Politeness, Paris and the Treatise

Hume Studies 34 (1):21-42 (2009)
Abstract
This article analyses Hume’s notion of politeness as developed in a letter he wrote in Paris in 1734 and the account of the corresponding artificial virtue in the Treatise. The analysis will help us understand Hume’s admiration for French manners and why politeness is presented as one of the central artificial virtues in the Treatise. Before the Treatise, Hume had already sided with Bernard Mandeville’s theoretical outlook which stood in contrast to the popular eighteenth-century understanding of politeness as a natural quality of human nature. In the Treatise, Hume developed these notions about the artificial nature of politeness into one of the cornerstones of his account of human sociability
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