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Francis Roberts

An immediate, unreflective, reaction is that Hume divided humanity into significantly more than two. The English come off pretty well while the modern Greeks and Romans have distinct faults as do Jews.
He leaves the door open to amending the natural division between 'negroes' (the term which was still in use when I was a boy in Eritrea) by using the word 'suspect'. This is consistent with all his philosophical writing.
His criticism of slavery is not on grounds of justice, but of economic efficiency. A E Taylor pointed out that the Greeks, including Aristotle, treated their slaves reasonably well. They were generally slaves to families of small businesses. The Romans, in the late Republic and early empire periods treated them as forced labour on galleys etc... Hume will have known this, hence his criticism of slavery in ancient Rome and not Greece. I suspect he thought that the form of slavery in the British colonies was similar to the Greek model rather than the Roman one. If he did, he was mistaken even though there were no galleys in the Caribbean.

Mohan Matthen

Only just came across this interesting post, six years after it was written. Sorry for being so late.

It's hard to think of an essay more completely idiotic than "Of National Characters," at least among the writings of someone known for the brilliance of other contributions. Just scandalous. And the explanation of stereotypes is (to my mind, at least) just as foolish as the rest of it, incorporating a generalization that is a priori and completely untested.

By the way, in response to Francis Roberts, isn't it true that while household slaves may have been "reasonably well" treated in Greece--not sure how well "reasonably well" is--there were also slaves who worked in silver mines, and in ships, and so on who were treated unreasonably badly?

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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