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Abstract

In this dissertation I argue that David Hume’s political and historical work should be read as that of an ideologically-committed and principled partisan of the centralizing project of Court Whiggery. This commitment proceeded from Hume’s conclusion that the polite and refined social order that eighteenth-century Britons enjoyed and that Hume treasured was a product of a strong centralized state, a state that Hume associated with the aims and effects of the Court party’s power-consolidating efforts. Consequently, Hume supported the Court party against the arguments and agitations of the Country party, radical and independent Whigs, and the Patriot movement, all of which he regarded as significant threats to the social order he so valued. I further argue that we should understand Hume’s social and political commitments as proceeding from Hume's experience of a profound existential dread, which overcame him during his work on the Treatise and that I identify as the “sickness” of the Third Treatise of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality. The treatment Hume devised in response to this sickness was the enjoyment of polite, bourgeois pleasures. As Hume saw the stability generated by the Court party as the source and safeguard of the commercial social order that made those pleasures possible, he mounted a philosophically-informed defense of that order. My dissertation offers a riposte to a prevailing view in Hume scholarship that sees his political thought as the product of a disinterested political neutral. It further challenges the position held by some Hume scholars that his social and political thought was animated primarily by a worry that religious factions posed the greatest danger to the civil order of his day. Finally, it suggests that Hume is best understood as the defender of a social and political order in which the best for which humanity can hope are the little pleasures of the Nietzschean last man.

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