The Passion for Happiness: Samuel Johnson and David Hume

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Cornell University Press, 2000 - Philosophy - 241 pages
Although widely perceived as inhabiting different, even opposed, literary worlds, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) and David Hume (1711-1776) shared common ground as moralists. Adam Potkay traces their central concerns to Hellenistic philosophy, as conveyed by Cicero, and to earlier moderns such as Addison and Mandeville.

Johnson's and Hume's large and diverse bodies of writings, Potkay says, are unified by several key questions: What is happiness? What is the role of virtue in the happy life? What is the proper relationship between passion and reflection in the happy or flourishing individual?

In their writings, Johnson and Hume largely agree upon what flourishing means for both human beings and the communities they inhabit. They also tell a common story about the history that led up to the enlightened age of eighteenth-century Europe. On the divisive topic of religion, these two great men of letters wrote with a decorum that characterizes the Enlightenment in Britain as compared to its French counterpart. In The Passion for Happiness, Adam Potkay illuminates much that philosophers and historians do not ordinarily appreciate about Hume, and that literary scholars might not recognize about Johnson.

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Contents

Moral Writing in an Enlightened
1
Authorial Lives
27
Experimental Reasoning in the Shadow of Descartes
47
Happiness
61
Reasoning with the Passions
76
SelfLove and Community
101
Necessity and Tragedy
115
The Passions and Patterns of History
142
Enthusiasm and Empire
160
Constancy
176
The Spirit of Ending
197
Bibliography
217
Index
233
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