In Section II, Hume argues that one reason we approve of benevolence,humanity and public spiritedness is that they are useful to others andto society. In Sections III and IV, he argues that the sole ground forapproving of justice and political allegiance is that they are usefulto society. In Section V, he asks: But useful for whom? Since it isobvious that it has to be “for some body's interest”, thequestion is “Whose interest then?” He assumes there areonly two possibilities: approval and disapproval spring either fromsentiments that are interested or from a disinterested source.
Russ Roberts: I think some of it is--it's personality. I think, from your portraits, Hume was a much more social animal. And Smith was a much more--absent-minded; he's famous for being absent-minded. Tyler Cowen I think has hinted that he might have been autistic. I think he did that on EconTalk a long time ago. So, it could be he was a little uncomfortable with that level of social--he didn't want to go out for dinner every night with his friend. Maybe he wanted to be alone more. I don't know. Maybe he had loyalty to his mom. Who knows? But it's just striking that Hume is always the aggressor and Smith--he's not easily caught. The other thought I had is, you can be friends with someone intellectually like that because through their ideas, right? Someone can influence you in a way, way beyond the dinnertime and conversational experience, through the conversation you have through their books. I always--I use this motif in my book on Adam Smith--the motif: Adam Smith is really kind of friend. Certainly George Stigler, who was a big Smith fan, saw Smith as in some dimension as his friend, in some sense. I say that because I know that--I'm going to tell a--this is a strange anecdote; I think I've never told it. But, Stigler would say that he once had a contest at the U. of Chicago, and one of the questions was: Who was Adam Smith's best friend? And, of course, the answer is David Hume. And yet he would tell with delight that when he asked his, I think his grandchild, granddaughter, who was Smith's best friend, she said, 'You are.' Which is very sweet. But, what I was going to suggest is that in this modern time we're living in where politics are getting not so attractive, and I sometimes find myself wanting to retreat to the 18th century and hang out with Mr. Smith, and I wondered if you have any thoughts, having written a book--you've written a lot on Smith and Hume and Rousseau and others--do you have that feeling? What are your thoughts on that?
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A reader of the cannot fail to be impressed by the breadth of Hume's learning. In the Hume ranges far beyond the great works of philosophy into every area of scholarship. One finds abundant evidence of his reading in the Greek and Latin classics as well as of his familiarity with the literary works of the important English, French, Italian, and Spanish authors. The essays reflect Hume's intimate knowledge not only of the history of Great Britain but also of the entire sweep of European history. He knew the important treatises on natural science, and he investigated the modern writings on political economy.