates, there are two distinct issues: (a) in 1751, leaf L3 uncancelled, p.221 catchword ‘than’5 (b) in 1752, L3 cancelled, p. 221 catchword ‘ty’. This work ( a new version of Book ill in the 1739-40 Treatise) later constitutes vol. ill of the 1753 Essays and Treatises, q.v. Strahan A81 (July 1751): 11 Sheets 1500 @ £1.15.0. = £19.5.0 ; (Jan. 1752) cancelled leaf 1500 with Paper =


Published 30 November 1751 at 3s bound. ( General Advertiser) COPIES: [Issue a:] BL(rebound and prelims sophisticated8) Bod

(8° I. 252B.S.(2)) CSmH NN NLS( $.f.g) K(3) P(2) [Issue b: ] Bod(Godw. 88 .Subt) NLS(F.5.b.2i ) TxU(2) C K P(2) i752 (0 Political Discourses. . . . Edinburgh, Printed by R. Fleming, For A.Kincaid and A. Donaldson. M.DCC.Lll. 8° in fours. HA— 2P4. Pp. i title, Hi Contents, iv Errata, 12—304 text. Published 14 January 1752 (Caledonian Mercury). Subsequently issued in London 5 March and then noted as available at Hitch and Hawes, the Knaptons, the Rivingtons, A. Millar, J. Nourse, and D. Wilcox. (London Evening-Post) copies: BL Bod(2) CSmH ICN NLA NLS TxU C K(2) P(3)

Political Discourses. . . . The Second Edition. . . . m.dcc.lii. 120 in sixes, rr2 (tt2-j-1) A —2B6 2C2. Pp. i title, iii—iv advts, v Contents, vi blank, 72-304 text. Though called a ‘second edition’ this is actually a reimpression of the first, revised and then reimposed in the new format. Occa¬ sionally the 2d leaf, of advts, is withdrawn. This work later con¬ stitutes vol. IV of the 1753 Essays and Treatises, q.v. copies: BL Bod NLA NLS(2) TxU K(2) P

1752(2) Scotticisms 8° in fours. AA. Pp. 1 caption title, 72-6 text, j—8 advts. This list, though printed separately, is ordinarily bound with the first edition of the Political Discourses. COPIES: BL Bod CSmH K

17S3-56 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects ... in Four Volumes . . .



The issuance of the first collected edition of Hume’s Essays and Treatises involves the resetting of all separate volumes previously issued, the reissue of the earlier volumes with cancel titles and, where the cancels were not prepared in sufficient numbers, the further reissue of certain volumes with original titles still intact. In the following account the order of issue is determined, in part by Strahan’s record, in part by the sequence displayed in the sets examined.9 Vol. I. Containing Essays Moral and Political. The Fourth Edition corrected, with Additions. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand; and A.Kincaid and A. Donaldson, in Edinburgh. M DCC liii. 12°. A2 B —O12 P10. Pp. i title, iii—iv Contents, iv Errata, 1-331 text, 552 blank. Issues: (a) title and collation as above, (b) reissue of separate 3d ed. of 1748 with cancel title as above, collation tt2(±7t\) A —N12. Strahan A84 (April [ 1753]): 14 Sheets 1000 @ Extra corrections = paper =



£1.10.0 = £21.0.0,

6d. Titles for the Four Volumes joo, with

The first Strahan entry identifies (a), in fourteen

sheets, the second distinguishes titles for (b) and for the earliest issues (a) of the succeeding volumes. Vol. II. Containing Philosophical Essays concerning Human Under¬ standing. The Second Edition, with Additions and Corrections. London: Printed for A.Millar, in the Strand. MDCCLIII. Issues: (a) reissue of separate 2d ed., 2d issue of 1751 with cancel title as above, collation rr2(±vi) A —K12 L10, (b) reissue of 1751 issue with original title, (c) issue with new title and setting: Vol. II . . . Understanding. The Third Edition . . . MDCCLVI. 120. 772 A —K12 L6. Pp. i title, hi Contents, 1-240, 239-250 text, 250 Errata. Strahan A94 (Sept. [1755]): Vol. 2d. 11 Sheets yjo @ £1.8.0 = £15.8.0. Vol. III. Containing An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals. London: Printed for A.Millar, in the Strand, mdccliii. Issues: (a) reissue of separate 1st ed., 2d issue of 1751 (q.v.) with cancel title as above, (b) reissue of 1751 edition with original title, (c) issue with new title and setting: Vol. Ill . . . Morals. The Second Edition . . . M DCC liii. 120 A2 B-L12 M10. Pp. i title, Hi Contents, 1-257 text, 258 Errata, 259-260 advts. Strahan A84 (Oct. [1753]): Vol. 3d. 11 Sheets 1000 [@ £1.10.0] = £16.10.0.

David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


Another issue (d), possibly sophisticated, collates as for (c) but represents title (a). Vol. IV. Containing Political Discourses. The Second Edition. Edin¬ burgh: Printed for A.Kincaid, and A. Donaldson, mdccliii. Issues: (a) reissue of separate 2d ed. of 1752 with cancel title as above, collation tt2(±tti) A- 2B6 2C2, (b) reissue of 1752 ed. with original title, (c) issue with new setting, title in three states: (ci) Title as above, the one copy seen with MS correction (by Hume?) altering ‘Second’ to ‘Third’. (c2) Vol. IV. . . . The Third Edition, with Additions and Corrections. London: Printed for A.Millar in the Strand; And A.Kincaid and A. Donaldson, in Edinburgh.


(03) Title without volume reference, prepared also for separate issue in Edinburgh: Political Discourses . . . The Third Edition, with Additions and Corrections. Edinburgh: Printed by Sands, Murray, and Cochrane. For A. Kincaid and A. Donaldson. M DCC Liv. Collation, all c variants: 120, v2 A — L12 M4. Pp. ititle, Hi Contents, iv Errata, 12-270 text, 271—272 blank. Since there is no Strahan entry for any edition of this volume, and no press figures to indicate his printing, it may be assumed that, except for the preparation of cancel titles (a), all presswork was done at Edinburgh. COPIES: Bod(volume issues b, c, c, C2) NN(a, c, —, C2: vol. 3

lacking) NLS(a, a, c,


TxU(a, a, c,


C(a, a, a, a; a, c, c, vol.

4 lacking) K(a, a, a, a; a, b, b, b; a, a, d, ci) P(a, a, a, a; a, c, a, C2)

1754-67 The History of England For purposes of later identification, in record of copy-sets, the trans¬ cription of each volume-title is prefixed with a numeral indicating the volume number finally assigned. As specifically noted in first entry (and occasionally evident in points not cited for the others) the demypaper issue is printed first, the royal-paper second. Except for certain 1762-67 accounts, however, Strahan’s ledger cites only the total printed, without distinguishing the number issued of each paper size. [ 5 ] The History of Great Britain, Vol. I. Containing the Reigns of James I. and Charles I-Edinburgh: Printed by Hamilton, Balfour, and Neill. m,dcc,liv. 4°. 774(- 7t4) A-E4 F4(±Fi) G-O4 P4(±P3) Q-3N4 3O1. Pp. i title, Hi iv-vi Contents, vi Errata, 12-473 texL

474 advts.



Demy issue is on unwatermarked paper, leaf size approximately 258 X 205mm. Royal issue is on paper with Strasbourg shield and fleur-de-lys design, countermark LVG, leaf size about 290 x 221 mm. All copies seen have erratum 146.13 corrected in text to ‘burthens’. The readings 12.5 ‘received their health’ and 100.18 ‘this nuncio’, uncorrected in earlier Demy paper issue, are cor¬ rected in Royal paper to ‘recovered their health’ and ‘the nuncio’. According to several reports {Life, p.303) Hume accepted £400 for a printing of 2,000 copies, all of which had passed through the press by September 1754. On 24 October the Caledonian Mercury indicates that ‘On Tuesday the 12th of November’ the book would be issued simultaneously in London and Edinburgh by G. Hamil¬ ton and J.Balfour, price 145 [in boards] with a ‘very few Copies’ large paper 1 guinea [also in boards]. Though this announcement appears to be confirmed by the same paper on the 12th, the supposed date of issue in both cities, the London Daily Advertiser 9 November notes that issue there would not be until ‘Wednesday, Nov. 20’ and the London Evening-Post 16 November further specifies that on the 20th it is ‘To be had of Mr. Hamilton, the Publisher, at the Golden Head, next Pinchbeck’s Toy-shop, facing the Hay-market; also of Messrs Knaptons, Longman, Hitch and Hawes, Millar, Dodsleys, Rivingtons, Payne, Wilson and Durham, Booksellers.’ Thus began, as further recounted in the Life (pp. 312-14), the ‘conspiracy’ of the London booksellers against Hamilton, with Millar first refusing to sell outright the 50 copies allotted to him, and eventually securing, for nine shillings each, a remainder of 900 copies. Though Strahan was not initially involved he did reprint this to¬ gether with his own printing of the companion volume ([6] below), and at later intervals all other volumes in the series ([3H4]. [>H2] below). [6] The History of Great Britain. Vol. II. Containing the Common¬ wealth, and The Reigns of Charles II. and James II. . . . London: Printed for A. Millar, opposite Catherine-Street, in the Strand. M.DCC.LVII.

40. A4 B-3M4 3N2. Pp. i title, m-v Contents, v Errata, 12-459 text, 460 advts. For possible cancellation see item 6d below. Issued in demy and royal paper (cf. [5] above.) For later issues of

these first two volumes see Note below. Strahan A100 (Oct. 1756): 58^sheets, 1740 @ £1.10.6 = £89.4.3. Published 3 March 1757, 135 bound, a few on ‘Superfine Royal’ £2.2.0 in boards. {London Evening-Post)

David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


[3] The History of England, Under the House of Tudor ... In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Printed for A.Millar in the Strand. M DCC LIX.

4°.A4 B-3E4 3F4(-5F2 - 4 = vol. 11). Pp. i half-title, Hi title, z;vi-viii Contents, 72-402 text. [4] The History of England. . . . Vol. II. London: . . . M DCC Lix. 40. -it2 5F4( — 5F1 = vol. 1) 3G — gA4 5B2. Pp. ititle, Hi-iv Contents, 403404-739 text, 739 Erratum, 340 advts. Issued in demy and royal paper (cf. [5] above). For later issues of these two volumes see Note below. Strahan A107 (Feb. [1759]): Vol. 3d. 94 sheets, 2230 @ £1.16.0 = £169.4.05 Corrections £3.14.0. The reference to ‘Vol. 3d’ for this continuously paged two-volume set, coming as it does imme¬ diately after two entries ‘Vol. 1st’ and Vol. 2d’ for a reprinting of issues [5) and [6], would indicate that Hume, or his printer, had not yet envisaged a six-volume set where ‘Vol. 3d’ would chrono¬ logically precede ‘1st ’and ‘2d’. [ 1 ] The History of England, From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Accession of Henry VII. Vol. I. . . . London: Printed for A.Millar, in the Strand. M DCC lxii. 40. A* B — 5H4. Pp. i half-title, iii title, uvi-viii Contents, 72-424 text, 424 Errata. [2]

The History of England. . . . Vol. II. ... M DCC lxii. 40. A4 B — 5L4. Pp. i half-title, iii title, zm—viii Contents, 72-446 text, 443 Errata, 448 blank. Issued in demy and royal paper (cf. [5] above). For later issues see Note below. Strahan A120 (Nov. [1761]): 2 vol. 111 sheets, 2000 @ £1.15.0 = £ Extra corrections £6.8.0. Published 17 November 1761 in boards, these 2 vols. £1.10.05 the ‘Tudors’ [3, 4] £1.1.05 the ‘Stewarts’ [5, 6] £1.8.05 the set of 6 in boards £3.19.0, bound £ (London Evening-Post) copies. (Sets are listed according to issue, a editions as recorded above, b-d issues or editions as identified in Note below. Royalpaper copies are starred.) [ga-6a:] NLA(Cam.44i) TxU(754h) C *BL(595.m.i 1) [5a-6a:] NLS( [ia-6a:] BL(G4g29~ 4934 5 see further item 6d below) Bod( DD.Jur.51-56) TxU(754) K P *CSmH(359981) [ia-5a, 6b:] T [ia-4a, gb-6b:] NN(CB: Cogswell) NLA(Cli.996-998) [ia-4a, 5C-6C:] BL(597.h.i-3) CSmH(8i32o) TxU(754hd) [ib-4b, 50-60+index:] NLA(Cam. 440) [ib-2b, 5C-4C, 5d, 6c+index:] NN(CB:Lenox)



Note: To complete the record of the quarto issue of the History it is necessary to report, in brief, all further accounts from the Strahan ledgers. The first series pertains to the resetting of one or more volumes in the 1754-62 sets recorded above. [5b] The History of Great Britain, Under the House of Stuart. Vol. I. . . . The Second Edition Corrected. . . . mdcclix. A4 B — 5N4. K5(i Jan. [1759]): [Work unfinished:] Hume’s 1st Vol.40 sheets [done, 770] @ £1.2.0. [recte £1.1.0, see below] = £44.0.0 ; Ai07(Feb. [1759]): Vol. 1st. 59 sheets 770 @ £1.1.0 = £61.19.0. [6b] The History of Great Britain. Vol. II. Containing the Common¬ wealth. . . . The Second Edition Corrected. . . . mdcclix. A — 5C4



3M4( —5M4)

5O2. Aio7(Feb.

[ 1759]): Vol. 2d. 59 sheets 770 @£1.1.0 = £61.19.0; Ai08(20 July): Cancelled leaf 1000 — 105. 6d. The cancel 5D5 was run off, it will be noted, some months after the volume was printed, and then in a number exceeding total issue. Some further alteration, not cited in the Strahan ledgers, appears in the final gathering, which (as in copy T) collates as above or (as in NLACli.998) collates 3Ni(+ 1). Other possible cancellation in later remainders of this edition is noted in item 6d below. The History of England, From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688. . . . Vol. I[ — VI]. A New Edition, Corrected. . . . M DCC LXII.

[5c] A4 B —5N4. Ai2o(May [1762]): Stewarts, Vol. 1. 59 sheets, 700 Royal 270 Demy @ £1.4.0 = £70.16.0. [6c] A4 B-5L4 5M2 a — l4 m2. Ai2o(May [1762]): Vol. 2. 57^ sheets, 727 [Royal], 277 [Demy] @ £1.6.0 = £74.15.0; A128 (Dec): Index 11J sheets, 700 Royal, 1500 Demy @ £2.5.0 = £25.17.6, Extra Corrections £1.15.0. The index (a-14 m2), cited after the two entries given immediately below, was prepared it should be observed six months later than the volume, and thus may not always appear in this issue. Some but not all of the extra Demy copies were printed, it seems, in anticipation of a new issue of the 6th volume, done four months later. See item 6d below. [3b-4b] A4 B-5E4 5F2. A2 B-2U4 2X1. Ai28(Dec [1762]): Tudors, 2 vol. 94I sheets, 500 Royal, 270 Demy @ £1.4.0 = £115.8.0. [ib-2b] A4 B-5H4. A4 B-5L4. Ai28(Dec. [1762]): Caesars, 2 vol. 111 sheets, 700 Royal, 250 Demy @ £1.4.0 = £155.4.0.

David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


The second series of Strahan entries, as cited below, relates to later issues 1763—67. The one volume not seen [6d], and thus not collated, appears to be represented in a set at the University of Chicago. [gd] A4 B-3N4. Title dated ‘m dcc lxiii’. Apparently not printed by Strahan. [6d] Ai28(March [1763]): Stuart’s, Vol. 6. 57J sheets 22 y @ 175. = £48.17.6. Three years later Strahan enters another refer¬ ence: Ai37(Aug. 1766): [Cancelled leaves] in 4^°- 2J sheets 1000 Demy, joo Royal @ £1.10.0 = £3.15.0. This section, of 10 leaves, has been found, quired together, only after the text-pages of the original 1757 edition, volume II, BL copy G4934 (6a above). It consists of leaves X2, Y2-3, 2H2-3, 3A1-4, 3B1. Directions for each part read ‘Vol. VI.’, a clear indication, as the catchwords also reveal, that the cancels are intended only for a later edition so designated. However, of those editions, 6c(May 1762) and this 6d, the total printing is only 1,225, or 275 less than the number of cancels issued. [3c] A4 B-3E4 3F2. Title misdated ‘MDCCXLIV’. Ai28(April [1764]): Tudors, Vol. 3d. 51^ sheets 250 @ 175. = £43.15.6 [4c] AA{ — A4) B-2U4 2X1. Title correctly dated ‘mdcclxiv’. Apparently not printed by Strahan. Ai37(Aug. 1766): Titles for Vols 5th and 6th Quarto, with Paper 100 = 15^. Not discovered. Ai37(Jan. 1767): [Titles] for Royal Quarto, 3 sheets 374 @£1 = £3. Not discovered. 1757 Four Dissertations . . . London, Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand. MDCCLVII.

120. ffi A2{Ai + a4) B12 C12(±Ci2) D12(±Di) E-I12 K8 ( — K5 — 8) Li2(d:) M8. Pp. I half-title, 2 advts, j title, 4 blank, i—vii dedication to John Hume [recte Home], viii blank, ix flytitle, x blank, /2-240 text, 240 errata. The preliminaries of this edition, though occasionally disarranged, appear most often in three definite patterns, with gathering a4, the dedication: (a) quired within the unsigned fold, as in above collation; (b) withdrawn, as in TxU and Keynes copy F.22.27;11 (c) reinserted, incorrectly, after the unsigned fold. First word p. 9, originally ‘lative’, has the ‘1’ dropped, then again replaced in copies later printed. First word p.151, initially misprinted ‘lancing’, is later corrected to ‘lancing’. Leaves C12 and Di, can¬ celled in all copies, earlier conveyed the readings given in Life, P-6i9-



The latter part of the text apparently has been cancelled twice. Originally, as determined by pages inserted in NLS copy ms 509 (these with MS corrections by Hume), the text first suppressed extended through K5 — 12, Li — 12, and represented the two essays ‘Of Suicide’ (pp. 201-20^204-221222) and ‘Of the Im¬ mortality of the Soul’ (22^-224226-240). Here p. 202 (K5V), verso of a fly-title, is blank. The book as finally issued, however, with the substituted essay ‘Of the Standard of Taste’, appears to collate as above ( with K8 as a genuine 8-leaf section, imposed without the 4-leaf off-cut) and to have carried before cancellation, on verso of leaf Kg, certain letterpress: this also as determined by stubs in copy ms 509. Thus some other matter was entered in the second impression of the K sheet, when it was reimposed from K12 to K8, and a second time suppressed. According to the Emonson partnership papers for April 1757, William Bowyer printed [12^?] sheets of an undetermined number @ 585 = £ Published 7 February 1757, bound 35, a few on ‘superfine Royal Paper’ at £2.2.2 in boards. (Daily Advertiser) The large paper issue may possibly be represented by the copy last cited below, which measures 180 X 110mm. (as against maximum size of 170 X 100mm. for the others) and has the words pp. 9, 131 in final corrected state. COPIES: [Demy-paper issue:] BL Bod CSmH NLA(2) NLS(4) TxU C K(F.22.27, F.22.28) P [Royal-paper issue?:] K(F.22.26) 1766 Expose Succinct de la Contestation Qui S’est Elevee entre M. Hume. Et M. Rousseau, ... A Londres. m.dcc.lxvi. 120. a8( — a8) A8 B4 C —F12 G4. Pp. i title, iii-xiv Avertissement des Editeurs, 1-124 text, 125-7 Declaration adressee par M. d’Alembert aux Editeurs, 128 blank. The original edition, printed in Paris without press-figures. Published 20 October 1766. ‘On trouve chez Panckouke, rue & a cotd de la Comedie Fran^oise; chez la Combe, Quai de Conti, & au Bureau de la Gazette de France, aux Galeries de Louvre. . . . Prix 1 liv. 45.’ ( Gazette de France) COPIES: Bod CSmH TxU K P Exposd Succinct de la Contestation. ... A Londres. m.dcc.lxvi. 120. a8 A—B12 D —F12 G4. Contents as above except xv-xvi addi¬ tional blank leaf and first page of text unnumbered. Counterfeit edition, printed in London with press-figures.13

David. Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography


Strahan A141

(Nov [1766] in

an account with Becket and

DeHondt): 3 sheets, 400 @ £1.6.0 = £3.18.0. Probably issued early in November,

and apparently without

Hume’s knowledge. The Public Advertiser 7 November indicates that the French edition was then ‘Just Imported’, signifying per¬ haps that this imitation was then available for sale. copies: BL Bod EUL NLS K(2)P

Expose Succinct de la Contestation ... A Londres. m.dcc.lxvi. 120. a6 A —E12 F6 G —H12. Pp. i title, miv-xii Avertissement, 1-128 text, 129-131 Declaration, 132 blank, 1^-/^4156-177 Le Rapporteur de Bonne-Foi (signed at end T. Verax and dated A Auteil, prbs Paris, le 24 Octob. 1766), 178-180 blank. Pirated edition with extended commentary, apparently printed in France. COPY: Bod(Vet.E.5e. 122)

A Concise and Genuine Account of the Dispute between Mr. Hume and Mr. Rousseau . . . London: Printed for T. Becket and P. A. DeHondt, near Surry-street, in the Strand. M DCC LXVI. 8°. A4 B — G8. Pp. i title, iii-viii Advertisement of the French Editors, /2-g5 text, 94-95 Declaration of Air. d’Alembert, p6 Erratum. First English edition of original text, printed with press-figures. Strahan B67 (Nov.

1766 in an

account styled



Strahan’): 6J sheets, 750 @ 17s. = £5.10.65 Extra Corrections = gs.6d.; Paid Octr. 25, 1769. £6. Published 18 November 1766 at is.6d. (Public Advertiser) copies: BL Bod CSmH ICN NN NLS K(2) P

1777 (0 The Life of David Hume, Esq. Written by Himself. London: Printed for W. Strahan 5 and T. Cadell, in the Strand, mdcclxxvii. 8°. A4 B — D8 E8( — E8). Pp. i blank, 2 advts, 5 half-title, 1 title, Hi-iv preface, /2-55 text, dated at end April 18, 1776, 47-45? 40-62 letter from Adam Smith, dated at beginning Nov. 9, 1776. Frontispiece of Hume, T. Cook sculpt, is ordinarily inserted before title. The original edition, with correct reading ‘myself’ p.29, line 5. The Life, without preface, but with Smith’s letter, was first printed in the Scots Magazine xxxix (Jan. 1777) 1—7. Strahan F8 (Feb. [1777]): \\ sheets, 2000 @ £1.8.0 = £6.6.0. Published 11 March 1777 at is.6c?. (London Chronicle)



COPIES: BL(4) Bod CSmH EUL NLS NN(AGH, p.v. 14) TxU


The Life of David Hume . . . London: Printed for W. Strahan 5 and T. Cadell, in the Strand, mdcclxxvii. Format and collation as cited above. An undifferentiated resetting, with misprinted reading ‘himself’ P-29, line 5.14 Strahan F8 (April [1777]): ‘2d Edit’, 4J sheets, 1000 @18s. = £4.1.05 Dio (6 Dec. 1777) 200 copies charged against William Creech of Edinburgh. copies: Bod NLS NN(YAM, p.v.501) C K P

1777 (1 2) Two Essays. London, m.dcc.lxxvii. (Price Five Shillings.) 8°. A2 B —C8 D4 * E2. Pp. i half-title, Hi title, 72-41 text, 42-44 blank. The first separate issue of the essays on suicide and immortality, previously excised from the 1757 Dissertations, then printed sur¬ reptitiously as sections x and xi of the 1770 Recueil Philosophique ou Melange de Pieces & la Morale. COPIES : BL NLS


Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. By David Hume, Esq 5 Printed in 1779. 8° in fours, iti A —T4. Pp. i title, 72-152 text. These Dialogues, first composed in the early 1750s, revised in the early 1760s, and further revised in the final months of Hume’s life, were apparently published in Edinburgh before May 1779 by the author’s nephew David. A Stationers’ Hall entry for the second edition, imprinted London, is dated 10 May 1779.15 copies: Bod NLS TxUK(2)P



Professor E. C. Mossner, Professor A. Wayne Colver, and Dr John V. Price have read over this entire report, much to its advantage. Dr A.N.L. Munby and Mr Ivan Page have also been most helpful, particularly with the problems still attending the History and the Essays and Treatises. My own research was considerably facilitated by a grant-in-aid from the American Philosophical Society. These ledger entries bear the reference letters assigned by Professor Patricia Hernlund, whose exhaustive work on all the registers is now being readied for the Toronto University Press. Letter K identifies ledger B :St 75 at the American Philosophical Society Library; the other letters


David Hume. A Preliminary Bibliography correspond to British Library Add. M s as follows A= 48800, B= 48803A, D= 48801, F=488i5. Following the key letter reference is made suc¬ cessively (in fully detailed records) to debit-entry page; date of entry; name of debtor if other than stated publisher; number, kind, and cost of each sheet printed; total printed (here represented in italics); total cost of edition. Occasional data not originally given in this sequence have been re-ordered or, if lacking, supplied in brackets, and all abbreviations regu¬





7. 8.

larized. Among the copies examined I have not recognized any of the early, pre¬ sentation issue (cf. Letters, i.26), but two subsequently reported to me obviously are of this kind and may well represent the original cancellanda in all volumes: they certainly contain the M4 leaf here, without note. One, given to Henry Home, Lord Karnes (Hoose Library, University of Southern California), has marginalia in Hume’s hand and others (see account in PBS A lvii (1963) 446—7). The other, presented to Alexander Pope (and now in the library of Mrs Donald F. Hyde ), has similar annota¬ tions by the author. This of the only copy then known, reprinted by J. M. Keynes and P. Sraffa: Cambridge, University Press, 1938. Six copies now appear to be extant, as reported in the Book Collector xix (1970) 382. As noted in the Life, pp. 123 — 4, this newspaper represents a much more flamboyant title, one which Professor Mossner regards as Hume’s ori¬ ginal version before he ‘cooled off’ and supplied the innocuous label finally printed. It is not unlikely, however, as Strahan’s record would indicate, that the Abstract was in print before the advertisements were distributed; and since Hume was then in Scotland, the more provocative title may have been devised by the publisher to enhance his sales. On this not un¬ common practice see my note in The Library, 5th ser., viii (1953) 184. This last state (d) is reprinted, from an unspecified copy, in John V. Price, The Ironic Hume (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965) pp. 153—72. More recently Dr Price has acquired a presentation copy of state (d), illustrated and fully described by him in The Bibliotheck vi (1973) 199 — 202. See p.xxv of the introduction to the facsimile reprint, ed. Ernest C. Mossner and John V. Price: Edinburgh, University Press, 1967. Or so I presume. However, the compilers of the Rothschild Library ( Cam¬ bridge: Privately Printed, 1954, i. item 1174), who believe the prelims to be ordinarily [A]4, consider this BL copy (527^.8) to be a legitimate early state.


A detailed account of some of these variants is given by A. Wayne Colver, PBS A lx viii (1974) 39-44.


To give these ‘1762’ sets a uniform appearance it would appear that Strahan may have cancelled the original titles for the few volumes re¬ maining of 5 and 6 (by now of the second or 1759 setting b noted below), as well as the several remainders in original 1759 setting of 3 and 4, and supplied new titles dated 1762 and probably reading like those just printed of 1 and 2. The relevant ledger entry is Ai2o(Dec. [1761]): Titles to Hume’s History, 6 vol 2yo=£ These cancels, as yet undiscovered, should not be confused with the titles integral to the later 1762 issues lb—6c noted below.


As explained to William Mure of Caldwell (Letters, i.242-3), Hume



suppressed the Dedication at the instance of ‘some Fools’, but then, two posts later, insisted on its being published. Meanwhile, however, as he further remarked, Millar had disposed of some 800 copies without it. 12.

13. 14. 15.

The distinctive cut on title is reproduced as no. 185 in R. I. D.Maslen, The Bowyer Ornament Stock, Oxford Bibliographical Society, Occasional Publication 8, 1975. The order of printings, original and counterfeit, is determined in my note to the Book Collector vii (1958) 191. This order of printing, the reverse of that earlier supposed, is established in my note, The Library, 5th ser., vi (1951) 123- g. A full account of the circumstance of issue, both editions, is given by John V. Price in an article forthcoming in PBS A lxviii no. 2 (1974).



Published Writings

Books and Sections Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason: A Study in the History of Thought. New York: Macmillan 1936. Editor, Justa Edovardo King. New York: Columbia University Press 1939. The Forgotten Hume: Le Bon David. New York: Columbia University Press 1943. Editor, with Raymond Klibansky, New Letters of David Hume. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1934. The Life of David Hume. Edinburgh: Nelson; Austin: University of Texas Press 1954 (reprinted, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1970 ; now being revised). ‘Hume: the voice of the Enlightenment’ in The Present-Day Relevance of Eighteenth-Century Thought, ed. R.P.McCutcheon. Washington, D.C.: American Council of Learned Societies


Editor, Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion. New York: Frederick Ungar 1961. Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Austin: Humanities Research Center 1961. (A revision of the adaptation by Richard S. Peters, privately printed 1961, reprinted in this volume, pp. 83-98.) Editor, David Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and Other Essays. New York: Washington Square Press 1963. ‘Adam Ferguson’s “Dialogue on a Highland Jaunt” with Robert Adam, William Cleghorn, David Hume, and William Wilkie’ in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature: Essays in Honor of Alan Dugald McKillop, ed. Carroll Camden. Chicago: University Press 1963. ‘The Enlightenment of David Hume’ in Introduction to Modernity, ed. R.Mollenauer. Austin: University of Texas Press 1965. ‘Philosophy and biography: the Case of David Hume’ in Hume: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. V. C. Chappell. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company 1966 (reprinted from Philosophical Review, lix ( 1950)). Editor, with John V. Price, of David Hume, A Letter from a



Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh (1745). Edinburgh. University Press 1967. ‘Hume’s “Of Criticism” ’ in H. Anderson and J. S. Shea, Studies in Criticism and Aesthetics 1660—1880. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1967. ‘Deism’, ii.525-6. [The English Deists:] Peter Annet, i. 127-8 j Charles Blount, i. 524-5 ; Henry St.John Bolingbroke, i. 551-5 ; Thomas Chubb, ii. 110-11 ; Anthony Collins, ii. 144-6 ; Herbert of Cherbury, iii. 484-6 5 Thomas Morgan, v. 594-5 5 Matthew Tindall, viii. 159-41

John Toland, viii. 141-5; William

Wollaston, viii.544-5; Thomas Woolston, viii.547-8. [Men of Letters: ] Edward Gibbon, iii. 528—9 5 Samuel Johnson, iv. 290-2 • Alexander Pope, vi. 596-8 5 Jonathan Swift, viii. 51-5, in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 vols., ed. Paul Edwards. New York and London: Macmillan 1967. Adam Smith: The Biographical Approach. David Murray lecture 50, University of Glasgow. 1969. Editor, David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1969. Co-Editor, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 1965 to date. Articles and Notes ‘The enigma of Hume’ Mind xlv (1956) 554-49. ‘Coleridge and Bishop Butler’ Philosophical Review xlv (1956) 206-8. ‘Cardinal Newman on Bishop Butler: An unpublished letter’ Theology xxxii ( 1956) 115. ‘Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion-. An answer to Dr. Laing’ Philosophy xii (1958) 84-6. ‘Hume and the Scottish Shakespeare’ Huntington Library Quarterly iii (1940) 419-41‘Rousseau hero-worship: an unpublished intimate record of 1766’ MLN lv (1940) 449-51. ‘An apology for David Hume, historian’ PMLA lvi (1941) 657-90. ‘Was Hume a Tory historian?’ JHI ii (1941) 225-56. ‘Hume as literary patron: a suppressed review of Robert Henry’s History of Great Britain, 1775’ Modern Philology xxxix (1942) 561-82. ‘Hume’s epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, 1754: the biographical significance’ Huntington Library Quarterly vii (1944) 135-52‘The continental reception of Hume’s Treatise, 1759-1741’ Mind lvi (1947) 31-43‘David Hume’s “An Historical Essay on Chivalry and Modern Honour” ’ Modern Philology xlv (1947) 54-60.

Published Writings


‘Beattie’s “The Castle of Scepticism”: An Unpublished Allegory against Hume, Voltaire, and Hobbes’ Texas Studies in English xxvii (1948) 108-45. ‘Thomson and Edinburgh University’ Johnsonian News Letter viii, no.5 (July 1948) 5-4. ‘Hume’s early memoranda, 1729-1740: the complete text’ JHI ix (1948) 492-518. ‘Dr. Johnson in partibus infidelium?’ MLlY lxiii (1948) 516-19. ‘Hume and the Ancient-Modern controversy, 1725-1752: a study in creative scepticism’ Texas Studies in English xxviii ( 1949) 139-55. ‘A MS fragment of Hume’s Treatise, 1740’ Notes and Queries cxciv (i949)520~2‘Beattie on Voltaire: an unpublished parody’ Romanic Review xli (1950)26-32. (With H. H. Ransom) ‘Hume and the “Conspiracy of the Booksellers”: the publication and early fortunes of the History of England' Texas Studies in English xxix (1950) 162-82. ‘Hume’s Four Dissertations: an essay in biography and bibliography’ Modern Philology xlviii ( 1950) 37-57. ‘Philosophy and biography: the case of David Hume’ Philosophical Review lix (1950) 184-201. ‘The first answer to Hume’s Treatise: an unnoticed item of 1740’ JHI xii (1951) 291-4. ‘Hume and the French Men of Letters’ Revue International de Philosophie vi ( 1952) 222-35. ‘Hume at La Flfeche, 1735: an unpublished letter’ Texas Studies in English xxxvii (1958) 30-3. ‘Did Hume ever read Berkeley? A rejoinder to Professor Popkin’ Journal of Philosophy lvi ( 1959) 992-5. ‘The scholar-teacher: his faith and his problems’ Graduate Journal ii (i959) 262-8. (Editor) ‘ “Of the Principle of Moral Estimation: A Discourse between David Hume, Robert Clerk, and Adam Smith”: an unpublished MS by Adam Ferguson’ JHI xxi (i960) 222-52. ‘New Hume letters to Lord Elibank 1748-1776’ TSLL iv ( 1962) 431-60. ‘Talking back to the censors’ Southwest Review xlvii ( 1962) 214-16. ‘The Enlightenment of David Hume’ Rivista Critica di Storia della Filosofia xxii (1967) 388-99. Reviews William J. Norton, Jr. Bishop Butler, Moralist and Divine in ML N lvii (1942) 297-8.



William Glen Harris Theology in the Philosophy of Joseph Butler and Abraham Tucker, in Philosophical Review iii (1945) 225. Charles F. Harrold, ed., A Newman Treasury, in MLNlix (1944) 437. Gladys Bryson Man and Society: The Scottish Inquiry of the Eighteenth Century, in PQ xxv ( 1946) 135-41. Sarah Lewis Carol Clapp Jacob Tonson in Ten Letters by and about Him, in Library Chronicle iii ( 1949) 162—3. Henri Roddier

Rousseau en Angleterre au XVIIIe Siecle, in

Romanic Review xlii (1951) 65-7. Bernard N. Schilling Conservative England and the Case against Voltaire, in JE GP li ( 1952) 256-7. A. O. Aldridge Shaftesbury and the Deist Manifesto, in JE GP li (i95a) 43°~2Peter Munz The Place of Hooker in the History of Thought, in Mind lxiii (1954) 570—1. Bertrand Russell Human Society in Ethics and Politics, in The Humanist xv ( 1955) 244—5 Eugene Rotwein, ed. David Hume:Writings on Economics, in PQ xxxvi (1957)374-5Leon Edel Literary Biography, in Dalhousie Review xxxviii (i958) 94-5Peter J. Stanlis Edmund Burke and the Natural Law, in PQ xxxviii (i959)3°9-10Thomas W. Copeland, ed. The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, vol. I: April 1744-June 1768, in Dalhousie Review xxxix (i960) 414-15. Caroline Robbins The 18th Century Commonwealthman, in Dalhousie Review xxxix (i960) 559-60. Lucy S. Sutherland, ed. The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, vol.II: July 1768-June 1774, in Dalhousie Review xl (i960)


George H. Guttridge, ed. The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, vol.ill: July 1774-June 1778, in Dalhousie Review xli (1961)409-10. John Fleming Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh and Rome, in American Historical Review lxviii ( 1962) 193—4. S.E. Sprott The English Debate on Suicide from Donne to Hume, in Dalhousie Review xlii (1962) 133-5* John Hawkins The Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. Bertram H. Davis, in Dalhousie Review xlii ( 1962) 388-9. J. A. Mazzeo, ed. Reason and the Imagination: Studies in the History of Ideas, 1600-1800, in Austin [Texas] American-Statesman, 25 March 1962.

Works directed at the University of Texas


Fulton H. Anderson Francis Bacon: His Career and His Thought, in Dalhousie Review xlii (1962) 501-2. John B. Stewart The Moral and Political Philosophy of David Hume, in American Historical Review lxx (1964) 119-20. Adam Smith Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed. John M. Lothian, in Studies in Scottish Literature ii (1965) 199-208. Works directed at the University of Texas

Ph.D. Dissertations Jean Holloway, ‘Law and Literature in the Age of Enlightenment: Blackstone and Fielding’. 1950. Charles Edward Noyes, ‘Aesthetic Theory and Literary Criticism in the Works of David Hume’. 1950. Redding Stancill Sugg, Jr., ‘Hume and the British Romantics’. 1952. Mackie Langham Jarrell, ‘Swift’s “Peculiar Vein of Humour” ’. 1953. Arlie Vernon Goyne, Jr., ‘Defoe and Fielding: A Study of the Development of English Novel Technique’. 1954. Earl Burk Braly, ‘The Reputation of David Hume in America’.

1955Floyd Medford, ‘Two Augustans and the Sacred Muse: the Theory of Divine Poetry in Sir Richard Blackmore and John Dennis’. 1957. Marjorie Lee Morrison, ‘Fanny Burney and the Theatre’. 1957. Ian Simpson Ross, ‘ “The Most Arrogant Man in the World” : The Life and Writings of Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782)’. i960. Mary Sparks Wagoner, ‘The Changing Patterns of Humor in the Novels of Tobias Smollett’. 1961. Dawes Chillman, ‘Jane Austen’s Juvenilia as a Key to the Structure of Her First Three Mature Novels’. 1962. Jack Glen Gilbert, ‘Knaves, Fools, and Heroes: Jonathan Swift’s Ethics’. 1962 John Valdimir Price, ‘The Ironic Hume: A Study of the Use and Function of Irony in David Hume’s Life and Writings’. 1962. Roy Edward Cain, ‘David Hume and Adam Smith: A Study in Intellectual Kinship’. 1963. Lois Kathleen Mahaffey, ‘Alexander Pope and his Sappho: Pope’s Relationship with Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Its Influence on his Work’. 1963. Robert Carlisle Marshall, ‘Aesthetic Aspects of Pope’s Dunciad: A Critical Study’. 1963. William Davis Anderson, ‘ “Awake Ye Dead”: A Study of Blake’s The Book of Urizen, The Four Zoas, and Jerusalem\ 1966.


Michael Morrisroe, Jr., ‘The Rhetoric of the Dialogues of David Hume’. 1966. M. A. Theses Sarah Catherine Stone, ‘The Irony of Swift’. 1949. Robert Kennedy Terrill, ‘Boswell’s Melancholia: The Utrecht Period’. 1955. Mary Sparks Wagoner, ‘Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and the Philosophers’. 1957. Dawes Chillam, ‘Congreve’s The Way of the World: A Critical Appreciation’, i960. John Valdimir Price, ‘The Dialogues of Hume and Cicero on Natural Religion’, i960.




Addison, Joseph, 20 Aitken, George Atherton, 191 Akenside, Mark, i88n36 Alembert, Jean Lerond d’, 179 — 81, i86n24, 25, 30, 201-2 Alison, Alexander (printer), 191 Apollonius of Rhodes, 175 Archimedes, 151 Aristotle, 22, 28, 62, 172, 174-5 Bacon, Sir Francis, 48, 84, 181, i87n32 Baggs, Rev. Stephen, 119 Baird, George, 18407 Balfour, John (publisher), 196 — 7 Balguy, John, 27 Bayle, Pierre, 154 Beattie, James, 48, 118 Becket, Thomas (publisher), 202 Beckett, Samuel, 67, 69 Bedford, John, 4th Duke of, 99 — 120 Bennett, Jonathan Francis, 155—8, 160-2 Bentinck, John Albert, Count, 100—1 Bergson, Henri, 69 Berkeley, George, 48, 61—2, 74, 142,


Claparede, Edouard, 57 Clarke, Samuel, 20, 26 — 9, 83 Clephane, Dr John, 130 Clive, Robert, Lord, 100 passim Cochran, James (printer), 196 Cockburn, Alison, 131 Cockburn, Patrick (advocate), 131 Cockburn of Cockpen, Alexander (sheriff), 130 Colebrooke, Sir George, 106 passim Collingwood, Robin George, 156 Colver, A. Wayne, 189 passim Combe, chez la (publishing office), 201 Conti, Prince de, 129 Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de, i86n25 Conway, Gen. Seymour, 101, 103, 113 Cook, T. (engraver), 202 Cooper, Mary (publisher), 192 Copernicus, Nicolaus, 87—8, 176 — 7, 180 Corbet, Charles (publisher), 191 Coutts, James and Thomas (bankers), 132 Creech, William (publisher), 203 Cudworth, Ralph, 28, 2gn8

Black, Dr Joseph, 133, 18306 Blair, Rev. Hugh, 128, 133 Borbet. See Corbet Borowski, Ludwig Ernst, 1 Boswell, James, 128, 136 Boufflers, Comtesse de, 128-9 Boufflers, Edouard, Comte de, 129 Bowyer, William (printer), 201 Boyer, Carl, 150 Boyle, Robert, 149, 181, 187032 Brahe, Tycho, 177 Buffon, George Lewis Leclerc, Comte de, 181, i86n26 Burton, John Hill, 129 Butler, Bishop Joseph, 83

Dante Alighieri, 60 Daubenton, Louis Jean Marie, 181 Deffand, Marie de Vichy Chamrand, Marquise du, 131 Defoe, Daniel, 62-3, 65 DeHondt, Peter Abraham (pub¬ lisher), 202 Descartes, Rene, 23, 61, 169, 177, 181-2, i86n24

Cadell, Thomas, 202-3 Caesar, Julius, 198 — 9 Callippus (Greek astronomer), 174 Calvin, Jean, 3

Dostoevsky, Fedor, 60, 65 Durham, T. (publisher), 197

Chalmers, George, 191 Charles I, 165, 196 Charles 11, 197 Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 80

Desmaizeaux, Pierre, 5, 8 Dewey, John, 49 Diderot, Denis, 181, i88n36 Dodsley, Robert and James (pub¬ lishers), 197 Donaldson, Alexander (publisher),


Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie, 149 Dupleix, Joseph Francois, Marquis, 110 Egremont, Sir Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of, 106-7, 116


Einstein, Albert, 149 Elliott, Gilbert, 6 Emonson, James (printer), 201 Epicurus, i88n36 Eudoxus, of Cnidus, 174—5 Faguet, Emile, 1 Faulkner, Sir David, 2 Fielding, Henry, 64—7 Fleming, Robert (printer), 191, 194 Flew, Antony, 153 — 63 Francis, Sir Philip, 118—19 Fracastoro, Girolamo, 174 Franklin, Benjamin, 61, 136 Franks, Moses, 114 Galilei, Galileo, 43, 88, 151, 177, 181 Galton, Sir Francis, 146 — 7 George III, 103, 117, 120 Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of, 106, 108, 113, 118 Gregory, Prof. James, i88n39 Hamilton, Gavin (publisher), 196-7 Hampshire, Stuart N., 73—4 Hardwicke, Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of, 101, 118 Hare, Richard Mervyn, 72 Hartley, David, 179 Hawes, L. (publisher), 194, 197 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 149 Heidegger, Martin, 60, 149 Hendel, Charles William, 73 — 5 Henry VI I, 198 Hernlund, Patricia, 203 n2 Hertford, Francis Seymour Conway, 1st Earl of, 101, 103, 112, 128, 131 Hipparchus, 175 Hitch, Charles (publisher), 191, 194,


Hobbes, Thomas, 48, 63, 74 Home (Hume) of Ninewells Agnes (sister-in-law of DH), 130 John (brother of DH), 130, 133-4 Joseph (nephew of DH), 130 Home, Anne, 133 Home, Henry. See Karnes Home, John (dramatist), 200 Home, Robert Boyne, 133 Hume, David: Works only cited: Abstract of... a Treatise, 5, 191


‘Argument from Design’, 4, 83-98; see further, Dialogues ‘Autobiography’. See Life Concise and Genuine Account of the Dispute. See Expose Succinct Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 4, 8, 74-9, 203 ‘Dissertation on the Passions’, 6 Enquiry concerning Human Under¬ standing, 6-7, 9, 14, 18, 52, 76-7,

153y4, l64

Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 6, 8-10, 17, 19, 21, 26,

29n8, 34-5> 73, 75, *93-5

‘Essay on Miracles’, 7 Essays and Treatises, 6, 189, 193 — 6 Essays, Moral and Political, 8, 10,


Expose Succinct, 201—2 Four Dissertations, 200—1 History of England, 10, 119, 189, 196-200 History of Great Britain. See His¬ tory of England Letter from a Gentleman, 27 — 8, 192 Life, 5, 10, 61, 128, 202-3 Natural History of Religion, 4, 6,

75, 79

‘Of Public Credit’, 119 ‘Of Suicide’, 201, 203 ‘Of the Immortality of the Soul’, 201, 203 ‘Of the Standard of Taste’, 201 Petition of the . . . Bellmen, 193 Philosophical Essays, 7—8, 193, 195 Political Discourses, 194, 196 Scotticisms, 194 Three Essays, 193 Treatise of Human Nature, 3, 5— io, 15-28, 30-42, 52, 60-3, 65-70,

73, 78, 153~4, l64, ^Oy1, *94

True Account of. . . Archibald Stewart, 192 — 3 Two Essays, 203 Hume, David (nephew of DII), 132, 203 Hooke, Robert, 149 Hunter, Geoffrey, 136-52 Hunter, Dr John, 133-4 Hutcheson, Prof. Francis, 11-17, 21, 25, 27-8, 48, 5ni9, 78, i85ni8


214 Hutton, James, 183^, i85ni8 Hyde, Mrs Donald F., 204^ Irvine, Peggy, 130 Jackmann, Reinhold Bernhard, 1 James 1, 196 James II, 197 James, William, 69 Jardine, Rev. John, 128 Jenkinson, Charles. See Liverpool Jessop, Thomas Edmund, 1-13, 189 Johnson, Samuel, i85ni6 Joyce, James, 143 Karnes, Henry Home, Lord, 5, 7> *4) 190-1, 204n3 Kant, Immanuel, 11, 43-51, H9 Kepler, Johannes, 43, 177 Keynes, John Maynard, 189 passim Kierkegaard, Soren, 60 Kincaid, Alexander (publisher), 191,


Knapton, John and Paul (pub¬ lishers), 191, 194, 197 Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent, i83n6 Lawrence, General, 118 Le Blanc, Abbe Jean-Bernard, 9 Leibniz, Baron Gottfried YVilhelm von, 44, 48, 5mi2, 149, i86n26 Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph, 144 Linnaeus, Carolus, i87n35 Liverpool, Charles Jenkinson, 1st Earl of, 115, 117 Locke, John, 18 — 20, 48, 54, 61—2, 74) H5) H8-9) 153) 155) 160-1 Longman, Thomas (publisher), 190)


Lumisden, Thomas (printer), 192 Mach, Ernst, 149 MacIntyre, Alasdair C., 25 — 6 Mackenzie, Henry, 131 Maclaurin, Prof. Colin, 3, 182 — 3,

i88n39 Macnabb, Donald George Cecil, 52-9 ‘Maggilchrist, Zerobabel’, 193 Malebranche, Nicolas de, 29 n 8 Malinowski, Bronislaw, 151-2

Maupertius, Pierre Louis Moreau de, 181, i88n36 Meiklejohn, John Miller Dow, 44 Mendelssohn, Moses, 120 Michotte, Prof. Andre', 52-9 Mill, John Stuart, 149 Millar, Andrew (publisher), 191 passim Millar, Prof. John, i83n6 Milton, John, 61 Moliere, John Baptiste Poquelin, 18 Molyneux, William, 149 Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, Baron de, 29 n 8 Montucla, Jean-Etienne, 179-80 Morrisroe, Michael, Jr., 72-82, 211 Mortimer, Thomas, 119 Mossner, Ernest Campbell, 1,11, 12m, 14, 27, 48, 51 n9, !53) 162m, 164, 203m, 204n5, 206211 Muller, Friedrich Max, 44 Munby, Alan Noel Latimer, 203 m Mure of Caldwell, William, 128, 131-2, 204m 1 Murray, Alexander (printer), 196 Nairn, Mr, 130 — 1 Neill, Patrick (printer), 196 Neville, Richard, 101 passim Newton, Sir Isaac, 3, 11-12, 43, 149, 164, 172, 177, 179-82, i8gn20,

i86n25,29, i87n32, i88n36,39

Noon, John (publisher), 190—1 Nourse, John (publisher), 194 Nowell-Smith, Patrick Horace, 72 Nutshall, Mr, 107-8 Orde, Mary, 132 — 3 Orde, Nancy, 128 — 34 Orde, Chief Baron Robert, 129-30,

132)*54 Page, Ivan, 203 n 1 Panckouke (printer), 201 Passmore, John Arthur, 74 Payne, John (publisher), 197 Peters, Richard Stanley, 83-98 Peurbach, Georg von, 175 Pinto, Abraham de, 111 — 12, 117 Pinto, Isaac de, 99-127

INDEX Plato, 28, 60-2, 147-8 Pope, Alexander, 204n 3 Popkin, Richard Henry, 99-127, i62n 1 Price, John Valdimir, 27, 128-35, 189 passim, 206, 210 — 11 Price, Rev. Richard, 28 Priestley, Joseph, 118 Pringle, Sir John, 133 Prior, Arthur N., 72, 139 Proust, Marcel, 69, 143 Ptolemy, 151, 175 Pythagoras, 155, 179 Ramsay, Peter (stabler), 133 Ramus, Peter, i85ni9 Raphael, David Daiches, 14-29, 166 Rawls, John, 72 Reaumur, Rene Antoine Ferchault, de, 181 Reid, Rev. Thomas, 118 Richardson, Samuel, 63 — 5 Rivington, Charles and John (pub¬ lishers), 194,197 Robertson, John (printer), 192 Rockingham, Charles WatsonWentworth, 2nd Marquis of, 101 Ross, Sir David, 22 — 3 Ross, Ian Simpson, 60 — 71, 210 Roth, Cecil, 100 Rous, Thomas, 102 passim Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 48, 61, 103, 129, 201-2 Russell, Bertrand Arthur William, 3rd Earl, 49, 149 Salvador, Joseph, 101—2, 107, 120 Sands, William (publisher), 196 Santayana, George, go—gm6 Sartre, Jean Paul, 60, 65, 69, 149 Scott, Sir Walter, 131 Selby-Bigge, Lewis Amherst, 42nio Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of, 11, 20, 48, 60 Shelburne, William Petty, 2nd Earl of, 101, 103, 106, 111, 113-14 Simonides of Ceos, 8g Simpson, Robert, i8gn20 Skinner, Andrew S., 164-88 Smith, Adam, 4, 10, 14, 164 — 88, 202


Smith, Norman Kemp, 11 — 12, 14, 44, 7m 15 Socrates, 61 Solon, 130 Sommerhausen, Simon, i27ni03 Spinoza, Baruch, 49 Sterne, Laurence, 61, 64-g, 68-g Stevenson, Charles Leslie, 72 Stewart, Archibald, 192 Stewart, Prof. Dugald, 165, 179 — 80, i87n32, 34 Stewart, Matthew, i8gn20 Strahan, William (printer), 133—4, 189 passim Stuckenberg, John Henry Wilburne, 1 Sulivan, Laurence, 100, 116, 119 Sutherland, Dame Lucy, 100, 106 Swift, Jonathan, 62 Titchener, Edward Bradford, 140 — 1 Todd, William Burton, 189 — 205 Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques, Baron, 179—80, i86n2g Tweyman, Stanley, 30—42 ‘Verax, T.’, 202 Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet, 99 Walpole, Horace, 131-2 Waismann, Friedrich, 148, 150 Wasianski, Ehregott Andreas Christoph, 1 Welderon, Bernard, Comte de, 103, 117 Whewell, William, 137 Whitehead, Alfred North, 60-1 Wiener, Philip Paul, 43-51 Wilcox, D. (publisher), 194 William IV, 99 Wilson, David (publisher), 194, 197 Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann, 74, 140, 144-5, 147, 149, i53-63 Wolff, Robert Paul, 44 Wollaston, William, 24-5, 27-8 Wood, Robert, 103-4, 107, 110, 116, Woolf, Virginia, 143 Yorke, Charles, 102 passim Yorke, Sir Joseph, 100 passim Young, Edward, i88n36