Relations of Literary Form and Philosophical Purpose in Hume's Four Essays on Happiness

Hume Studies 33 (1):3-19 (2007)
Abstract
This paper examines Hume’s four essays on happiness: the “Epicurean,” the “Stoic,” the “Platonist,” and the “Sceptic.” I argue, first, that careful attention to how these essays are written shows that they do not simply argue for one position over others. They also elicit affective and imaginative responses in order to modify the reader’s outlook and to improve the reader’s understanding in service to moral ends. The analysis offers an improved reading of the essays and highlights the intimate connections between the purposes of philosophical writing and its manner of presentation. Secondly, I contend that appreciating how Hume’s essays on happiness work on the reader demonstrates the insufficiency of Hume’s categories of “anatomist” and “painter.”
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