Hume and Machiavelli: Political Realism and Liberal Thought

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9780739106310: Hume and Machiavelli: Political Realism and Liberal Thought

Hume and Machiavelli compares the political thought of David Hume, usually seen as a classical liberal theorist of the Enlightenment, and Niccolo Machiavelli, the founder of modern political realism. Through an extensive survey of the two authors' approaches to political science, domestic and foreign statecraft, political ethics, and historical interpretation, Frederick G. Whelan demonstrates the presence of numerous Machiavellian themes in Hume, including both borrowings and similar patterns of analysis and judgment. These similarities indicate that Hume's political theory, grounded as it is in the real world of historical experience and moral complexity, may be characterized as a realist variant of liberalism, standing in contrast to better known rationalist and ideal-oriented liberal theories. The book concludes with a general account of realist liberalism, with illustrations from the Federalist Papers and several recent political philosophers in addition to Hume.

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About the Author:

Frederick G. Whelan is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Review:

Building on his important earlier publications on Hume and 18th century political thought, Whelan here opens up a rich new field of study, through a highly original and truly illuminating juxtaposition and comparison of Hume and Machiavelli. The point isnot to make Machiavelli out a liberal, but rather to show that there is a liberalism or a tradition of liberal political philosophy that incorporates crucial elements of the wisdom of Machiavelli. There has been much discussion recently of liberal realism, especially as regards American foreign policy; this book provides a philosophic basis for such discussion, by uncovering in the political thought of Hume a liberalism that rigorously incorporates, while taming or humanizing, important dimensions of Machiavelli?s teaching on the exigencies of statecraft in both domestic and foreign affairs.. (Thomas Pangle, University of Toronto)

A well-written, carefully reasoned, illuminating book. Highly recommended. (CHOICE)

Frederick G. Whelan has written a very insightful book that provides the reader with a more realist David Hume. His study refers not only to Hume's and Machiavelli's works on political theory, but integrates their historical writings. (The Review Of Politics)

In Hume and Machiavelli: Political Realism and Liberal Thought Frederick Whelan provides a close comparison of the political ideas of David Hume and Niccolo Machiavelli. He examines the political writings of both authors through the prism of a model of political activity he calls political realism. As he reads them, Machiavelli and Hume were political realists in their recognition that in politics men are generally knaves who pursue their own interests. Hume placed greater confidence in constitutionalismand the rule of law; Machiavelli in action and virtu. Hume was much preoccupied by commerce and conditions for prosperity; Machiavelli with the minimal conditions for political order. Hume was concerned about the menace to political stability presented byrevealed religion; Machiavelli was prepared to recommend to rulers the guile, mendacity and treachery he observed in the leadership of the church. Hume expressed his esteem, on more than one occasion, for Machiavelli, as a historian. Whelan exhibits Hume's indebtedness to Machiavellian insights in his delineation of the character and the conduct of monarchs and politicians in The History of England. This comparative study of Hume and Machiavelli cannot fail to be of interest to historians of political (James Moore, Concordia University)

In Hume and Machiavelli: Political Realism and Liberal Thought Frederick Whelan provides a close comparison of the political ideas of David Hume and Niccolo Machiavelli. He examines the political writings of both authors through the prism of a model of political activity he calls political realism. As he reads them, Machiavelli and Hume were political realists in their recognition that in politics men are generally knaves who pursue their own interests. Hume placed greater confidence in constitutionalism and the rule of law; Machiavelli in action and virtu. Hume was much preoccupied by commerce and conditions for prosperity; Machiavelli with the minimal conditions for political order. Hume was concerned about the menace to political stability presented by revealed religion; Machiavelli was prepared to recommend to rulers the guile, mendacity and treachery he observed in the leadership of the church. Hume expressed his esteem, on more than one occasion, for Machiavelli, as a historian. Whelan exhibits Hume's indebtedness to Machiavellian insights in his delineation of the character and the conduct of monarchs and politicians in The History of England.This comparative study of Hume and Machiavelli cannot fail to be of interest to historians of political thought. It will be of particular interest to students of Hume's politics and history. (James Moore, Concordia University)

Building on his important earlier publications on Hume and 18th century political thought, Whelan here opens up a rich new field of study, through a highly original and truly illuminating juxtaposition and comparison of Hume and Machiavelli. The point is not to make Machiavelli out a liberal, but rather to show that there is a liberalism or a tradition of liberal political philosophy that incorporates crucial elements of the wisdom of Machiavelli.There has been much discussion recently of liberal realism, especially as regards American foreign policy; this book provides a philosophic basis for such discussion, by uncovering in the political thought of Hume a liberalism that rigorously incorporates, while taming or humanizing, important dimensions of Machiavelli’s teaching on the exigencies of statecraft in both domestic and foreign affairs. (Thomas Pangle, University of Toronto)

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