Hume, conjectural history, and the uniformity of human nature

Journal of the History of Philosophy 31 (4):589-606 (1993)
In this paper I argue that, in at least two cases - his discussions of the temporal precedence o f polytheism over monotheism and of the origins of civil society - we see Hume consigning to historical development certain aspects of reason which, as a comparison with Locke will show, have sometimes been held to be uniform. In the first of these cases Hume has recourse to claims about the general historical development of human thought. In the second case, the origin of the civil institution of justice and government is not linked directly to external circumstances and the principles of human nature, as it is in contractarian theories, but makes a detour through the historical acquisition of certain concepts. Because Hume's position does not conform in any simple sense to Dugald Stewart's 'incontrovertible logical maxim' that the capacities of the human mind have been the same in all ages, Stewart's account of the method of conjectural history is, in any simple sense, inadequate as a description of Hume's practice.
Keywords Hume  Locke  Conjectural History  Social Contract
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DOI 10.1353/hph.1993.0073
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