PHIL 466: Major Authors in Moral Philosophy
Major figures in the history of ethics are studied. Some particular period in history or some particular focus may be emphasized.
PHIL 466: Major Authors in Philosophy: Hume and Rousseau
David Hume and J.-J. Rousseau were both figures of the Enlightenment who wrote extensively on the ideas of human nature, nature, and society. Hume admired Rousseau enough to go far out of his way to assist Rousseau in finding refuge in Britain when Rousseau was being persecuted on the continent. Yet, in significant ways, their ideas on nature, humans, and society diverged markedly; in the end, their brief friendship dissolved into acrimonious accusations and counter accusations.
The aim of this seminar is to explore the ideas of nature and society in Hume and Rousseau, and to understand how one philosopher, Hume, embraced an enormously positive view of both nature and society in terms of the good life for humans, while Rousseau celebrated his own version of nature but generally viewed society with contempt, regarding it as inevitably morally corrupting.
Our primary readings are drawn from Hume's Treatise and his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, and from Rousseau we focus upon parts of his Social Contract and take much from Emile.