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David Hume is the philosopher of passions.

Nicknamed by some the “philosopher of love” (because of his clear and pleasant style; and because he writes about love and other such exciting things), Hume argues that sensation is our primary criterium of truth. His method is empirical, driven from experience: we should therefore listen to our feelings, our passions, since they reveal concrete truths about the world around us (not without a rigorous, although moderate, use of reason).

How does love work? Can we explain its causes with logical arguments without lapsing into cold rationalism? It is Hume’s skeptical intuition that we can listen to both reason and emotions.


In the presentation leading to the French edition of the Passions, translator Jean-Pierre Cléro writes on Hume’s dissertations:

The double relation explains my passion of love: the other makes me feel pleasure; I like of for that reason, that is to say I feel pleasure at its address, because of the pleasure it gives me. To show how pride can appear, we must play the relation once more, but from another point of view: the other can like me because of the pleasure I feel myself of the pleasure given by them; my love, because it is the source for them of valorization, hence pride. I pride myself in becoming for another the source of their valorization.1

Jean-Pierre Cléro, Presentation, Dissertation of the Passions

Pride; Pleasure; Property; Humility; Power; Anger; Wealth; the Other; the Me; etc…: here’s to a start of a series of notes on the passions in Hume’s works, echoing Marcello’s series on love and other such things in Phèdre.

The quest will be to husk the causes and workings of such passions, which never seem to age across the centuries or millennia.

  1. Freely translated from French by me. ↩︎