1st Edition

Hume on Art, Emotion, and Superstition
A Critical Study of the Four Dissertations

ISBN 9781138351462
Published November 26, 2018 by Routledge
240 Pages

USD $155.00

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Book Description

This book offers the first comprehensive critical study of David Hume’s Four Dissertations of 1757, containing the Natural History of Religion, the Dissertation on the Passions, and the two essays Of Tragedy and Of the Standard of Taste. The author defends two important claims. The first is that these four works were not published together merely for convenience, but that they form a tightly integrated set, unified by the subject matter of the passions. The second is that the theory of the passions they jointly present is significantly different—indeed, significantly improved—from that of the earlier Treatise. Most strikingly, it is anti-egoist and anti-hedonist about motivation, where the Treatise had espoused a Lockean hedonism and egoism. It is also more cognitivist in its analysis of the passions themselves, and demonstrates a greater awareness of the limits of sympathy and of the varieties of human taste. This book is an important contribution to the scholarly literature on Hume’s work on the passions, art, and superstitious belief.

Table of Contents


Part I

1. My Design in the Present Work

2. Some Late Philosophers in England

3. Founded on Pain and Pleasure

4. A Considerable Adjustment

Part II

5. The Religious Passion

6. The First Religious Principles

7. The Object of the Passions

8. The Combat of Passion and Reason

9. The Causes of the Violent Passions

10. The Predominant Passion

11. The Sentiments of Beauty

12. The Laws of Criticism


Appendix 1. The Meaning of All the Terms

Appendix 2. Comparison of Ideas

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Amyas Merivale works at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK. He is the co-editor of Hume’s Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, with Writings on Aesthetics and the Passions, and the developer of davidhume.org. His published work has appeared in the British Journal of Aesthetics and Hume Studies.

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"Merivale provides the reader with an exceptionally clear, systematic overview of Hume's arguments in the Four Dissertations. He does an excellent job contextualizing Hume's writings in their historical contexts, providing useful overviews of the positions of lesser known authors such as Trenchard, Bolingbroke, and DuBos. Merivale also does a fine job distinguishing his own account from a wide variety of alternative contemporary interpretations of Hume's positions on emotion, art, and religion. These sections illuminate the Four Dissertations in a way that has never been done before."Mark Collier in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"This book proposes a bold new thesis on the development of Hume’s thought, challenging long-held opinions. It demonstrates that Hume’s account of the passions is more central to his positions on other topics than has up to now been assumed and makes a strong case for why it should be recognized to have changed over time, contesting the received view that Hume’s philosophical opinions were constant throughout his lifetime." Lorne Falkenstein, University of Western Ontario, Canada