Laws Not Men: Hume’s Distinction between Barbarous and Civilized Government

Hume Studies 31 (1):123-144 (2005)
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Abstract

Hume uses the adjectives “civilized” and “barbarous” in a variety of ways, and in a variety of contexts. He employs them to describe individuals, societies, historical eras, and forms of government. These various uses are closely related. Hume thinks that cultural and political development are intimately connected, and are mutually dependent. Civilized government goes together with civilized society. A wise ruler cannot emerge before “refinements have taken place” in the society at large and “science [becomes] known in the world.” At the same time, the policy of a monarch who is “ignorant and uninstructed … for ever prevents all improvements.”

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Neil McArthur
University of Manitoba

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