David Hume and the Art of the Essay as Philosophy

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Title: David Hume and the Art of the Essay as Philosophy
Author: Farkas, Laura
Advisors: Anthony LaVopa, Ph.D., Committee Chair
Abstract: This thesis examines the career of David Hume as philosopher and essayist. David Hume is one of the first Men of Letters to make a living strictly through his publications. That fact points to a significant change in the idea of patronage. Instead of working for and catering to an aristocratic patron, Hume targeted a collective readership, a market. That is not to say, however, that the philosopher "dumbed down" his thought. For, in fact, the essay format, with its conversational tone and easier accessibility, is actually perfectly suited for conveying Hume's particular philosophy of human nature. David Hume stressed the value of lived experience, and the human life experience is social at its core. In other words, to study humans in their social context is the best way to get at the fundamentals of human nature. The life of the community involves politics, economics, friendships, and personal relationships. For David Hume, these are the proper topics for philosophical inquiry. Hume envisioned a modern readership that is characterized by its belief in the positive aspects of human sociability. In part, this is due to the dramatic changes taking place in British society due to commercialization. "Give and take" interaction was highly valued because that is how commerce works. That value seeped into other aspects of culture. David Hume believed there were some people within the culture of sociability, who though not learned in the sense of a trained philosopher such as himself, nevertheless wanted to think of their lives in a philosophical manner. In this study I hope to show the remarkable convergence of form, content, and context that emerges in David Hume's work as he addresses this audience.
Date: 2005-07-25
Degree: MA
Discipline: History
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/190

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