International Relations, the UN, and David Hume
32 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 14 Apr 2011
Public intellectuals as well as policy-makers sometimes cite revered philosophers when analyzing international affairs or even when giving reasons for particular international policies. By the first decade of the twenty-first century there were at least two leading theories posited by public intellectuals and policy-makers to help us make sense out of our post-Cold War era: one school of thought finds solace and instruction in the words of the late eighteenth-century Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant; the other, prominent in the United States among an influential cadre of foreign policy activists, has revived the notion of Empire as both defining of our time and, frankly, advantageous in the long run. Powerful voices have forwarded the Kantian project of peace studies. The imperial theorists sometimes cite Thomas Hobbes as their philosophic informant and include a variety of well-known 'realists' and 'neo-realists.' This paper recommends, as an alternate source of guidance, the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Considering Hume's Treatise, Essays, and some other works while thinking about today's international challenges, this paper will counsel that Hume's genial skepticism may well provide an alternate, dexterous, approach to both theorizing and policy-making in a complex, too often troubling, twenty-first century world.
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