Hume’s Politics and Four Dimensions of Realism

Forthcoming in The Journal of Politics

27 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2021

Date Written: May 28, 2021

Abstract

Debates between realists and idealists in contemporary political theory have been confused by a tendency to conflate several distinct methodological theses. This paper distinguishes between four dimensions of realism and shows how a novel reading of Hume’s politics can help us make sense of the importance of these theses and the relationships between them. More specifically we argue that a theory we call normative conventionalism can be distilled from two of Hume’s more surprising and controversial essays “The Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth” and “That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science.” This theory views norms and institutions as conventional solutions to problems of coordination and conflict that are historically contingent, but also provides us with an approach to gaining leverage on our practices so that we can say something about which norms and institutions are worth emulating.

Keywords: David Hume, Conventions, Pluralism, Realism

Suggested Citation

Hankins, Keith and Thrasher, John, Hume’s Politics and Four Dimensions of Realism (May 28, 2021). Forthcoming in The Journal of Politics, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3855862 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3855862

Keith Hankins

Chapman University ( email )

Orange, CA 92866
United States

John Thrasher (Contact Author)

Chapman University ( email )

Orange, CA 92866
United States
7146287343 (Phone)

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