Hume's Touchstone and the Politics of Meaningful Discourse

Dialogue 35 (04):651- (1996)
Abstract
In this paper I propose we read David Hume's view of meaningful discourse, or his theory of meaning, as an aspect of his theory of politics. I will argue that readings which ignore the political dimension are incomplete and distort Hume's position. When I use the word ‘political’ in the Humean context, however, it means something similar to what we mean by the term ‘social’; in the Humean context ‘politics’ is inclusive of the narrow sense taken by political science in its study of regular partisan politics and governance structures. My proposal is similar to the social-context or social-constructivist interpretations of commentators such as Pall Ardal, Donald Livingston, and Nicholas Capaldi. A political reading also stresses the importance of social context in our understanding of Hume, and agrees with the social-context argument that there is a social or political dimension to intellectual life which Hume hints at but does not address directly in Book 1 of the Treatise
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