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Hume’s Passions: the Object of Love

Hume insists: there are fundamentally but two feelings of the Self: pride and humility. The former involves what is pleasant, the latter what is unpleasant.

But then, how does one explain the amorous passion, which consists of the abandonment, head over heels, to someone else?

In running over all the causes, which produce the passion of pride or that of humility; it would readily occur, that the same circumstance, if transferred from ourself to another person, would render him the object of love or hatred, esteem or contempt.

David Hume, Dissertations of the Passions, section III, §1

At last, the emergence of love: passion when it no longer refers to the Self, but to the other.

As the immediate object of pride and humility is self or that identical person, of whose thoughts, actions, and sensations we are intimately conscious; so the object of love and hatred is some other person, of whose thoughts, actions, and sensations we are not conscious. This is sufficiently evident from experience. Our love and hatred are always directed to some sensible being external to us; and when we talk of self-love, ’tis not in a proper sense, nor has the sensation it produces any thing in common with that tender emotion, which is excited by a friend or mistress. ’Tis the same case with hatred.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, book II, part II, section I

Love is therefore a particular manifestation of pride: this pride being found in the other, since it causes happiness in the loved one (through affection), this has the effect of flattering the pride of the lover.

This premise is extremely important to apprehend feelings of hatred, envy, and jealousy.