Thursday, October 03, 2019


The Different Inclinations of Different Men

David Hume (1711-1776), "Essay VIII: The Sceptic," Moral and Political Philosophy, ed. Henry D. Aiken (1946; rpt. New York: Haffner Publishing Co., 1966), pp. 338-355 (at 338-339):
Almost every one has a predominant inclination to which his other desires and affections submit, and which governs him, though perhaps with some intervals, through the whole course of his life. It is difficult for him to apprehend, that any thing, which appears totally indifferent to him can ever give enjoyment to any person or can possess charms which altogether escape his observation. His own pursuits are always, in his account, the most engaging, the objects of his passion the most valuable, and the road which he pursues the only one that leads to happiness.

But would these prejudiced reasoners reflect a moment, there are many obvious instances and arguments sufficient to undeceive them and make them enlarge their maxims and principles. Do they not see the vast variety of inclinations and pursuits among our species, where each man seems fully satisfied with his own course of life and would esteem it the greatest unhappiness to be confined to that of his neighbour? Do they not feel in themselves that what pleases at one time displeases at another by the change of inclination, and that it is not in their power, by their utmost efforts, to recall that taste or appetite which formerly bestowed charms on what now appears indifferent or disagreeable? What is the meaning therefore of those general preferences of the town or country life, of a life of action or one of pleasure, of retirement or society, when, besides the different inclinations of different men, every one's experience may convince him that each of these kinds of life is agreeable in its turn, and that their variety or their judicious mixture chiefly contributes to the rendering all of them agreeable?

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