Humean Eyes ('one particular shade of blue')


Authors
Angela Coventry
Portland State University
Abstract
Why do Humean eyes matter? The subject of David Hume’s eyes and face leads us into some unexpected curiosities connected with events in his life and written works. We outline the scholars’ propensity to describe the face of their favourite philosopher and spread upon it their personal reading of his life and writings. We ask questions about portraits, their resemblance to the original as a standard of beauty. We survey eighteenth-century physiognomy, and the humourous paradox of the “fat philosopher,” both clumsy and refined. We inquire into Hume’s use of physiognomy, his views on corpulence and his own vacant look. We observe the role of Ramsay’s portraits in the 1766 dispute between Rousseau and Hume. We outline the role the eyes play in the body of his written work. We finally recall that the picture which he deemed the “best likeness” has now disappeared. Yet, there remains something still engraved.
Keywords Hume  physiognomy
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