A Critical Reader of Hume and Rousseau

Adam Smith

Originally published in The Journal of Politics

No matter how closely bound the lives and writings of David Hume, Adam Smith, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were, a conscientious Humean philosopher makes no plain error if she never turns to Rousseau and Smith for arguments about internal reasons or puzzles about is and ought. The same can be said for researchers of almost all fields who read Rousseau; beyond studying the psychology and circumstance that drove Rousseau to need safe refuge, have it given to him by Hume, and then accuse Hume of conspiracy against him, it is hard to argue that a researcher in pursuit of Rousseau has made a mistake in ignoring Hume and Smith. Hume, that is, can be fruitfully studied without reckoning with the fraught concept of a project called the Enlightenment, and Rousseau can be studied perfectly well without a concept of the Enlightenment that includes Hume and Smith.

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