Hume and the Question of Good Manners


The question of manners is important in David Hume’s examination of human nature primarily because of the weight he assigns to the so-called ‘social virtues’. Man is, for Hume, a being that naturally tends to form societies, and the study of human nature is, after all, the study of human sociability, which finds its expression in manners. The present paper shows Hume as a participant in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century discussion about the concept of politeness, a concept which oscillated between the domain of manners and morals and the domain of art. The examination of Hume’s ideal of polite manners illustrates the way his classicist taste pervaded the appreciation both of works of art and of social comportment.

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