Abstract
In Hume's dialogue with the Hobbesian-Mandevillian "selfish system" of morals, Hume seems to reject its conclusions in morals, but accept them in politics. No skeptic of moral claims like Mandeville, Hume sought to ground objective moral standards in his moral sentiment philosophy, yet, like Mandeville, Hume argued that in political life human beings act based largely on self-interest and a limited generosity. I argue that Hume, however, is ultimately ambivalent about the selfish system's conclusions in politics. He puts forth both a nonmoral and a moral solution to the problem of cohesion in modern liberal states. First, he agrees with the selfish system's nonmoral tactic of channeling the self-interest of citizens through well-constructed institutions toward salutary ends. Second, arguing that the first solution is insufficient for the health of a political regime, Hume seeks to expand the limited moral sense of citizens through moral and aesthetic education and through an empowerment of local politics. Hume's second solution is a means within liberalism to combat its own tendencies toward the dissolution of communal ties and the creation of conditions ripe for the emergence of "sensible knaves.".
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