The Role of Political Economy in Hume’s Moral Philosophy


Hume insisted that property serve as the foundation of society because it best promotes the greatest amount of industry and therefore contributes to public utility. Industry thus plays a central role in Hume’s theory of justice. Given that Hume extensively discussed the social, political, cultural, and moral implications of industry in the Political Discourses, I suggest that Hume’s economic writings should be understood as an integral part of his overall philosophical project. In offering a parallel reading of the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and the Political Discourses, I argue that Hume’s theory of justice does not resolve into a mere theory of property, as many philosophers complain, but rather, emerges as a rich account of how justice both generates the greatest material affluence and promotes the formation of the most virtuous society.