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Hume Studies Volume 27, Number 1, April 2001, pp. 173-179 A Symposium on Adam Potkay, The Passion for Happiness: Samuel Johnson and David Hume A Response to My Critics ADAM POTKAY In The Passion for Happiness, I attempt to situate Johnson alongside Hume within a common Enlightenment culture and, in so doing, to give us a better idea of what that culture is, or may be said to be.11 am concerned in the book to analyze what I see as their shared debts to classical eudaimonism, particularly as it is presented in the philosophical dialogues of Cicero. In this regard, my book builds upon Peter Jones's Hume's Sentiments: Their Ciceronian and French Contexts (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1982); I am also deeply indebted to some recent re-interpreters of Hellenistic ethics, especially to Martha Nussbaum, Julia Annas, and Lawrence Becker. A third of my book, however, is devoted to a discussion of Johnson and Hume's roughly parallel —and, I think, mutually illuminating—careers as political writers and commentators, including the political and moral casts of their historiographical writings. The titles of chapters 7 through 9—"The Passions and Patterns of History," "Enthusiasm and Empire," "Constancy"—suggest at least my hopes that The Passion for Happiness might be of some interest to intellectual and political historians. My commentators, however, are both philosophers, and as such have chosen to focus on the first half of my book, chiefly chapters 2 to 6. Within this restricted purview, William Connolly offers what I in general find to be a judicious , even a generous, assessment of my arguments. Yet while I acknowledge that it's the religious differences between Johnson and Hume that "constitute the greatest obstacle to any rapprochement between them" (Connolly 158), I would still want to emphasize, as I do in my book, that Johnson and Adam Potkay is Professor of English, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187, USA. e-mail: aspotk@wm.edu 174 Adam Potkay Hume each tend to write as enlightened moralists in a Ciceronian mode. This mode tends to make Hume sound, at crucial moments in both his epistemological and historical writings, a bit more religious than he in all probability was, while it makes Johnson sound, at similar moments in his writing, a lot less religious than he almost certainly was. I can't stress enough that my primary object of inquiry is Johnson's own substantial body of writings and not the work which is, alas, much better known—Boswell's entertaining but very tendentious Life of Johnson. And yet the almost insuperable temptation to rely on Boswell, or to equate Boswell's Johnson with Johnson, tout court, is evidenced in the first part of William Connolly's comments on The Passion for Happiness. This temptation is completely indulged in Peter Lopston's otherwise very useful book, Theories of Human Nature (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1995). Here, Professor Lopston deems Johnson the prototypical "conservative individualist" chiefly on the basis of several glum quips extracted from the Life of Johnson (92-5); Johnson is deemed the typical "Tory Christian " without any supporting evidence whatsoever. According to Lopston, Tory Christians "think of themselves as living in Babylon, part of a beleaguered minority in dark times growing darker" (50). And yet, as I show in my book, Johnson thought of himself as living in, and contributing to, an "enlightened age"—indeed, the enlightened age. "Our age," Johnson claimed, "is enlightened beyond any former time" (PFH 6-7). I bring up Professor Lopston's earlier characterization of Johnson because I suspect that it continues to animate his sense of who Johnson is, and of why he and Hume must, therefore, be somehow incommensurable entities. Lopston continues to think of Johnson as "dark"—as he asserts in his concluding remarks on my book, "Johnson remains a dark, glowering ... Christian of a man" (Loptson 171)— but has yet to support this characterization with evidence, or to engage with the considerable body of contrary evidence that I provide in my book. Indeed, Lopston is concerned less with characterizing my book than with engaging its claims or assumptions on three interrelated points of more general philosophic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 173-179
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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