Professor Oliver Feltham: "Schemas of appearance and political action in Hume's civil war"
In the first two volumes of his History of England Hume sought to set the historical record straight with regard to the most recent and troublesome period of political history, a period in which he thought “the misrepresentations of faction” began: the reigns of the Stuart Kings, the epoch of revolution, regicide and an unsteady republic. In these volumes patterns emerge in the appearance of political events, patterns of rise and fall, inversion, faction and conspiracy. On the basis of a close analysis of Book II of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature one can extrapolate a ‘topology of the passions’ whose basic mechanisms can account for the emergence of these specific patterns in the appearance of events. The construction of this topology gives us both an model of the ontological environment or ‘field of reception’ of political action, and a model of society. The distinctive feature of this topology, compared with rival theories of political action, is that it does not admit any primary ontological dichotomies between the psychological and the social, the mental and the material, the internal and the external, the rational and the emotional, self and other, society and state, the governed and the governing. My question is what impact does this peculiar topology of passions have on Hume’s own model of political action.