'Methinks I am like a man, who having narrowly escap'd shipwreck', David Hume writes in A Treatise of Human Nature, 'has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe'. With these words, Hume begins a memorable depiction of the crisis of philosophy and his turn to moral and political philosophy as the path forward. In this groundbreaking work, Thomas W. Merrill shows how Hume's turn is the core of his thought, linking Hume's metaphysical and philosophical crisis to the moral-political inquiries of his mature thought. Merrill shows how Hume's comparison of himself to Socrates in the introduction to the Treatise illuminates the dramatic structure and argument of the book as a whole, and he traces Hume's underappreciated argument about the political role of philosophy in the Essays.
Thomas W. Merrill is a political theorist in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC. He was a senior research analyst at the President's Council on Bioethics and is the co-editor of Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver: Honoring the Work of Leon R. Kass and Human Dignity and Bioethics. He has held fellowships from Princeton University, Harvard University, and the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.
Introduction; 1. Hume's Socratism; 2. Calling philosophy down from the heavens; 3. Turning to the human things; 4. Investigating morality and politics; 5. Hume's cultural revolution: the Essays, part 1; 6. The education of the honest gentlemen: the Essays, part 2; Epilogue.