Hume's Four Philosophers: Recasting the Treatise of Human Nature
Modern Intellectual History
Disappointed by the indifferent reception of his 1739 'Treatise of Human Nature', particularly in view of his commitment to vividness and convincingness as epistemological criteria, Hume recast crucial arguments from his 'Treatise' in "The Epicurean," "The Stoic," "The Platonist," and "The Sceptic," four pieces from his 1741-2 'Essays Moral and Political'. Locating these texts within both the dialogue and essay genres, I demonstrate how Hume continues the project of the 'Treatise' by showing, rather than telling, his views: he blends rhetoric and reasoned argument to show that they are in many cases indistinguishable; he depicts his speakers' conclusions as consequences of their personalities to show his skepticism about human freedom; and he concludes, in a moment strongly reminiscent of the famous end of book I of the 'Treatise', by showing the limits of philosophy itself.
Sider Jost, Jacob, "Hume's Four Philosophers: Recasting the Treatise of Human Nature" (2009). Dickinson College Faculty Publications. Paper 130.